Every little bit helps - that's what I tell myself when I think about online promotion. I also tell myself not to get too excited about it.
There are all sorts of guides to help an author through the process of promoting their book online and to tell them how to keep that effort ongoing. However, I find them all a bit depressing. The reason? I know how big the internet is.
"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." --Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The internet may not be as big as space, but it's much, much bigger than I can comprehend. There are blogs and websites that I will never, ever encounter, no matter how many odd searches I run. True, a lot of those sites won't be relevant to my book, so aiming publicity in those directions wouldn't do me any good. But it only drives home to me the sheer number of people who use the internet every day. Beyond that, there are billions of people who never use the internet at all. Anything I do online, therefore, is a drop in the bucket. Even blogs with traffic in the thousands every day are tiny, when you think of them in comparison to The Daily Dish or Mashable or BoingBoing.
And, of course, the number of bookbuyers who never even peek online is much larger than the number of bookbuyers who do. An author will never hear a single word from most of the people who read her book. The number of people who post reviews of even some of their reading is, in comparison to the total numbers of readers, vanishingly small.
There are ways to reach a bigger audience on the internet, but I'm not sure I want to do that. It takes time and money to promote via an author newsletter and contests and the like. The time, especially, I grudge. I don't want to take time away from writing fiction to promote so extensively. I don't think it's necessary to familiarize the entire internet with my name and book titles, only those who might want the information (or that I assume might want it). This is especially true because I write erotica. There is a very large audience who don't like erotica whom I feel it's useless for me to approach. Some readers from that audience really, really don't want me to approach, and I am fine with leaving them alone.
I promote online anyway, to some extent, and I have good reasons to do so. I think it's very important not to waste chances to connect with readers. I make it easier on myself by restricting my online promotion to things that I enjoy.
I'm, hopefully, promoting to an audience already disposed to be interested in my writing, which makes the effort more valuable in comparison to the time spent. For instance, I write guest posts for other people's (relevant to my writing) blogs, announce my publishing news on various social networking sites, and have an author website. If nothing else, those things mean that readers who might want to send me email have an address where they can send it. The excerpts and information I provide on my books might help a reader to decide if they want to buy my book. It might not make a difference to the masses of people out on the internet, but it makes a difference to those few. If I'm lucky, some of those few will like my writing enough to recommend it to others, whether online or otherwise.
However, online promotion makes a difference to me, too. Promoting is doing. It's an aspect of writing which is under my control. When so much about publishing is not under my control, that's perhaps the most important reason to promote online.
What about you? Have you had success from promoting online, or not?