Opinions vary widely, some say it makes no difference, some say that's what your publishing company should be doing for you, some say every little bit helps.
Regardless of where you stand on this topic, in today's market I think it's safe to assume authors have a responsibility for doing something in this arena. Yet another skill we need to attempt and gain some proficiency in.
What sort of promotion or marketing should I do? Well, that varies from author to author.
But the one basic essential marketing and promotion tool any author should have is a website, and this applies to unpublished authors as well.
Unpublished authors should be thinking about creating and establishing a web presence well before signing with a publishing house, purely because once you jump on that merry-go-round you're going to have enough of a learning curve to undertake without the added pressure of getting a website up an running.
If you leave it too late, there's nothing more frustrating for a reader than learning about a new and upcoming author, searching out more information about them and discovering they don't have a website up and running.
Please don't put up a website without content or one that has a collection of messages saying "under development". It's great way to turn readers off and make sure they never come back (same goes for a website that isn't updated regularly - but more on that in a minute).
Another good reason for unpublished authors to have a website - agents and editors could go looking for you once you begin submitting work or querying them. If you're placing in contests, same applies. Judges (aka potential readers) might also go looking for you.
Back to your website. Think of it as your base of operations - and because I'm a huge sci-fi fan - equate it to a space station.
Having a website is an essential, even if it's the only marketing/promotional tool you use as an author.
What should I have on my website? The bare necessities include a home page, biography page, books page (if you're pubbed) and contacts page.
Label your page tabs clearly, don't use some obscure term. You want readers able to find content on your website, not pulling their hair out in frustration when they can't. You want them coming back time and again, not avoiding it.
Keep your website simple, easy to navigate. Make sure it reflects your brand (and if you want to know what that is, then check out Nikki Logan's post on this here).
If this is your first foray into planning and designing a website, go look at your favourite author's websites. This is the easiest and best way to work out what appeals to you.
What grabs your attention from their sites? Look at the content they've placed on their pages. Is this something you'd like to have on yours? This is how I developed mine.
You'll find over time you'll redesign or overhaul it. A website shouldn't be a static thing. It should always be evolving, and this brings me to one of the most important things about creating and maintaining a website.
Keep it up to date!
Let me repeat that.
Keep. It. Up. To. Date.
Once a month maintenance - up date your home page, make sure you have your latest releases, cover blurbs, and buy links posted, make sure you have a series book list in chronological order.
Do this and your readership will be happy. And you'll keep them coming back.
If you build it, they will come!