In spite of my definition's acceptance into the Urban Dictionary this is a relatively new but still obvious word: authors today must participate in the business of creating a successful career. Any author publishing today – through ANY publisher – through ANY format – through ANY outlet – must consider themselves in business for themselves.
And that means:
1. Create a high-quality written product.
2. Participate with your publisher in creating your brand or do it yourself if you are publishing independently.
3. Actively promote that brand through a variety of outlets.
As traditional publishing houses reel under the onslaught of digital books, e-readers, and authors taking their product straight to the consumer, they have diminishing resources to commit to the new kids on the block. So authors must become their own Public Relations managers. Their books are their products and their goal is to create a lasting readership.
Notice I said lasting readership?
There is no point in doing all that will be required for the “short” haul, i.e. one book. This endeavor is going to require hours of time online, many miles on your car, and personal appearances at the most random places.
And the pace will be slow; so give yourself time and be patient. Keep your eye on the goal: back lists selling well online and bringing in an income indefinitely. That’s the brass ring.
To get all these readers interested in you, you will need to create a "brand." Simply stated, that is the specific prompt that makes readers think of you and your books. It’s both visual and verbal.
I assume you already have a tag line: a short, snappy phrase which describes the common thread in your books. Build on that. You will probably take your visual cue from your first book cover.
Once you decide on your brand, take it global: put it on your website, blog, business cards, clothing, promo items, car… anywhere you see others advertising. Don't be shy! You are a professional with a quality product to sell!
Long gone are the days when an author can hand over a rough copy of a manuscript and have editors clean it up, and a marketing department spread the word about a debut release. We are still writers first, but in the 21st-century that is only the beginning of this demanding journey!