I think we probably all have a different idea of what networking, connections, and marketing mean to us as individuals. I personally do not believe it is a one-type-fits-all program as we each have different ideals and goals. Thus, we each have to determine what strategy works best for our individual needs and go from there. It is my intention to give you a glimpse at my own personal viewpoints and hopefully you will find something of value to take away from this article.
When it comes time for me to begin a marketing campaign, I will tackle it with a business-like mind. After all, I was raised that way. That will be the time to focus on press releases, sending out book flyers, arranging book signings, contacting books stores, setting up school visits, etc. This stage opens up a whole new set of tasks for a writer to consider and takes time away from the actual writing process. Will you want to handle your own marketing campaign or will you want to hire out this work? Can you afford to invest your time in marketing your own books or do you have the financial means to let someone manage this aspect for you?
In the meantime, until you are ready to begin a full blown marketing campaign there are certain things you can prepare for in advance. Begin by setting up a website, an author Facebook page, a book/series Facebook page, Twitter account, a blog, etc. Bear in mind that social media is not necessarily going to equate to book sales, but it does help in making connections and letting your future audience get to know you and your work as a writer. You can also have business cards and bookmarks printed and start handing those out now. Again, this is making people aware you are a writer and not necessarily marketing yourself. I do not get pushy with the business cards. If I'm chatting with someone and making a genuine connection, I'll hand out a card. When it is time for me to market, I'll push the business side not the individuals. You want to gain readers, not alienate them. Marketing is for business---connections are for people---and if you are conscious of your actions, you will do both gracefully and professionally.
While you emerge as a writer, keep in mind that you are but one of many struggling to surface in an industry that is abundant in both books and authors. Do not let anyone's success mar your own, or let yourself become envious of another's accomplishments. Instead, buoy their achievements. There will never be enough literary options to satisfy the reader. It is more important to help one another to succeed, because ultimately, if your writing is worthy of a readership it will find a home.
Wishing you all a little mystery & adventure,