It definitely does, and you definitely should. Here are two excerpts from two speeches I’ve given over the last few years that answer this much better than I can at this time of morning before coffee:
You also need to plan for your public identity. Even if you are just starting out as a writer, you should reserve a website domain in your name, and reserve every social media outlet in your name, as well. Even if you don’t ever intend to use them, you should stake a claim on your name at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and every other site that comes along. I don’t use Reddit or Goodreads, but I’ve registered for them as BrianKeene simply because I don’t want somebody else controlling my public identity. That’s because these days, whether you are publishing traditionally or going the self-publishing route, you are primarily responsible for the marketing and promotion of your work. Yes, your publisher may get involved, but you must never, never count on that. You should take responsibility for it. Indeed, you have to take responsibility for it, if you want to do this full-time. Some of you may find marketing and promotion distasteful, but if you want to do this full-time—meaning you want to make money at it—then you will have to engage in them.
More importantly, you are responsible for growing and communicating with your audience. How and to what extent you do that is up to you, but understand something—the days of Bentley Little are gone. Bentley Little, who has a large readership but maintains no web presence himself and has done only three signings throughout his career, is an exception to the rule. Thanks to the Internet and social marketing, readers these days have an expectation to interact with their favorite author in some way. Again, how you do that and to what extent is up to you, but if you choose to write full-time, then you will have to do it. This is as vitally important as staying productive and writing every day. It is the second part of the writing for a living equation.
Hand-in-hand with that is how much of yourself you put out there. Some professional writers keep it simple, and confine their public musings to their work. Others might talk politics or pop culture. This can be a double-edged sword. Yes, F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, and Chet Williamson might occasionally post something from their respective Libertarian, Conservative, or Liberal perspectives, which is fine, but I bet each and every one of you can think of other authors on Facebook or elsewhere whom you’ve considered un-following simply because it’s all they talk about. You probably haven’t un-followed them, because you’re a writer and you want to keep that professional association. But readers have no such qualms, and they will turn away if you offend them.
You’ve got to decide who you want them to see you as. Maybe you’ll just be yourself. Perhaps you’ll choose a caricature of yourself. Maybe you’ll be the joker, like Jeff Strand, or the Peacemaker, like Christopher Golden, or the Strong Independent, like Sarah Pinborough. For years, Nick Mamatas and I got away with being the genre’s Angry Young Men, willing to speak bluntly—perhaps too bluntly at times—about what we thought and saw. These days, you’ll no doubt notice that we speak softer. That’s because you can’t be Angry Young Men when you’re in your Forties. But our audience still know we’ll speak bluntly, because our audience has come to expect that from us. Decide what your audience will expect from you, and then give it to them.
Perhaps more important than deciding how much of yourself to put out there is deciding what parts of you not to put out there. Writing is a solitary act, but publishing is public. We’re part of the entertainment industry, albeit the entertainment industry’s red-headed mutant stepchild. And just like any other entertainer, we attract our share of crazies. My own encounters with stalkers are well-documented. I’m sure you all know about the guy who mailed me a dead bird or the gentleman from Illinois who is convinced that Ray Garton, Poppy Z. Brite, and I (among others) are psychically stealing his story ideas. These people exist, and the Internet and social media make it easier for them than ever before to fulfill their unhealthy obsessions with you. As a result, you have to be mindful of what information is out there.
So yes, promotion is important. But I think far too many new writers focus way too much on that aspect of the business and forget about what comes first…
Before you worry about promotion, you have to write something worth promoting. Especially if you’re doing this to “get your name out there”. Especially given this current economy. Money is tight. Readers are still willing to take a chance on a new author, but one chance and one chance only. If that new author doesn’t give them something worth coming back for, chances are they won’t.
There’s nothing wrong with getting up on the soapbox and shouting, “Hear me, world, for I have written something and I want you to read it!” After all, no writer in their right mind wants their work to go unread. However, before you get up on the soapbox, make sure that what you have to share is your absolute best. Make sure it shines, and that you’ve given it everything you have. Make sure that you’ve devoted just as much time and energy to its creation as you have to its promotion.
Don’t make the mistake of only marketing your work to other authors. That’s the dumbest thing a writer can do, yet I see them do it every day. Don’t only post a link to your book on places like a writer’s group on Facebook. The only people who will see it are people posting links to their own books, and all of you are writers, and none of you can afford to buy the fucking things. You have to go to where the readers are, or better yet, create a place where the readers can come to you, via Facebook, Twitter, your website, etc. Letting them come to you is less spammy and more sincere, and it also creates long-lasting loyalty.