... which is all very nice, but I've never really felt as if I were doing anything other than having fun online.
I was prompted to this blog by Brian McClellan's excellent blog post An Author's Complicated Relationship With Self-Promotion.
I think it comes down to doing whatever is the best fit for you. I've read Brian's blogs on driving to various far-flung conventions, signings at bookshops and the like. He seems to enjoy getting out there to book fairs and hand-selling his own work.
Which is great if:
i) You have the 'spare' time and can travel.
ii) You're a chatty, people-person who has that magic talent for drawing folks in and sending them away with a book.
On the other hand Brian seems ill at ease with things such tweeting a link to his book, he agonises about spamming his followers etc.
Now for me:
i) I can't travel - I'm always needed to help care for my very disabled youngest daughter.
ii) I'd rather eat a bug than cold sell anything to anyone.
On the other hand I'm perfectly happy to tweet BUY MY FRIKKING BOOK along with a link to the Amazon listing - I don't even bat an eye about it.
(Self-promotion ... I'm not even sorry.)
The reason I'm active online is that it's the only way I ever get to interact with readers - that's my readers and that's readers of fantasy, period. As the parent of a very disabled child (age 10) the last decade has been a very isolating one - when I'm on a forum chatting about fantasy, yes that's me self-promoting, but it's also me socialising. Same with Facebook - yes, I'm posting pictures of my latest book or silly competitions for signed copies or whatever ... but it's also the only chance I get to see into other people's lives - I do it for fun, for entertainment, for company, selling books is quite far down that list. If it happens to look like great marketing to agents etc ... that's really just a happy side-effect.
The other thing I've noticed - and this may just be a personality thing, but I think there's more to it - is that many authors on forums, reddit etc are incredibly guarded, very measured, very careful never to give an ounce of offence. They're there with their marketing hat firmly in place and on best behaviour. They sure as hell don't want to risk pissing someone off. One nutter carrying a grudge could put quite a dent in their efforts and that would be hours of contributions down the drain.
I'm not like that. I just say what I think and damn the consequences. It helps that what I think is (I think) pretty reasonable most of the time - but even when it's not ... I've come to the conclusion that people appreciate the honesty. They might not agree with me all the time but at least they feel they're having a real conversation / interaction with a real person, not some façade constructed to minimise offence and maximise sales.
(look! I did it again! This one even links to pre-order on Amazon!)
My experience has been that fantasy fans respond well to honest expressions of excitement/enthusiasm over the projects authors are involved with, and appreciate honest opinions - even if stated robustly - and openness. Readers don't want to be promoted to - but they know we have to do it. Readers would rather have open/honest interaction with the real people behind the author names than cautious guarded interactions with someone trying to sell themselves. And if you give them that honest and open interaction, your sharp corners too, then when on occasion you do scream BUY MY BOOK, DAMN YOU! at worst they'll laugh it off, and at best they'll laugh and then buy your book.