When I decided to go to the RWA conference, I downloaded the schedule of workshops and marked quite a few I thought I would visit.
I made one! That's it. One. There was just so much to do and so much to see. I think Sybil and Jane found the same thing. But the one I did get to was very interesting. It was a workshop on Author websites and how to make them work. The speaker was interesting and quite good. I think he started off with a bit of a problem though. He started off saying people could ask questions any time and there were a few questions that were pretty silly IMO. Someone asked if they should have separte sights if they wrote YA and Romantica. Daah. It was starting to get off track a bit until one brave soul suggested that maybe we should keep on track and after that it went very well. I didn't take notes but here's what I remember. Keep in mind this is for authors - not readers. But as a reader, I thought it was interesting.
Have a blog.
Now I may be different from many readers but I don't follow author blogs very much at all. There are two that I visit on a regular basis and a couple that I visit from time to time. So I'm not sure about that one if you are trying to attract readers, at least for me. But if you are trying to attract agents or publishers, it might be a good idea. I am much more likely and I do, visit author web sites. It's not like I don't like author blogs, but I care more about the books than I do the author. I don't mean that in a negative way. But it's like say - a chocolate bar. I love a good chocolate bar, but I don't pay all that much attention to who makes it. So if your target for a blog is readers, I'm split. I, myself, don't go to them much, but some readers do. If your target is other authors and a networking tool - go for it.
He did caution though if you do start a blog, be careful it doesn't drain too much of your creative energy keeping up a blog that could be used in writing.
Ways to increase readership
Have contests. I agree with this 100%. I love entering contests. But I actually did hold up my hand and make a point. If an author does hold contests, please, please, please be willing to ship internationally. There are a lot of readers around the world who would just love to win books but some authors only will ship to the US. I see this on a contest and I am really turned off. Pay that extra in postage if needed. You will gain more readers that way and it will be worth it in the long run.
He agreed with me *g*.
If you do have contests, make it part of the contest to add a mailing list and make sure readers who enter it are aware they are also being added. I am starting to get a number of updates on authors in my email from entering contests and while I sometimes ignore them, sometimes I will click and read what they are sending. One person asked about making it a members only thing. He was neutral on that point - if you want to. But speaking for me - bad idea. If I have to join something(?) I won't. I don't mind automatically being put on a mailing list when entering a contest, but I won't if I have to submit passwords and all that other kinds of stuff.
He didn't have time to get into that very much. I wish it could have gone longer than an hour; I would have put up my hand again, brave soul that I was, but as a reader, it's vital to update.
A lot of techincal jargon that I didn't understand about hosts and domains and stuff. But I do remember he said it was a good idea to have separate ones.
There's more, but it's after midnight and I'm almost asleep as I sit here so I'll edit and add in the am.