The fact of the matter is, the earlier you start promoting your novel or short story, the better. Now I'm not saying start raving about your book before it's finished. What I'm saying is, there's no point opening your website to the public the day you release your book, because no one will see it.
It takes time to build an audience, be it on social media like Twitter or FaceBook, or your own website. Even followings on sites like Love Romance and Good Reads take time to build up. So do networks for blog reviews.
If you're serious about writing a book, and you're serious about self-publishing, then marketing is going to have to be a high priority for you. Unfortunately, just quality writing isn't usually enough. Even if you're planning to go the traditional publishing route, you'll look much more attractive to a publisher if you can show them that you already have a following.
People currently assume social media is an easy answer: it gives a voice to everyone. That's true. But what's also true is that in a room full of screaming voices, it can be really hard to be heard. If your twitter account only has a handful of followers then it isn't worth anything. Even if it has several hundred, if they followed you because you post about gaming, they're worth almost nothing when it comes to releasing your first romance novel.
Make sure your author social media accounts are focused. Not on promoting your books, but on the genre. Talk about writing romance, about your publishing process. Promote someone else's book, and maybe they'll promote yours too. 50 followers who are engaged are worth 5000 that aren't. Aim to have an engaged audience by the time your book is ready for publication.
Another great thing to do before you publish your book, is start an author website. Detailed posts on how to do that, and on what to include later are coming soon, but for now, trust me that you need a website, and it should have a blog. For the next month, or year, that it takes you to write your book, also make the time to publish regular blog posts. Well-researched, informative posts that people are going to want more of.
That way, they are used to checking your website, and enjoying what you have to say. They already trust and like you, so when you say, "Hey, it would really help me out if you bought my book" they will listen. Now I'm not saying that all of them will, but it's a start.
In this world of independent authors, relationships with readers are key. You need people from all all over the world to relate to you. So if someone comments on a blog post, try to reply. If you read something someone recommends, let them know. You are going to be relying on these people later, not just to buy and read your book, but to tell others about it too.
It's hard to let people know that your book actually exists. Most e-book readers search in the Amazon Top 100, or i-books top novels. Readers of print books browse their local shops. The fact is, it takes a long time to get that popular, so in the mean time, you need to get the word out in other ways. You've got social media and an audience from your own website, now it's time to get onto other websites.
During your writing period, take time out to read other blogs relating to yours. Read other author sites, and review sites. Make a few comments, have a chat. Maybe even go to a few relevant events. If you can contact a few bloggers and say. "Hey, I met you at suchandsuch", they're going to take you a lot more seriously than if you just say, "Hey, review my book please, it's the bomb."
You might surprise yourself. Networking is fun when you meet the right people.
Do your networking well before you need a favour. This means that you can take your time, pick and choose the bloggers and authors that you get along well with. Find some that review or write your types of books. Not only will their audiences be similar to what you are looking for, you'll make some great friends who can help support you. More support is always better. And you can support them right back. When they bring out a new book, retweet it. Offer to do a review. Start accruing credit early.
It takes time to turn networking into real relationships, and customers, or readers, into a community. That's why you should always start preparing early.