Below is a list of things I think every author needs, and then my reasons for including them. (It’s a short list, but some are very important!)
Twitter and/or Facebook account
Author friend(s) you can talk to
A basic knowledge of HTML
A way to research
Website: People should be able to find you. They should be able to get to know you a little through your website. And, more importantly, they should have a way to find information about your books. How else are they going to buy them? I’ve tried the whole subliminal messaging/telepathic pushing thing, and so far, it’s not working. (It also wouldn’t hurt if the website is a nice one. Not saying you need to spend thousands on a site, but think about the kinds of sites that make you cringe–and avoid making one like that.)
Twitter/Facebook: I won’t say you need both, but I think every author needs at least one way to communicate with people. This doesn’t mean a non-stop way to promote yourself, because that’s almost worse than no promotion at all. But you should be accessible.
Newsletter: This will be one of the easiest ways to alert your fans about your new releases, new projects, etc. Start one ASAP, because unless you’re a Big Time Author, it’s going to be a slow-build. This isn’t a way to spam your readers, but if they sign up for it, then they want to know what you’re doing. Don’t spam them. Don’t send out a newsletter with every little bit of information or when you’re feeling chatty. Save it for the big stuff, like new releases or contests. If you’re sending out newsletters every week and you’re not giving your readers something worthwhile, then you’re going to lose one of your most valuable tools.
Thick skin: Trust me, you’ll need it. Or at least the ability to get over bad reviews quickly. Because they’ll happen. Reviews are OPINIONS. They’re not set in stone. They’re not (usually) personal attacks. You have opinions, and I bet they differ from say, mine. So try to keep that in mind. And please, if you want to be taken seriously, never respond to bad a review. Never attack someone for their opinion. You don’t like being attacked for yours, do you?
Friends: Bad reviews, along with rejections, hurt. You should have someone you can talk to about this, so having a few author friends–who’ve been there and done that–should help.
HTML Know-How: This one sounds kind of ridiculous, right? But if you’re going to be updating your website (and I hope you will be if you have one), then knowing what you’re doing is a good idea. I’m not saying you need to be an expert, but you should know the basics. Having friends who know HTML is great. …but what happens when that friend isn’t around and you need help with something?
Ways to Research: Yup. I say it a lot. RESEARCH. Your GoogleFu should be strong, my friend. If you don’t know something about publishing, then you need to research. Want help with agents? Yup, research! Need to know if it’s plausible that your character could actually fit into a 3×3 box…research! I’m not saying don’t ask others. You should, too. But you should have a basic knowledge of the subject you’re asking for help with FIRST. If you don’t, then you’re only going to confuse yourself–and the person you’re asking.