Marketing yourself and your fanfic. Interesting topic. Interesting questions. How conscious are we when we do this? Is it a deliberate attempt to go attract readership or is it just a "if I write it they will come"? These days, I think it's harder to find readers than ever before - more fandoms, more writers, more lists etc. So I think the easy answer would be to yes, you have to market yourself somehow. But what really works, other than strength of repuation? And even that isn't always a guarantee for readership.
"Marketing" for some people is a dirty word - you get images of telemarketers and direct mail people, not to mention spammers. But marketing is a necessarily evil - if you want attention, you've got to do the things that attract attention. And call it what you will, but as a marketer and a MBA student in RL, I'm going to call a spade a spade.
Vera asked tons of good questions about it on zendom and it was the first time I really thought about why I post where I post and why I tell certain people about my fics and not other and why I publicize some, but not others. It's not like I have the marketing mix (Product, Price, Promotion and Place) right in front of me nor do I draw out a long convulated marketing plan either - but what we do to gain readership is all marketing, whether it be posting to a mailing list or to fanfiction.net.
And just like television commercials, we choose where we want to be associated. For instance, some archives fit our criteria, others do not. Some mailing lists are okay, others are not. Some BBS are okay to post announcements, and others you barely glance at. Some NGs you post to, others you don't. Sometimes you post to your site only, sometimes to your own mailing list. There are awards contests and then there are awards contest - you pick and choose which one you want to enter. You swap links with other people who match your criteria, you get rec'd - all of these things are important in creating your brand recognition.
And even if you do have brand recognition, you have to reposition yourself every so often. You have to put a new twist on your efforts - it's kind of like when Campbell's soups changed their package in an effort to update its image. As fanfic writers, it's impossible to rest on your laurels, only because there's always coming to be the next author, the latest "brand" so to speak. If you don't keep up, if you don't keep marketing, despite that brand recongition that you worked so hard to get in the first place, you could lose it very quickly. The marketplace, you see, is perfectly competitive and efficient - you let up for a second, and you find yourself at the bottom of the heap once again.
So you've got to find new mailing lists, new message boards, new types of stories, other authors who may be able to help you with betas and recs. It's a lot of work, but it's hard to stay in view of the reader when there's always something new every other minute - not just in the particular fandom you write in, but in all of fandom in general. Attention spans are short, so you've got to grab them in the first few paragraphs and you've got to promise something - style, substance, characterization - that will make them want to read, make them want to come back. You've got to change more often than you want to stay the same, unfortunately.
There are the lucky authors, few and far between, who will always get rec'd, even if they write three lines, and will always be remembered as "the best of the best." They're the ones with the fan clubs ;-). But more often, it doesn't work out that way for us. And honestly, much as I like to claim that I write for myself, to fill what I see as the blanks in TPTB's vision, I have to admit that I save every piece of FB and that I adore hearing from readers - whether positive or negative. And so it's so very necessary to do things that capture the "eyeballs" and keep them loyal.
Hence, marketing is necessary whether or not we like to think of ourselves as marketers of our fanfic, we *have* to be if we have any hope of getting readership at all.