According to Justine Larbalestier:
. . .Accusations of being too self promotery make me a bit jittery. Promoting your books is part of a writer’s job. If no one knows the book exists how is it going to sell? A writer should be out there lining up bookshop appearances, sending out postcards/business cards/tshoshkas of some kind. You should be attending cons/trade shows/schools/libraries or whatever will help get the word out about your work. . . .
I continue to resist the idea that, at least in the context of "mainstream" publishing (small presses have a limited ability to promote what they publish, but all parties understand this from the beginning), "promoting your books is part of a writer's job." Is writing your book part of a publisher's job? If not, why let publishers off the hook and agree to do their actual work for them? There really was a time when the writer's job was to write and the publisher's job was to get it into readers' hands. Clearly that day has passed, and, like so many other businesses, publishers are "outsourcing" work they used to do themselves--in this case, to authors themselves.
Given the way current publishing seems to operate--books are published without any realistic plan to get them noticed, floating on a fragile bubble of hope one or two of them might, through some mysterious means, catch on and become blockbusters--it isn't surprising that this practice now predominates. Writers are indeed left to fend for themselves. But if the publisher's only real job is to print your book, why the continuing reluctance to turn to self-publishing? By Justine's own account, this seems to be what book publishing has come down to anyway. If the author is going to engage in the kind of labor she describes, of what practical utility is it to have the publisher's name on the spine? Just a residual sense that your book has been officially pronounced fit by people who know good writing when they see it? Does anyone any longer believe that they do?
Perhaps it is now true that writers must both write and promote. In which case, what good are publishers?