We're winding down on the preliminaries here, the checklist of things you need to concern yourself with before launching into self-publishing, and we're to the area that I've seen people have the most reluctance to tackle: marketing yourself.
You've got a great book, you've proofread and edited it meticulously, you've got a stunning cover and fabulous formatting. None of that matters if no one knows it exists. Everything you've done up till this point has been to ensure that once a reader sees your book they'll pick it, devour it, and eagerly await your next masterpiece. But they have to see the book. They have to either seek it out or stumble across it. If you want to sit back and wait for readers to come astumbling, be my guest. You'll probably have quite a wait, especially since self-publishing is just starting to blossom and it's only going to get more crowded from this point forward.
Make no mistake, a critical part of your marketing is tied up in your cover, your blurb and description, and your search tags (more about all that at a later date), but you've also got so get your name out there. Think of the web as a giant writer's conference. It's time to shmooze and get connected, hang out in the bar, strike up a conversation, set up a table to display your wares.
If I had a dollar for every time I've heard or read an author say, "But I don't have time for that!" and then show back up to ask, "How come nobody's buying my book?" I'd probably be able to pay for the new clutch I just put in my car. Get over it. I've got five kids (the youngest in kindergarten), a full-time freelancing business that takes a minimum of 40 hours a week, and a household to run. If I can find time to both write and do self-promotion, anybody can. The hope of course is that at some point in the future I'll quit the freelancing job and I'll be established enough that self-promotion will take far less time, but when you're starting out, you've got a mountain to climb.
Where to start up that sheer rock face? Forums, news groups, blogs, email groups. Read, familiarize yourself with what's out there. When you have something to contribute, post. Have a good question? Ask it. Talk about yourself. Talk about yourself some more, but don't be obnoxious. Be a good web citizen and offer some value. Don't ask for favors unless you're willing to do some in return. Be polite. Be well-informed. Make friends. When the situation presents itself, join groups. Earn someone's respect. You need a network in the writing/publishing/reading community and you need to build it bit by bit.
You'll need an author's website. When people want to look you up, they'll need somewhere to go. You can go the fancy route and buy a domain and take the time to design (or have designed) a website. Or you can go the easier route and set up a site on WordPress or Blogger. (The pros, cons, and possibilities in another post).
It's a great idea to have a blog. It may be time-consuming and intimidating, but good grief, you're a writer. TALK! WRITE! Remember the three C's: Current, Cogent, Catchy. Blog regularly, blog something well-thought-out and interesting, and do it in a way that's eye-catching and invites people to add you to their RSS feed or bookmark your blog. If you feel it's too much to handle, form a group with friends and take turns. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to have some passion.
Take advantage of social media. Have a Facebook page, or maybe a Facebook page for your book, series, or protagonist. Use Twitter. Set up your own little empire where you can get the word out and interact with readers and other writers.
These are all preliminary steps that you should take now. Soon you'll have to worry about sending out copies to reviewers, planning launch events, attending conferences, marketing materials, blog tours, and myriad other things you can do to market yourself. Before you get to that stage, you need to have a foundation online and in your local community. It takes time, and the time to start is long before you have a book to actually market.