Writers' League of Texas 2010 Agents Conference.
The moderator was Shennandoah Diaz of Greenleaf Book Group. The panelists were: Marilyn Carter of Marilyn Carter Marketing and Communications, Lisa Lawrence of LL PR Media and Public Relations, and Jennifer Hill Robenalt of Robin Hill Media.
The panelists suggested getting ideas from other writers and publishers, especially those with books in your genre, by using Google Alerts. I use Google Alerts to see what's being said about my books, but I hadn't considered using it to get information about other, similar books. It's easy to use. Go to Google.com and click on more and then even more. From there, select Alerts and it'll be easy to figure out the rest.
Another idea I got in the session was to set up an author Facebook page. The panelists disagreed on whether to have one for each book or one for all books. After they discussed it, I decided it was best to have one for all books. This gives you a chance to sell yourself more and you don't have to get fans all over again when a new book comes out. I haven't set mine up yet, but when I do, I'll tell you more about it.
The panelists talked about the importance of videos to help sell your books. If you don't have the software to do it yourself, you may want to check out http://animoto.com/. I haven't tried it yet, but I looked it over and it looks promising. The use public domain photos and music so there are no royalty payments. There is a free version and a paid version.
Another suggestion was to look for blogs in your book category and add meaningful comments on as many as possible. Keep your comments to the subject and don't try to sell yourself. The benefit will come when other readers (and the blog authors) see your name and comments and decide to check you out. I've picked up several blog followers using this technique.
Publishers still use press releases, but they are seen by the panelists as necessary evils that don't do much to increase sales. Most of the people who receive them disregard them because they know the same message was sent to many other outlets. It would be better to send a unique message and pitch to each place you want some free advertising.
Many bloggers are looking for content. You can write your own questions and answers to send them. Make each one special. Look for blogs that do virtual book tours.
If you're doing a non-fiction book, and are an expert in some field, a good place to go is http://www.helpareporter.com/. You can sign up to receive queries from writers looking for expert information. You may then be quoted in a high-distribution publication along with the title of your book. I'm not sure it will be useful for fiction, but I signed up anyway.