What with the Los Angeles Review willing to chip in an opinion on select self-pub books, writers have now turned a corner. There is a plethora of ways to gain editorial comments, obtain publication, and some strategic publicity for such books. Of course, you have to pay your own way to that point. And some publicists are now willing to take on the chore of touting these books.
The remaining sticking point is in actively pursuing buyers. This used to be where book stores and signings in them came in, but most chain stores won't handle them – too much feuding with the likes of Amazon. And many indie book stores turn them down, unless they have local interest subject matter, or the author is known locally. Still some – one in my town for instance – are beginning to charge to hold book signings as a way to stay in business.
My (current) solution otherwise? Follow in the path of musicians, who drum up house concerts. These allow an audience to gain familiarity with the musician and his/her material. Then the next step is to use your growing local name to get club gigs and newspaper publicity.
Writers can take a similar path by contacting friends in various locales and offering to provide refreshments if said friends will bring in potential buyers to hear the readings, to shmooze with the writer, and – you know – maybe buy a book.
It's the ultimate entrepreneurial business, and such ploys are the only way at the current time to gain a name outside traditional publishing. More on the digital end of things later.