Today's NY Times has a fascinating article about self-published books. Read it here. It boils down to this: Thanks to the economy, book retailers are hurting and publishers are laying off employees and concentrating mainly on best-selling "brand name" authors. Yet people who want to be published authors are not giving up--instead, they're self-publishing through companies like Author Solutions, iUniverse, Blurb, Lulu, and CreateSpace.
A Google search for "self-publishing" turned up 6.5 million search results, and a Google search for "print on demand" turned up more than 20 million results! No wonder the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has posted a warning about POD along with a lengthy list of links to help aspiring writers assess their options.
Self-published authors must have a solid marketing plan that goes beyond the basics of finishing the book (the product), setting up a blog (communication), setting a price, and getting the book listed on Amazon and BN.com (distribution). For ideas, check out John Kremer's links to book marketing resources.