Short stories, free-books, instant delivery, online vouchers and so on have changed the face of writing in recent years. It isn't so long ago that an eReader was science fiction (the Star Trek pad, for example). Its arrival, and the high quality screen which was vital to stop readers' eyes going weird has (coupled with the internet) revolutionised the writing industry.
For writers, and aspiring writers, this presents a great opportunity. The once nigh-on impermeable agent/publisher barrier has been removed, but at the same time this has created a new problem (namely that there's so much published getting noticed, which was hard anyway, has become even tougher).
I've got to admit that whilst I think I have a decent handle on writing the peripheral stuff (from technical things like formatting books to marketing) is not something I'm quite so comfortable with.
Here's what I've done so far:
A personal blog (this, to be precise) with occasional bits of self-plugging and little adverts for my own work.
A website dedicated to the stuff I write and am in the process of writing: http://thaddeuswhite.weebly.com/index.html
Threatening to unleash an army of genetically engineered superfish on everyone I know who doesn't buy a copy of Bane of Souls.
Now, those are all common sense, but there are a few more things to be done. One of the most obvious, biggest but most time-consuming thing a writer can do is to write book 2 (whether a stand-alone or part of a series). If readers know a writer isn't a one hit wonder they are likelier to buy his work, and it also means that if they liked book 1 you've got a ready made base of readers.
Giving away free books is something lots of people have done, and sometimes it can be pretty successful. You can also get your free book listed on certain sites dedicated to such things, which amounts to free publicity. Obviously you won't make money directly, but if people like it they may well buy your other stuff.
I'm loathe to give away an entire book for nothing, so for the first book of a forthcoming trilogy (I'll start work on it after my next book's out) I'll be giving away roughly half. It's a civil war story, so I'll be able to give away one side's perspective. Hopefully that way it'll make sense as a self-contained story whilst also enticing people to buy the proper version and see what the other side were doing.
Another intriguing possibility someone mentioned to me the other day was the short story. It never really occurred to me, but giving away short stories for free could be a pretty cool idea. The advantage over giving away full novels is that less time is consumed so there's a few weeks/months rather than years spent working for nothing, effectively.
I also haven't really made use of vouchers yet, but I plan on doing so for Altmortis. The price will be up on Bane of Souls (probably $2.99) but I plan to have vouchers for the first week that will cut that to $0.99. With the exception of this sort of thing, which rewards people who are paying attention, I really dislike fiddling with prices. It seems a bit like revisionism or retconning.
An interesting thing I read on Kindleboards (a free forum mostly used by Kindle authors) regarded the addition of India to the Amazon.com market. Apparently the cost of a paperback in India is just $2. Now, I don't know the cost of a Kindle in India, but I'd guess that having relatively high costs ($4.99-5.99, say) might put off those Indians in a position to buy. Hard to know just how big the Indian market is, though. There are roughly a billion people living there, but the vast majority of them won't have Kindles or similar devices.
Hmm. Maybe I should write a low-priced book about a Chinese fellow and an Indian embarking upon a series of exciting escapades. If I made 25p a sale, and made one billion sales I'd have… almost as much money as Tom Knox!