The 26th Story have made a very interesting post called 5 Publicity Tips for Authors - I recommend that publishers take a look too, because it really is about working together to get devise the best methods of publicising your work, be it as author or publisher. An excellent example right here in Australia is that of Simon Haynes of the Hal Spacejock success story. Simon works extremely hard to get the message out there, investing his own time and money to work with his publishers and make Hal a household name. Through websites, blogs, social networking, print media, merchandising, e-books and other methods, Simon promotes and supports his work and his publishers, in a partnership that gives Hal Spacejock a far bigger presence than the publishers themselves might otherwise achieve alone.
Kate Eltham over at Electric Alphabet also responded to the 26th Story post, with her thoughts on author and publisher branding - another brainstorming suggestion for publishers. One particular point she made:
Isn’t it possible, however unlikely, that some publishers could create an identity so strong and a community so vibrant that audiences seek out their books because they trust and like the people producing them? It’s hard to imagine of the multinationals, but not so hard to imagine of the quirky independents who have well-known identities associated with them, such as McSweeney’s (Dave Eggars) or Small Beer Press (Kelly Link).
Romance publishers have been branding themselves for years - I remember fastidiously collecting Harlequin Historicals just because they WERE, although I did discover favourite authors among the ranks as time went on. e-Harlequin is using the world wide web not only as a marketing tool, but as a way to create a sense of community and support their authors (or perhaps even prospective authors) as well.
Publishers are doing it. Small press can too.