It seems reasonably clear to me that a publisher can go a long way to making a book a bestseller if the publisher decides to make it happen. Make the book a sales rep pick; announce a several-hundred thousand copy first print run; talk the book up at BEA and elsewhere; include a letter from the head of the house in the ARC; devote a few hundred thousand dollars to advertising and in-store promotion; send the author on a big tour. The publisher might lose money in the process -- I get the feeling that happens fairly often to first-time authors who get the treatment I just described -- but the book will hit the NYT and other lists.
I say all this to emphasize that your publisher can do much, much more to make your book big than you can. It stands to reason, then, that the primary goal of your self-promotion efforts should be to recruit your publisher -- that is, to persuade your publisher's people to promote you the way you want them to promote you.
The question is how.
Start with attitude: if your publisher's people aren't doing all you want them to, it's not because they're stingy or stupid or mean. It's because you haven't yet fulfilled your responsibility to demonstrate to them that it's in their interest to do more. Look, if you knew a certain stock was going to go up ten percent tomorrow, you'd invest in it today, right? And if there were another stock that you knew would go up 15% tomorrow, you'd invest in that one instead, right?
(link via @nadialee)