If an author wanted to get word of mouth out about their book, like you mentioned, what are some ways they can do that, without reflecting negatively on their publisher, who may or may not have tried to promote the book?Although it may be more difficult for you, as the author, you can do pretty much the same type of marketing and promotion that a publisher can do—depending on how much time and money you want to put into it. I have lots of posts that deal with this. Click on the labels "Marketing" and "Promotion" to read what I've said about it in the past. But here's a quick list (in no particular order):
Virtual book tours—find bloggers you like/know and ask if they'll participate. This will cost you a copy of your book per blogger.
Brick and mortar book tours/signings/launch parties—get to know your local bookstore managers and see if they'll allow you to do this. If they're not interested, contact your local library. When you travel for personal reasons, call the bookstores in the area, see if they carry your book, ask if they'd like to do a signing. Or do a drive-by, go in and ask if they'd like you to just quickly sign the copies of your books on their shelves. (Take stickers that say "Autographed Copy" and put them on the books.)
TV, Radio, Newspaper interviews—contact your local places, send press releases, see if you can get on the local interest shows.
Get your book on Amazon, even if you have to list it and sell it yourself.
Establish an Internet presence with website(s) and/or blog(s), join reader forums, hold contests to give away copies of your book, etc.
Keep in contact with your publisher to let them know what you're doing. Hopefully they will be positive and supportive.
And for all of those who insist a publisher should be doing all of this—well, yes, in a perfect world. But we're talking about a less than perfect situation here. Yes, you will have to promote your on book aggressively and yes, you will have to spend your own money doing so. This is a pain but if it's your current reality, you either bite the bullet and do it or you let your book fail. Your call.