A Noobs had better do their bloody research, basically. There is loads of material out there from books to websites to forums to blogs that outline the dos and don'ts of self-publishing and many of them are pretty good. You need to know the basics and the good news is that as long as you are able to read then you should be OK if you track down some decent material to swot up on. I am not convinced by the value of fairs and conferences for a noob or self-published authors in general. I am not that convinced of their value for me either. I do think Twitter is as good a place to connect as any other.
Q What defines marketability these days? Is it seizing the zeitgeist, unveiling universal truths, coming up with true originality, giving a better spin on a tried and trusted theme, having an easily recognizable name, or yet something other?
A "Promotable" and "marketable" have long been publishers' shorthand for "are they a bit fit?" Good-looking authors look better in magazine photoshoots and all that. But I know plenty of successful authors who are butt ugly so I don't think it matters all that much. What does matter, or what helps, is if you have a bit of an interesting story to tell. If you have a unique angle - I wrote my book while skydiving, I have three heads, that sort of thing - then it helps. Otherwise it can be a bit of a hard slog.
Q Do bloggers and reviewers hold any real influence? Do agents and publishers listen out for an internet “buzz”?
A Individually very few bloggers have any real clout but if enough of them start shouting about your book then it can be as useful, if not more so, than a great newspaper review. Agents and publisher probably pay more attention to the Amazon ranking though.
Q To what extent does the author’s “internet presence” or “brand” matter to a publisher and what would you include in that presence or brand?
A It helps if you can come with a ready-made audience - "I have 5,000 Twitter followers and 3,000 likes on Facebook" - but that is an added bonus rather than a requirement.
Q There’s a plethora of sources of information and advice out there. Do you have any recommendations as to just where a noob should place their ear to the ground?
A I may not be the best person to ask as I am not really the target market for that info and advice but http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/ and Nicola Morgan's books for writers are a good start.