Authors and writers are finding themselves in a similar position to musicians, except that is hard to go on tour and play to large crowds. The entire blog tour idea is somewhat analogous, but no T-shirts and beer.
I'm not so sure how it will all work out either. It is a great time to be a reader is a little bit like saying it is a great time to be swimmer during a flood. I'm not sure what the landscape is going to look like after the flood, but everybody needs to be finding an ark.
I think the easiest way around the pandering of self-promotion is a straightforward, outright declaration of what your self-interest is. I just got finished reading Christopher Hitchen's memoir and his friendship and relationship with Martin Amis and Salaman Rushdie didn't stop him from commenting fully on those authors or praising their work.
Taste is taste. If you like someone's taste, odds are someone with similar taste will like yours too. Think staff recommendations at the indie book stores. It won't matter if it is a book written by them or a friend or relative. Influence comes from the reader's taste and finding other reader's with similar taste. Think of it as the log you grab as the Titanics of publishing sink.