I'm not sure self publishing and self marketing is the way to go for everyone. Most authors I know who are self-published, unless they started doing it around the time of its peak from roughly 2008 through 2011 here in the US, and that's for the romance genre only (that's really all I keep up with), they're not doing that well now.
The market is too saturated, Amazon's programs are killing the royalties for authors, and with the pirates virtually unstoppable, anyone tossing their books up on third party vendors is swimming upstream with a lot of other fish. I know a handful of authors making approximately $100K in royalties each year, but they started during those magic years, and they put out the same book every two weeks. They don't deviate from the formula their readers want, and when they try to, it usually doesn't work. Some of them write very well, and some of them don't, but because they have a following and readers are funny about trying someone new, they continue to sell and sell well. There are a lot of romance fans who would rather read the same story over and over than read something different. I don't understand it, but I also can't change it.
I know for my own situation, entering contests or taking creating writing courses wouldn't pay off at this point, so I don't do it. I know how to write. I know where to put the periods and commas, and I know how to develop a character and move a plot along. Contests and creating writing courses won't help me improve that. I've already done that and been there, and I found it of marginal value, to be perfectly blunt.
What helps me improve is reading constructive reviews and writing more books, listening to what my editors have to say, and always striving to write a better story each time. There are books that helped me far more than any contest I entered or any class I could take. I still refer to them.
Writing, like any art, is something you either can do or can't do. Not all of us can draw, or paint, or knit and have the end result look like a sweater. Not everyone can read or play music. Writing is also an art and not everyone can do it. The gatekeepers are all but gone, and consequently, because literally anyone can now "publish" a book by doing it on their own, the market is flooded with really poorly written books. The industry has changed forever, and I don't think it's changed for the better. But I digress…
Those of us struggling along with digital first publishers have the advantage of a royalty paying publisher, but even that is no guarantee of great sales. We have a social media presence not because self marketing is the way to go, but because readers like to interact with us. It is "marketing" in a way, but that's not all I use it for. I know my readers. I talk to them. I talk to other authors and I know them as well. Some I've met in real life or at least spoken to on the phone.
My Tara Rose and Carolyn Rosewood readers followed me when I took on Ravenna Tate's name because they wanted to keep reading me, no matter what name I published under, and that's because I took time to cultivate those relationships with them, even before I was published. I take the time to get to know them as people, not merely readers or other authors. It makes a huge difference.
THAT'S the key to "marketing" in this crazy industry today where we're competing with dino porn and cowboy books at 99 cents on Amazon. Where authors change a few names around, maybe a few background details, and slam out the same book over and over. Anyone can do that, and that's why I don't and never will. It's why I stopped writing as Tara - because I was constantly encouraged by my publisher to do just that. To write the same stupid book, over and over, and not stray from "what sells."
And yes, I know exactly what that refusal to become just another hack means for me. It means I will continue to work a full time job outside my home AND write at the same time. It means I won't make as much money as some people I know make, even though I write just as well as they do. NOT being conceited - merely keeping it real. But it also means I won't be seen as someone who can only write one kind of story, and I won't feel as if I've compromised my creative integrity just to make a few extra bucks.
Obviously I'm not doing this for the money. If I was, I'd be gone by now. I do it because I've wanted to since I was eight years old. I do it because the voices in my head won't allow me NOT to do it. I do because it's my passion. It's that thing I'd do even if I never made another dime off it. It's not "work" to me. It's fun. It's my escape. It's my release. Work is what I do to pay the bills. But when I write, that's when the real me comes out.