As a co-producer on the feature film The Selling I have learned more about the in's and out's of film production, festivals and distribution than I ever intended. So now that I'm super smart and superior I can sit on my high horse and tell other people what they should do. There are two books that would have saved us a lot of time and money had we read them earlier in the process. So you should read them.
The first is Thinking Outside The Box Office by Jon Reiss.
This book is a must even if you are planning on going through traditional channels. Read it before pre production if possible. There are things that you can be doing early that will make your life much easier. Building audience, having the right useful things on your website, transmedia and digital rights are all in here. This world is changing out from under everyone and this is a great way to stay on top of the new model. Whatever that is going to be.
The second book is Chris Gore's Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide. You should read this before pre production too. There are things you need to be doing early for a good festival run. It will make your life much easier if you do them. You can't do them if you don't even know they need to be done.
There are about a billion festivals and getting into and going to them is a huge job. Reading this book will make it so you aren't a complete idiot. I'd say you should read this even if you know the festival world.
Another great resource if you're in Los Angeles is American Cinematheque's lecture series by Thomas Ethan Harris. This is a wonderful cool thing that the American Cinematheque is doing and you should take advantage of it if you can.
There is my sage advice. Feel free to send me some of the money this saves you. I think 15% is fair.