As I discussed in an earlier post, one of the big challenges of publishing as an independent (rather than through one of the Big Six New York publishers) is getting noticed. No one can buy a book if they don't know it exists. Standing on the corner with a wheelbarrow full of books, like a stereotypical old-fashioned oyster seller, might work, but only for print (physical) books. It's not going to work at all for an ebook.
So the first question after a new author publishes an ebook (typically through Amazon, B&N/Nook, iTunes, or Kobo) is, "How can I promote/market my book?" No one likes to hear, "It's a ton of work and probably will have minimal results." "There must be a secret!" they insist. No, if there was a secret, either we'd all be doing it (in which case it wouldn't be secret), or else the few who had figured out the Secret would guard it with their lives, not wanting to dilute its effect.
It's actually simple and not secret all. First, write a book that's as good as you can make it, including editing, cover, and description, as well of course as excellent content. Make sure it's in a popular genre (tip, romance, SF/fantasy, and mystery/thriller usually do OK, poetry and children's books do not). Then let everyone you know (especially on social media) know about it. Then hope the Sales Fairies drop a big load of fairy dust on you. Then write more books, even better than the first. ("Your results may vary.")
Social media promoting can be difficult because, if your Facebook is nothing but "Buy my book!" no one will bother checking it out. Same goes for Twitter. I blog (well, duh, you say as you read my blog), but I doubt I get many sales of my books as a result. Most people who come to the blog just seem to want to know about medieval farm animals (or, as one person recently asked, "Why were chickens sacred in the Middle Ages?"--hard to know how to answer that one….)
This is why promotion companies have sprung up. Authors give them money, and they send out an announcement of a Special Sale on an ebook to a mailing list made up of people who have specifically asked to be notified of books on sale in their favorite genre. This is targeted selling at its best, much better than randomly tweeting "Buy my book!" to anyone left on your Twitter feed.
The biggest and best (and most expensive) is Bookbub. In the fantasy genre, they have roughly 1.8 million folks on their mailing list, and they anticipate that, on average, about 1800 of these will buy a particular book as a result of their mailing. This is 1/10 of 1%, even though the recipients of the promotion email specifically asked to be notified, and indicates why most authors' own random mass blasts don't have much effect.
But 1800 sales in a couple days is good. It is believed that a decent proportion of all Amazon ebook sales are due to a Bookbub promotion. Sale of a first book in a series will, if the book's any good, lead to follow-on sales for the rest of the series, at full price. This is why authors line up to give Bookbub lots of money. There are other, less expensive promoters of this sort, but BB has by far the biggest mailing list. They can afford to be very picky about which books they promote, which in fact helps, because the recipients of the emails know the books have been pre-screened for decent writing. (Though some good books never get picked!)
Amazon and other e-tailers. As the first in the Royal Wizard of Yurt series, it's the gateway drug to the rest of my books. I managed to sell over 2500 copies at the sale price, so I'm hoping that readers will want to continue with the whole series.