Get Your eBook in Front of as Many Eyeballs as Possible.
But it's not all that simple.
Sure, there are at least 7 main distributors of ebooks. (And there's another 5 or 6 additional outlets as well...)
No one distributor has any given set of eyeballs in a monopoly. As a matter of fact, at no time can any one of them claim they have all ebook readers under their spell. The closest they can get is this paraphrase from old Abe Lincoln:
You can reach some of the readers most of the time,
You can reach most of the readers some of the time,
But no distributor (or author) can reach most of the people most of the time.
Added to this:
Poor marketers only try to reach some of the readers some of the time. (That's why they're still poor...)
How to reach as many eyeballs as possible
One trick in this is that no given set of people agree on how they like their content served up to them.
We are starting out with ebooks - most people would still rather read printed books. There's also audiobooks. With digital downloads, these are becoming ever more popular, especially for commutes. On top of that, there's also video versions that can be generated from the same audio. As well, the text can be converted to PDF's and slideshow presentations. And there are packages with combinations of all of these, like you can post on Bittorrent, as well as service providers such as iAmplify. Meanwhile, there is at least one ebook publisher who allows you to package A/V files with your ebook - Leanpub.
This gives a new twist to the old phrase: Write Once, Publish Many Ways...
publish as many ways,
in as many formats,
to as many eyeballs
eBooks - The modern ebook author needs to realize that to reach the maximal amount of people viewing your work, you're going to have to be on all possible distribution lines - not just stick with Amazon. There's 6 other distributors who want to host your content - and they all reach different readers.
You want to translate (port) your text into multiple formats. Smashword ports your content to multiple formats - all written. epub, mobi, PDF, plus another half-dozen versions for different readers. Leanpub only covers PDF, ebpub, mobi.
Audio - Then you have audiobooks. Of course, there's ACX which gets you into Audible, Amazon, iTunes. Better have your best show on there - they have serious quality standards. But you also have to realize that simple podcasts by the author are also in demand. Particularly as a bonus. iAmplify will host your media files, and add your PDF (or probably epub or other) as an afterthought.
Video - iAmplify will also host your videos. Of course, you can put previews on the major and minor video sites as well. (Use your audio as a soundtrack, then add in a powerpoint built on the outline of your text.)
PDF's - For promotion, PDF previews can be posted on all the doc-sharing sites, which will bring your site traffic. Many powerpoint-viewing sites take PDF's as well.
Graphics - And then, there are always creating infographics to promote your content, based on the content itself. Pinterest, Flickr, etc. love these.
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Your Bottom Line - The trick is to have your money-making backend sites and your promotional sites for generating traffic, search engine ranking, etc. There's going to be a balance.
This is again the whole point of writing. An avid fan base will boost sales and get the ebook distributor algorithms working in your favor.
By contrast, low-selling ebooks are mostly condemned to that pile by those algorithms, it seems especially with Amazon. All distributors have their own versions. Only Amazon really seems to value reviews, for instance. (Reviews have been proved to have little to do with actual purchase, higher is who originally told them about the book.) For my own use, out of 17 books posted to Amazon, the only ones which consistently sold were either .99 or free. But since Locke gamed their system, Amazon has been down on the 99 cent books. So -finally- one 99 cent book started taking off. A year later.
Meanwhile, I have several dozen books on other distributors (who aren't as restrictive on submissions) and know these same books routinely sell in good percentages. But no two distributors have the same audience. Some books I've put up on iTunes don't sell well on Kobo. I've got some books on Google Play which are accounting for about 50% of sales, while only 30% on iTunes, but less than a quarter of my sales occurring on Kobo. (And for a short while, one of my 99-cent public domain classics was favorited by Kobo, which gave me a few hundred more in royalties - while it lasted.)
Backbench - The point in profitable publishing is to have a long back-bench. The most successful authors have dozens of books up there.
I found that it's far more profitable to be a publisher than a writer. So I look for books which are under-marketed (which are easy to find in the public domain and in PLR) - then put them up with appealing covers and good descriptions, then publish them as widely as possible. Some sell well, others don't.
The trick is that for a few hours' work per book, I have quite a few which sell routinely for me. And these will be selling for me from here on out. I can then take these and market them further with additional versions, and Search Engine Marketing by providing a back-up website, previews on doc-sharing sites and Bittorrent, etc. I can also use that base popularity to generate extra sales by creating audiobooks and videos based on that proven seller.
Also, I can go back and review the non-sellers to see if something needs to be tweaked in their cover, description, or preview.
So that's my own algorithm, after a fashion.
It starts with having a ton of books up there, on as many distributors as possible, in as many formats as possible. This is now being expanded by being able to collect emails into lists, and offering that audience the alternative books they may have been missing. While this is still in its infancy, I can see this is the best route to leveraging all the above into some serious income.
Again, publishing pays more than writing. But the best writing will make publishing simpler and more profitable.
Eyeballs drive profits.