There's no doubt that epublishing has become a cheaper, easier and simpler form of publishing compared to conventional print methods. No worries about distribution or holding stock, for example. But the two fundamental problems associated with ALL publishing are still there:
1. How do you let people know about the book?
2. How do you make them buy it?
Neither of these things are as easy as you'd think. Yes, letting people know is easier now there's social networking and yes, you may be lucky and things go viral, reaching out to millions at the click of a button. But they've still got to buy it. Try an experiment. How many books have been brought to your attention over the last week. And how many did you actually buy?
I must have had over a hundred books pass before me, some of them by people I personally know, and I haven't bought a single one. I buy a lot of books, but right now my To Be Read pile is already stacked high and I'm on a book diet. But whatever the reason, people do not buy every book they see or read about - common sense should tell us that. They buy...1%? I wouldn't be surprised if it was 0.01%. The method of publication makes not difference. Getting people to actually put their hands in their pockets and fork out their cash is hard work.
Books aren't like music downloads. How long does it take to listen to a single track? 3 minutes? 5? And how long to read a book? Several hours at least for most people, if not more. Even if people like the idea of your book they still might not buy it because they haven't the time to read it.
All the successful epublishing stories come from writers who either have previously established readerships or are publishing non-fiction - just the same as with print self publishing success stories. And yes, there are writers who have epublished and gone on to land deals with conventional publishing houses, but I wonder why - if their epublishing venture was so successful - they want a print deal? I'd make a guess it's because book marketing is hard work and unbelievably time consuming.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against self publishing - I've done it myself and with the right project would happily do it again. But just because the technology of publishing has moved on, it doesn't mean that the basic principles of selling books have changed:
How do you get people to know about your book, and how do you get them to buy it?