Good advice, everyone. Thank you. I agree with pretty much everything you've all said. Well-written, error-free promotional text telling people what the game is and what the experience of playing it offers them, good visuals also are extremely helpful in drawing attention, especially visuals that move [GIFs, video]. I know Itch.IO lets you use GIFs, as a main game image, I am doing that for my new project and that's great because you can generally show a bit more actual gameplay, content in the game, more than you can with a still image.
As for things 'blowing up' that usually happens only when the game project is exceptional in some way [innovative or unusual game mechanics, a surprising/clever concept, an amazing storyline, really genuinely funny humor or just really stunning artistry/creativity in other ways] or has a head start due to intentional large scale promotion. Though there may be some exceptions, and some things might gain notoriety due to their sheer idiocy, usually I like to think that things take off due to actual merit and effort on the part of the developers. Sometimes, though, it's just a matter of having money and a big ad campaign, as much as I hate to acknowledge that.
I've always despised it when people ask if I could someday 'make the next Angry Birds'. Okay, reality check, Rovio had made dozens of games leading up to that, and they launched it initially with a sustained promotional campaign of close to a million dollars. I could make a game like that, I imagine, given enough time and effort, but A: that's not the sort of game I want to make and B: If I made something akin to it, most likely nobody would notice due to lack of promotion. Notice how the Myst devs [Cyan] launched a cheesy minigame 'Bug Chucker' which combined an 'Angry Birds' launching mechanic with variable circular gravity sources, but nobody in the broader public really noticed it, they only noticed AFTER the idea was grabbed, modified, and heavily marketed by Rovio as 'Angry Birds: Space'. There are actually many, many other examples of indie mobile titles getting ripped off [often by Rovio or Zynga or similar] and remade just different enough to avoid copyright violation, but basically stolen and relaunched with a giant marketing push so everyone knows the ripoff but nobody's aware of the original indie or small-studio title. If the indie dev is lucky, they get hired by the studio that wants to exploit their idea, instead of just having their ideas stolen from them. [like how Kim Swift got hired to expand the prototype 'narbuncular drop' into 'Portal'.]
So yeah, I just want to remind everyone that the business side of things often wins out over real imagination - and often indie devs will languish in obscurity as their ideas get co-opted. The worst part? I - like many indies - cannot realistically copyright/trademark all of my own work because the range of my work is too **** extensive, there are too many different projects. I can prove I made it all, sure, beyond any reasonable doubt, because I have all the raw unprocessed files, even miniatures and physical assets and designs written or drawn on paper, but the cost of litigation in court simply isn't worth it, it'd bankrupt me on my $150-200/month total development budget that I'm raising by doing sub-minimum-wage transcription and similar gigs. [I really appreciate the fact that places like Mturk exist so I can make $4-6/hr reliably. Because if they weren't there... I'd be making absolutely nothing at all.]. So yeah - I'm working about 8 hours a day on freelance gigs, made to order artworks for customers on eBay, stuff like that, and 8-9 hours on my own projects. I'd rather just let my work sometimes get stolen, or pirated, at least then somebody sees it. So that is kind of the reality for me. I imagine the same applies to many other shoestring-budget indies. As an indie, you just kind of have to accept your work that you put hundreds or thousands of hours into, will be exploited and someone else will make money off of your labor. It's not fair, but it's how things are. You have to believe in your idea, be so determined to see it become a realized thing, believe in what you're trying to create for its own sake and for the people who'll enjoy seeing it finished. But don't expect to make much money, maybe none at all, as an indie dev. It's almost 100% certain that a profitable project won't happen. You need a fallback to fund your indie dev work BTW because you'll only lose money developing indie games. And if it's about the money and not the love of the work it'll fail. Just make the best work you can, and accept beforehand that it won't take off and that it'll be stolen and a lot of people will hate it and trash you and troll you for no good reason. And do it anyway. Because if you don't realize your vision through your own sacrifice, it won't happen. And it absolutely MUST happen because the projects you're doing, they're an obsession, you cannot live with yourself not having them happen. That is key I think, it's the attitude any indie dev needs to have to keep going.
You've just got to be so focused, so determined to complete the work with no pay, only expenses and loss, no gain except for the fact that the work is done, that it borders on insanity. You need to be crazy to be an indie game dev. It's the only way you can sustain it IMO.