Today we're going to talk about what you need for success in indie publishing. Following are a few of the guidelines from Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords. He's got a lot more pieces of wisdom in his free e-book, The Secrets to e-Publishing Success, which you can find at Smashwords here:

Starting with the basics:
1. Write a great book
2. Have a "good" name
3. Have a good cover
4. Write another great book
5. Maximize distribution

1. Write a great book should be obvious. You can't publish something if you don't have it to publish. We'll go into when you're ready to publish it in another lecture.

2. Have a "good" name It should be easy to remember, and easy to spell. Coker recommends avoiding initials, simply because search engines might take things too literally and your name might not be found. True, there are lots of well-known authors who use initials, but you want your name to be the only one that shows up. If you know an author's name is CJ, but don't remember the last name, you'll get a lot of hits. Also, if you type CJ (no spaces) or C J (spaces) or C.J. (periods, but no spaces) or C. J. (periods with spaces) you might get different results.

He also recommends avoiding 'cutesy' names, especially if you want to be taken seriously. I use my real name—I figure people should only have one name to remember, and I'm not worried about stalkers. Coker uses an extreme example of a 'Don't Do This' name in his book: N8 4cyth instead of Nate Forsyth. You want people to find you!

3. Have a good cover There's a LOT of meat in this one—enough for several posts. Are you going to do it yourself or hire out? If you hire out, make sure your artist knows what you want, and you know how he/she works. Mine (I think) is excellent, and he will work with me until we're both satisfied, for a flat fee. Or, at least I've never pushed him so far that he's said, "This is going to cost you more."

E-book covers are different from print book covers. First thing to remember: Someone browsing any of the e-stores is going to see thumbnails, not a book cover the size of a print book in a bookstore. It will get larger when you click on it, but you have to entice that click. Avoid details, especially things like those blurbs traditional publishers want on the covers. They'll look like tiny squiggly lines and will clutter up your cover. Save that for the book description and the inside of your book (and we'll talk about where to put that in another post).

What your book cover has to say, first and foremost, is This is a REAL book, not something I cranked out while I was waiting at the dentist's office. Watch color, contrast, fonts, and placement of text. Barnes & Noble will 'alter' your cover, turning up the right hand bottom corner to make it look like a page turning. If your name or book title is down there, it's lost. I'm "lucky" in that my last name ends with two Ls, so when one got lost when B&N changed its cover format, it still looks like my name.

Also, a lot of e-readers are black-and-white. What's your cover going to look like without all the colors.

This is the first impression your book will make on potential readers. The ones who know you will probably look for you by name, but the idea is to hit as many readers as possible.

4. Write another great book The more you have out there, the more people you can reach, and the more books you'll sell. If you wow a reader with book 1, they're going to look for more. You want to have it there. Don't get so bogged down in marketing and social media time that you forget to write another book.

5. Maximize distribution I agree with Coker here, and it's worked for me. Even if you sell ten thousand books on Amazon, you're missing out on hundreds of thousands of other readers (and some of them are on Amazon—you'll never sell to all of Amazon's customers). Once you understand the formatting process (or have someone to do it for you), it's very little effort to publish to all the sites. If that seems too complicated, you can distribute through a center like Smashwords which will get your books almost everywhere except Amazon.

My theory is that I'm not big enough to disappoint even one reader. I did have someone ask if one of my newer books was going to be at All Romance eBooks, because that's where she bought her books. I wasn't going to bother because, frankly, I sell so few books there, but I emailed her right back and said, "It'll be there tomorrow."

I'm not going to talk much about exclusivity here. Amazon wants your books in their Select program, but that means you're stuck with them for 90 days. I have a Nook. If I can't buy your book when you come out with all your release fanfare, it's unlikely I'll remember in 3 months later should you go "public." I've heard as many failure stories as success stories, and I'm sure anyone reading this probably has heard them, too. I think people are more likely to tout their successes, so the statistics are probably skewed. At any rate, you want your book to be found. If it's only in one place, you can be missing an audience. It might take longer to achieve traction at the other stores, but right now, my B&N sales are equal to or more than my Amazon sales, so I'd be stupid to go exclusive anywhere.

Feel free to share your experiences and/or ask questions.

I'll be back Wednesday with more.