Author tools and resources
It requires a lot of time and resources to publish a book and indie authors especially need all the help they can get. So, I’ve compiled a list of author tools and resources I use and what a few authors I trust use. You may not need some of these or any of these, but you can never have too much information.
Most people have Microsoft Word and contrary to what many authors claim, it is very useful. Word has come a long way in the last few years and more and more authors use only Word because of that advancement. You can sign up for Office 365 and pay a low monthly fee to get the latest version of Word automatically. In fact, every editor I’ve worked with or interviewed, has asked for my manuscript in Word, so don’t let peer pressure make you go out and buy something you don’t need.
For the more adventurous writer, Literature and Latte have come up with Scrivener. This is Word on steroids, a lot of steroids. Scrivener will not only allow you to organize your notes, images, references, and more; it will export your manuscript in different file formats depending where you want to publish. It’s actually really inexpensive for what it’s capable of and their 30 day free trial is 30 days of actual use, not 30 calendar days. So, if you write one day a month, your free trial will last 30 months. The only issue I have with it is, it is not yet (as of March 2017) available for Android, although they say they are working on it.
The Story Grid
Have you ever wondered what editors actually look for? Author/editor Shawn Coyne’s book The Story Grid answers that question. Coyne was an editor for one of the “Big Five” publishers for years before breaking out on his own and working with Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art (which also comes highly recommended, but I have not read it yet). The Story Grid breaks down how editors work using The Silence of the Lambs as an example. Coyne discusses what’s expected in a story from beginning to end. This book is one of my best investments for writing.
The “Thesaurus Series”
Another book, a series of books actually, I recommend is The Emotion Thesaurus by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. You don’t need to read the entire book, just use it to learn to describe your characters emotions and traits as well as story settings with this series.
NOTE: If you’ve never worked with image manipulation software or have never worked with book covers before, I highly recommend that you hire a professional for your cover. Read this for more information.
If your a graphic artist, you probably already have Photoshop. If you don’t have it, you can buy it or subscribe to it. Another option is GIMP. The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP, is an image editing program for graphic design and may not belong on a list of author tools. However, many indie authors do design their own covers.
GIMP does nearly everything Photoshop does except for a couple of things (so I’m told), but I personally have not needed a feature that it didn’t have. You can add aftermarket brushes and fonts to help you create just about anything you need. And the best part… GIMP is FREE! Take that Photoshop! There is a donation page on their website if you feel so inclined, but it’s not required to download the program. I use GIMP for my own covers as well as art for the website and social media.
If you want to design your own covers, check out the best sellers in your genre and see what their covers look like (colors, images, fonts) and try to emulate those. If you need help using GIMP, you can find tutorials on YouTube and several other websites.
If you don’t know how to set up a program like GIMP or don’t want it on your computer or just like things to be simple, you can sign up for free at Canva. Canva is a free website that allows you to create images using your own photos or their stock images (a small fee may be applied to some images). While Canva may not be the best choice for cover design (it can be used for covers), it is more than capable of creating attractive images for your website or social media pages.
There are a number of stock image sites available, such as Shutterstock, and some are priced quite reasonably. However; for those on a budget, there is Unsplash. Nearly every image I’ve used for covers, blog posts, social media, and website images are from Unsplash. The images are licensed as Creative Commons Zero. This means you can do anything you want with them and you’re not even required to ask permission or give attribution to the author.
I try to give attribution for the images I use on my site and social media and always give it for images used on covers. You can also do a search for free images and you’ll find quite a few sites with free images, just make sure you know how the images are licensed, a lawsuit could put a damper on your creativity.
Most indie authors will publish a digital book, such as a Kindle book on Amazon and others will publish a print book as well. If you want your book to reach a wider audience than just Amazon, you can publish at Draft2Digital. Draft2Digital will format your file and publish your book to their partner sites:
This list is current as of March 2017, Draft2Digital is constantly working to increase and improve their distribution.
- iBooks (Apple)
- Barnes and Noble
- 24 Symbols
In addition to publishing to these site, they will also convert your file into a ready to print PDF so you can use it at a print on demand service like CreateSpace.
Draft2Digital’s commission is only 10% on top of the platform commission;
ie: A $10 book at iBooks – Apple takes their 30% ($3.00), Draft2Digital takes their 10% ($1.00), leaving you with 60% ($6.00)
All you do is sit back and wait for the checks to come in. They handle all taxes.
A similar option is Smashwords. I do not use Smashwords, so I can’t say how easy it is. I know a few authors that do use it and are quite happy with it. Look into each and decide which is best for you.
For the more adventurous
(Requires some ability to speak geek)
Your website is another area where you may want to hire a professional. There are options for nice website hosting that are easy and cheap. Wix is a popular choice as it’s free with paid premium options. If your only planning on displaying your books and not writing a blog or anything else, Wix may be the way to go. If your planning on writing a blog or offering other services or want to look more professional, then it may not be the best option as the name wix will appear in your URL.
For an affordable, professional website, I recommend Bluehost for your hosting site. They utilize WordPress themes that are mobile friendly so your fans can easily view your site on their phones or tablets. Bluehost offers a variety of hosting options including shared and cloud packages. They can even help you set up your site for a very reasonable fee. And with Bluehost, your URL will have only your site’s name;
- Not www.yourname.wix.com
Your most powerful marketing tool is an email list. As best-selling author and marketing guru Tim Grahl explains it, “it’s permission” to contact your followers, you own it and nobody can take it from you. MailChimp offers free services including an email list of up to 2000 addresses; after that, prices start at $10 per month. With MailChimp you can create effective email campaigns using their templates or use your own design.
Kathryn Goldman is an intellectual property attorney providing services you will hopefully never need. However, her blog at Charm City Legal is a starting point if you feel the need to look into your rights as a creative. You can also sign up for her newsletter and get information and articles directly to your inbox. I’ve had questions answered through email (as best as possible, she does have to protect herself too) and she explains things in English, not Lawyer-Latin.
I’ll add to this list as I discover new products and services or if I remember something that I forgot to add. If you use something not on the list and swear by it, let us know. In the meantime, share with your friends by clicking on the share icons below.
Featured image by Fabien Barral @ unsplash.com