Special guest Dave Chesson brings us this week’s post on Self-Publishing Tools. And be sure to tune in to ask Dave any questions you may have in the March 2020 D2D Live! Find all D2D Live events, past, present, and future, at http://D2DLive.com 

Remember the old Apple phrase, “There’s an app for that”? There’s online tools for almost everything these days. And for authors, it’s no different. There are hundreds of different tools out there that can help you along the way in your author business.

While having so many great software options and apps is great, it’s hard to decide on what to buy, especially when you’re starting out and hoping to have little to no overheads. In this article, I’ll go over five tools that will actually boost your business and make your life a lot easier.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • The tool I use to write my books

  • The editing tool I use every day

  • A great free photoshop alternative

Best Writing Tool: Scrivener

Honestly, Scrivener is one of my favorite tools for any author; it is absolutely amazing.

I first heard of Scrivener years ago when I was still working at Apple and completing my master’s degree (yep, I was busy). One of the perks of working for Apple is you get a lot of software to try out. Out of all the tools I received, Scrivener is the only one I still use.

If you’ve never used Scrivener before, it’s a software that lets you organize every section of your book–including character notes, research, and brainstorming sessions–into one program. You can use a range of folders, tabs, and labels to coordinate your work for easy access. And, if you’re a neat-freak like I am, you’ll get an extra kick out of how cleanly laid out everything is.

Also, there’s a full-blown word processor included. A great one at that!

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, here are a few of my favorite features:

  • You can break up big projects (like a book) into smaller parts. This is great for book writing, as you avoid having to scroll through a four-hundred-page Word document to fact-check what you said in chapter 11.

  • You can format your book after writing. Yep! After you’ve finished your book you can produce it in a range of formats for different sites. It’s not my favorite way to format (more on that later) but it works.

  • A bunch of handy templates. No matter what you’re writing, be it a screenplay or a novel, you’ll find a template to help get you started

  • Character and scene sketches. A character or scene sketch is a great way to record the distinctive features of people and places in your book and have them on hand while you’re writing.

The best part is that it’s even cheaper than a Microsoft Word license at only $45 a year!

Best Formatting App: Vellum

You may have noticed that when I was talking about Scrivener, I mentioned it wasn’t my favorite formatting tool. That’s because Vellum is one of the best formatting tools out there today.

Although, if you’re a PC user, you’re out of luck. Vellum is Mac only. But there is a work around. The service ‘MacinCloud’ allows PC users to connect with a cloud version of a Mac and use Vellum with it. Though, you’ll still have to buy a Vellum license to do that. For many authors, it’s still well-worth it. Vellum helps you create beautiful books and boxed sets quickly.

Here are my favorite ways Vellum can help you format your books:

  • Control editing and formatting with comfort. You can change your chapter layouts, the indentation of your paragraphs, block quotations and ornamental breaks with a click of a few buttons. As a side note, you can add your own images for ornamental breaks, which is super-cool.

  • Templates. If you want a book style that looks great but don’t have the artistic or design know-how to make it happen, Vellum has a bunch of beautiful templates to use

  • Easy box-set creation. I avoided box sets for such a long time. Creating them can be so time-consuming. But with Vellum, you can create box sets with the same uniform theme in no time. This is also a great tool for collaborating with other authors.

  • Formatting is custom-made for each platform. Vellum knows the file size requirements for every major distributor and changes image quality to match. So your ePub file will be a different size and quality compared to your PDF or MOBI

  • Easily make print-editions. The process of creating print editions is such a chore, and you can’t always turn to a professional to do it. Luckily Vellum creates ready-to-print editions of your book instantly.

Vellum may not be the cheapest book formatting option, but it’s hands-down the best.

Best Marketing Tool: Publisher Rocket

Okay, I’m going to give myself a tiny pat on the back here…

But it’s for good reason. Publisher Rocket is by far the best software for positioning your book on Amazon. Rather than just guessing what makes a book popular, you can pop the hood on the Amazon store and see for yourself.

Here are the four main features you’ll get with Rocket:

  • Keyword Research. You can search for the exact phrases that people are typing in when they look for books on Amazon. Using these words or phrases in your book marketing will get your book in front of more readers.

  • Category Search. With Rocket, you can view thousands of Amazon categories (that are continually being updated). This will help you find less competitive categories to list your book in.

  • Competition Analysis. You can check out what other writers in your categories are up to, even seeing their predicted monthly book sales!

  • AMS Keyword Search.  Advertising on Amazon is so important, but getting the right keywords for your ads can be a nightmare. Rocket provides you with unique recommendations for your advertising keywords, including book titles, author names, ASINs, and other unique phrases related to your keyword. Then, you can quickly export your list and use them in your ads.

Even if I didn’t create Publisher Rocket, my opinion would stay the same. I’m proud of this tool and what it has done. Rocket has helped thousands of authors over the years, and it can help you with your marketing.

Best Editing Software: ProWritingAid

Editing your own work can be an ordeal. If you’re like me, your mind reads mistakes the way they were supposed to be written. Luckily, ProWritingAid is a tool made especially for authors and is my favorite editing software. It’s part-spellcheck, part-style-editor and part-writing-guru.

Honestly, there’s so much I love about ProWritingAid. Here are a few notable features:

  • A bunch of handy integrations. With a Chrome add-on, a web editor, a Google Doc add-on and a Scrivener integration, no matter how you write, you can access ProWritingAid.

  • Style choices. A cool feature is the ability to choose your writing style. So, if you’re writing a fiction book, a blog post and an academic paper on the same day (that would be a busy day), then ProWritingAid will give different suggestions.

  • Over twenty reports. Yep, you heard right. With ProWritingAid, you’ll get over twenty reports to run on your work. So you can check everything from diction to sticky sentences and overused words.

I rely on ProWritingAid for editing my writing. That’s not to say you should never use an editor. Human editors are extremely valuable, and sending them a better version of your work will make everyone’s life easier. ProWritingAid is also a cost-effective option, offering lifetime plans that are an awesome deal for any author.

Best Free Cover Tool: Krita

Your book cover is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when it comes to self-publishing. You could write an incredible book; but with the wrong cover, nobody will read it.

However, hiring a professional can be quite expensive and isn’t always a viable option. A lot self-publishing steps are expensive these days.

That’s why Krita is a great option for cover creation–it’s almost like a free version of Photoshop. Which is pretty awesome!

To be honest, as far as book cover creation goes, Krita has almost everything that Photoshop has, except the logo in the corner and the hefty price tag. Krita also has an in-depth tutorial and how-to section so you can get the most out of the tool. I’d love Krita even if you did have to pay for it–It’s that good.

Remember, while Krita is a great Photoshop alternative, you’ll need some basic design knowledge behind you when creating book covers. Be sure to look at the other covers in your genre for ideas.

Note: Krita is technically open source–that means that it relies on donations. So, if you love the tool as much as I think you will, consider showing your appreciation.

Final Thoughts

No matter if you’re a seasoned author or a newbie, having the right tools will help you work more effectively and efficiently. These five recommendations will make any author’s life a lot easier. Best of luck!


Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash