Scrivener is the most advanced (and most complex) word processor, designed for writers. It comes with all kinds of advanced features you won’t find in standard word processors.
Microsoft Word is the most commonly used word processor and it works great.
Google Docs is a great free alternative for writers on a budget who don’t use MS Word. It works on any device, PC or Mac, and it automatically backs up your file inside Google Drive.
Evernote is the perfect tool for taking notes, organizing research, and much more (and it’s totally free!).
See Steve Scott’s book Master Evernote for tutorials, guides and tips on how to use Evernote like a pro.
Dragon Naturally Speaking is an awesome voice recognition software program. You can literally speak your book and the software will transcribe it for you in real time. Yes, you will need to do some editing, but editing is just a part of writing any book, so it’s no different whether you speak your book or write it out on a word processor or by hand.
A ghostwriter can help you take your ideas, life story, interview transcripts, and other information and turn it into a professional book. Skill, experience and quality vary greatly depending on budget.
For a very small budget, you can hire someone to create a workable first draft of your book. For a much higher budget, you can have the complete book completed, edited, polished and ready for publishing.
You can find ghostwriters on online freelance sites such as Guru.com, Craigslist.com, Freelancer.com, and more.
Gunnar Glasses block high-energy blue light, UV and glare to protect your eyes from tiring when looking at computer screens, TV’s and other electronic devices and lights. Perfect for the writer who writes early in the morning or late at night when it’s still dark out, or anyone who spends a lot of time looking at computer screens.
F.lux is another awesome option. It’s a free app for your computer that changes the light spectrum depending on the time of day so your circadian rhythm won’t be as disrupted by using the computer at night.
Noise-canceling headphones are perfect for the introvert or any writer who’s easily distracted by noise to give you ultra-concentration and eliminate any and all distractions from noise.
iStockPhoto.com is one of the most popular stock photo websites, although it’s not the cheapest.
If you’re a designer or need a lot of stock photos, bigstockphoto.com’s monthly membership may be a good fit.
Flickr.com is a great free option for stock photos. Just make sure you find an image with a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use. When in doubt, contact an attorney for legal advice and contact the owner of the image to ask for permission.
Book Formatting Tools
Ebook Formatting Templates (there are several for free at www.EbookPublishingSchool.com)
Self Publishing Tools
Online Book Distributors and Print on Demand (POD) Publishing
Kindle Direct Publishing platform for eBook publishing on Amazon.
Createspace Print on Demand (POD) Publishing for paperback books.
Lightningsource Print on Demand (POD) Publishing for paperback books.
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) for producing and distributing audiobooks, hiring narrators, and more.
Ultra low cost cover designs ($5 and up): Fiverr.com
Super high quality, low cost customizeable cover design templates starting at $87: DIYbookcovers.com
Sample cover templates from DIYbookcovers.com
Mid-tier cover designers usually charge $100 to $300 or more.
You can find freelance cover designers on Guru.com, Craiglist, Onlinejobs.ph, and freelancer.com.
High-end cover designers usually charge $500 or more, up to $3,000 for the ultra high-end market.
If you ever pay more than $3,000 for a cover design, you can be almost certainly assured that you have been ripped off.
The Kindle Publishing Bible covers book title creation and its importance in marketing and generating book sales in depth.
Kindle Categories and Programs
Most authors don’t know that Kindle Keyword Categories even exist, so it can be a great way to make your books stand out on some popular yet not very competitive bestseller lists.
Bestseller Ranking Pro provides advanced Kindle Category Research and training, along with the complete list of all 16,000+ Amazon bestseller lists for Kindle eBooks and print books.
You can browse the most competitive Amazon Kindle categories on the blog here.
You can browse the least competitive Amazon Kindle categories on the blog here.
Kindle Singles are usually between 5,000 and 30,000 words, and can cover any topic, market or genre. If your book makes it into the Kindle Single program, chances for success are much higher.
Love fan fiction? Kindle Worlds is a new program from Amazon that allows authors to publish their fan fiction and actually get paid for it through their special licensing program. If you have already written some fan fiction or are planning on doing so, definitely check it out.
Productivity and Work Tools for Authors
Fiverr.com is just $5 to hire someone to do just about any task including transcriptions, cover design, ebook formatting, paperback formatting, writing a press release, distributing press releases, and much more.
Zapier is an awesome tool that can help you automate tasks, social media posts, and much more by integrating a variety of apps, websites and online tools.
RescueTime tracks how much time you spend on your computer, what websites you use the most, and much more. Great for getting rid of bad habits and improving your efficiency and effectiveness while on the computer.
LastPass keeps all your passwords in one place, safe and secure, and helps you create super-secure passwords with the click of a button. Saves you tons of time, money and can reduce your risk of being hacked dramatically.
Dropbox keeps all your documents safe, secure and backed up on the cloud. Highly recommend you use it in combination with a physical backup (hard drive or USB flash drive) for all your manuscripts and important files.
Google Drive is a cheaper alternative to Dropbox if you need more than 25 GB of storage space.
Photoshop is the most commonly used tool for photos. Many cover designers use Photoshop and Illustrator. Although I always recommend you hire a professional cover designer, knowing some design skills and having useful tools can be helpful if you’re willing to invest the time in learning how to use them for your work.
InDesign is a commonly used tool in the traditional publishing industry for formatting books for print.
Calibre is a great free tool for converting eBooks to any format from .mobi to .epub and more.
Sigil is a powerful free tool for editing eBooks in .epub format. Got formatting errors you just can’t seem to fix? Sigil can do it all.
UStream is like Google Hangouts, providing a live streaming video for you to connect with your audience.
Followup.cc is an awesome email management tool that allows you to send reminders to yourself if someone doesn’t respond to an email, set an email to be sent to yourself in the future as a reminder about an event or task, and much more.
Personally, I use Boomerang for Gmail, but whether you use Followup.cc or Boomerang, you should definitely use one of these simple and powerful tools for email and task management.
Rapportive is awesome. It syncs with Gmail and provides you with the other party’s full name and list of social media accounts. You can use it to see who’s emailing you, what they’re doing on social media, and get more insight into who you’re working with.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management / productivity system involving small periods of work mixed with short breaks. Although I don’t formally use it, I do take frequent breaks, get up and walk around throughout my workday and have found it to be incredibly helpful in increasing my productivity. Steve Scott writes in much more detail on the Pomodoro technique here.
Time Management Info
Apps for Authors
Quickvoice makes it super easy and convenient to record voice notes, interviews, or anything else with your iPhone.
Voxer is a free app that lets you send voice notes and text messages to anyone anywhere via wifi or 3g (so you can use it in foreign countries without data charges if you have wifi access).
Whatsapp is a texting app that you can use with wifi or 3g, so it’s great when traveling in foreign countries and is very popular now.
Virtual Assistants can help you do repetitive, mundane and low-value tasks so you can focus on your most important work. Consider posting on Guru.com, Craiglist, Onlinejobs.ph, and freelancer.com to find a virtual assistant or contractor in general.
Translation services. See above list of sites to find individual contractors for translation. Be careful you don’t overpay or pay for translation for a project that has little or no potential to earn you a profit!
How to self-edit like a pro. Watch the interview with Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth and several other books. This guy has sold over 19 Million books and is a pro when it comes to self editing.
The folks at ebookeditingpro.com provide really affordable rates (about $80 per 10,000 words), and all the editors there have experience working with major New York publishers. Because of their discounted rates, they tend to book up rather quickly.
Contracts. Always consult a highly qualified and experienced attorney when negotiating contracts or if you need legal advice.
LegalZoom provides super cheap legal documents and services. You’ll usually save a ton of money here rather than hiring an attorney on retainer.
LegalShield sometimes gets a bad rap because it’s a network marketing / MLM company, but I’ve heard from several successful entrepreneurs that it helped save them a bunch of money. I figure even if I never once use it, I’ll sleep a lot better for just less than a lunch a month knowing that if someone sues me for some frivolous crap, I have pre-trial and trial coverage.
Copyright.gov is the website I always refer people to when they ask any questions about copyrights. Yes, it’s a government website. Yes, it’s incredibly boring. And yes, you should read and learn as much as you can about copyrights if you’re going to be an author.
USPTO.gov is the government site of the US Patent and Trademark Office. Again, super boring, but you should read their articles if you’re interested in patents or trademarks. Of course, I can’t give legal advice, but the site says,
“The title, or a portion of a title, of a single creative work must be refused registration under Sections 1, 2 and 45 of the Trademark Act unless the title has been used on a series of creative works.” – see here for more on trademarks
Amazon Legal Department
Need to talk to Amazon about a legal issue? Contact the legal department:
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
The general consensus among authors and indie publishers is to NOT use DRM for your books. Basically, here’s why:
1) Incredibly easy to hack for anyone interested in piracy.
2) Just makes sharing a book a pain in the butt / impossible for grandma and your readers.
3) Piracy can actually increase your book sales and exposure.
Readers who pay for your books are unlikely to go searching for a free copy on a Torrent site. Also, torrent browsers are more likely to find your books and become a fan of your work, and you would have never had access to them otherwise.
Hire an accountant!
Quickbooks is the most popular small business accounting software.
Xero.com is quickly becoming popular and is a strong candidate to overtake Quickbooks, or at least become the #2 player in the market for small business accounting software.
Doing a book signing? Always bring:
- Your books
- A Sharpie
- A Notebook
- A Signup Sheet for Your Email Newsletter
- A Lav Mic in case the venue does not have a microphone
- Your Laptop computer
- Cash for change if needed
- Your Square, Stripe or Paypal credit card processor in case any readers want to buy books with their credit card
How to build your own custom website (free training videos): www.blogbusinessschool.com
Wishlist is a great plugin for WordPress that allows you to create your own membership sites, online courses and much more.
Optimize Press 2.0
Kajabi is a great platform and system for sharing your video, audio and online content in the form of a membership site or online course. It’s used by bestselling authors and online marketing legends like Brendon Burchard and JJ Smith.
Alexa plugin tells you how much traffic websites get, so you can see if that book promotion site or competitor is actually worth spending time researching or if they’re not even a small player in the market.
Heat Maps – AppSumo has a free heat map tool you can use. It’s awesome! You have to pay if you have lots of traffic and want more data, but it’s definitely the best free heat map tool I’ve seen so far.
Visual Website Optimizer is a great heat map if you’re looking for the best-of-the-best. It comes with A/B testing and many more advanced options.
Not recommended unless you’re not looking to earn much money online. You’ll have much more control and be able to monetize your content much easier with a custom website.
Instead of using a free blogging platform, I highly recommend creating and owning your own custom WordPress site. See the free training videos at Blog Business School to learn how.
BlueHost is a great starter hosting company if you’re on a budget. Shared hosting starts at around $5 a month.
TrafficPlanetHosting is the fastest hosting company I’ve ever seen for WordPress sites (they only host WordPress sites).
GoDaddy.com is the domain provider I use. If you need to buy a domain name (like www.yourname.com), you have to do it through a provider like GoDaddy.
Infusionsoft is a high-end autoresponder, shopping card, affiliate program, and more.
Ultracart is generally regarded as one of the best shopping carts.
Samcart is still in Beta, but offers one-click upsells.
Paypal is free to start using.
Square is another mass market merchant processor option.
Stripe is another mass market merchant processor option (now owned by Paypal but run separately).
Listen to the I Love Marketing podcast episode on payment processors with Ray Ellefson here.
Marketing Resources for Authors
How to Get Book Reviews
See the video on How to Get High Quality Book Reviews on Amazon
Goodreads for Authors is a great primer on how to use Goodreads to garner more reviews on the Goodreads site as well as Amazon and other online book distributors.
Kirkus Review is a rather pricey, independent book review service starting at $425. You have to apply up to 9 weeks in advance of publication.
Lisa Sasevich has some awesome training programs on public speaking, especially for experts who want to sell products from stage and/or earn much higher keynote speaking fees.
You should always fill out your author biography, including photos, links and the complete list of your published works on Amazon in Author Central. Each separate Amazon store by country has a separate Author Central account page you need to set up:
If you need to translate any of the above sites, try using Google Translate to navigate them and set up your accounts.
Online Pay-Per Click (PPC) Ads
Facebook Ads is probably the best option for first-time PPC advertisers and authors. You can lose a lot of money very quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing, so be careful! I highly recommend checking out some of the educational info at Social Strategizer if you’re interested in using FB Ads.
Google AdWords is another great option for PPC ads, but it can be even more expensive and complicated than FB Ads, so I would not recommend it for first-time advertisers. If you are planning on using AdWords, definitely buy and devour these two books on AdWords: Advanced Google Adwords by Brad Geddes and Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords by Perry Marshall. I wouldn’t even consider creating a Google AdWords campaign before reading both books, as the chances of you losing money if you aren’t highly educated on the topic approach 100%.
Email Marketing Tools
MailChimp is the most commonly used free autoresponder. Personally, I can’t stand it, but many beginning and successful marketers use it.
Launchrock is a well-designed free autoresponder, perfect for starting out if you have no budget.
Aweber is what I use and recommend.
GetResponse is a newer entrant to the field, and they have great designs. Although they’re recommended by many successful online marketers, I’ve heard they’re struggling with low deliverability rates recently which is why I prefer Aweber (Aweber has very strict policies on importing lists, thus dramatically reducing spam complaints and forcing spammers to use other services like Mailchimp and GetResponder, for example).
InfusionSoft is very pricey, but it also includes shopping carts, affiliate program management, and much much more.
LeadPages is the most powerful and effective web page creation tool for squeeze pages, sales pages, webinar pages, thank you page, and much more. It comes with A/B split testing, analytics and a whole suit of tools to improve your online marketing, lead generation and conversions.
***If you’re planning on doing any form of online advertising and have a budget of $250 or more per month, you should definitely get LeadPages as it will allow you to get MUCH higher conversion rates and get a much higher return on your advertising investments. I recommend getting the $67 per month option so you can start doing A/B split tests, and you can pay annually to save quite a bit on your investment.
GoToWebinar is the best live webinar service. It certainly has issues, but I have yet to find any alternative that is nearly as good.
StealthSeminar is a great service for creating ongoing webinars on replay to share your message with your audience in a high-value webinar.
Book Promotion Sites
Buck Books is by far the most effective free book promotion site, often generating 100 to 1,000 sales in a day or more without costing a dime.
BookBub isn’t cheap, and they reject 80%+ of all submitted books, but if you’re lucky enough to get your book promoted on BookBub, you’ll probably see hundreds and even thousands of eBook sales in a single day.
See the entire list of book promotion sites for free eBooks here.
See the entire list of book promotion sites for paid books here.
Book Marketing Services
Mike Balmaceda has a great author book marketing service that gets great results, usually 100 sales in a day to a week (about 1,000 to 3,000 sales rank in the paid Kindle store). He uses his own email lists in various markets as well as Facebook Ads to drive the traffic, so they’re 100% legitimate sales, not spam accounts, robots unlike many of those other very lame and potentially dangerous Kindle marketing services that promise results and then get your account banned for violating Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS).
Amazon Associates Affiliate Program
Amazon Associates is Amazon’s affiliate program, and you can use it when you promote your own books or any product on Amazon.
You can earn an extra 4% to 8% commissions in addition to your normal book royalties when you promote your books through Amazon’s affiliate program.
PR and Press Releases
www.prlog.org is a free press release provider. You get what you pay for, so there’s very minimal exposure here.
www.pressreleasesender.com is a premium press release provider that basically buys press releases in bulk and sells them at a discount. It’s the highest quality press release distribution service you can get at an affordable price (starting at $399). The owner, Dan Janal, is incredibly experienced and provides more advanced options, amazing guidance, and he can even write your press releases for you.
Help a Report Out (HARO) is an awesome free service that connects you with journalists looking for experts to contribute to news stories. It’s a great free way to get extra exposure and PR.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Outsmarting Google by Evan Bailyn is the best book on SEO I’ve ever read, and the only one you really need.
Google Keyword Planner is a good basic SEO tool that’s free.
When your book becomes a bestseller on Amazon or elsewhere, take screenshots and save them!
On a Mac, just click Command + Shift + 4 and scroll the mouse to take a screenshot.
On a PC, just click the window you want to capture and press Alt + Print Screen.
It should look something like this:
Buffer a cool, simple app for scheduling social media updates automatically.
Hootsuite is a great tool for scheduling Tweets and managing multiple Twitter accounts. Twitter is huge, and it’s one of the most active social networks in the world. Writers and readers can interact, and it’s a great way to connect with your tribe and allow your followers to spread your message for you.
LinkedIN is a social media site focused on business, so it would probably be most effective for authors who write for the business and professional markets. The average LinkedIN user has an income of over $100,000, so they can definitely afford to buy books.
Facebook is and will probably continue to be the biggest site in the world. Currently more than 70% of all online ads are served on Facebook. It’s incredible, and it will continue to be a fantastic place for authors to build your platform and connect with readers.
Quora is an awesome newer social network based on questions and answers, and is full of tons of awesome, helpful information. Many expert authors have found it a great place to build their platform and audience.
Pinterest is the perfect social media sight if your target audience is women and/or if your products or services are very visual. Fashion, food, and romance are all markets that will probably do well on Pinterest giving the audience and member demographics.
Instagram can be a powerful social media platform, and some authors are using it very successfully.
Goodreads is the ultimate social media site for authors since it’s all based on readers who love books. You can find some incredible groups, attract followers and fans, garner reviews for your books and much more.
Note: If you have a print book, consider doing a Goodreads Giveaway to get more exposure and reach new readers. Reddit is a huge online social network. Check out reddit.com/r/writing to join the Reddit writing community.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/KindlePublishers has 4,000+ authors who come together to share ideas, resources and support.
See the entire list of Facebook Groups for authors here.
Elaine Wilkes has a course on selling your books to Libraries. This is a huge, untapped market for the vast majority of self published authors. You don’t need to have a traditional book deal to distribute your books through libraries!
Box Sets and Bundling Books
See the blog post on our 2014 Self Help Box Set Launch where I shares some of the lessons, insights, struggles, and successes with launching a multi-author box set for nonfiction authors.
Offline Writers Groups
Meetup.com is a great way to get connected with your local community of writers, authors, indie publishers and more. It can also be a great marketing opportunity if you offer to speak at a local Meetup event as an expert in your field. I’ve sold hundreds of books at Meetup events while traveling (there are no Meetup groups for authors in the small town where I live).
Online Writing Contests and Events
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a great event every November where novel writers and even first-time writers from all over the world compete to write as much as they can in one month.
National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) is the counterpart for nonfiction writers. Unlike the fiction version, this contest is played for fun only and does not involve an official contest or rewards.
Wikipedia has a relatively comprehensive list of major writer’s conferences here.
Here are some Writer’s Conferences that I’ve attended and spoken at:
Seminars and Live Events
Author 101 is a major annual seminar and workshop for authors run by publisher and bestselling author Rick Frishman, often featuring speakers who are New York Times bestselling authors like John Assaraf, Brendon Burchard, and others.
Video Courses and Online Training Programs
Ebook Publishing School (free) shows you how to format, publish and market eBooks on Amazon Kindle for.
Blog Business School (free) shows you how to create your own custom website and blog.
How to Become a Bestselling Author on Amazon Kindle ($297) by Tom Corson-Knowles covers how to write, format, self publish, promote and market eBooks on Amazon Kindle. One of the biggest courses on self publishing available today, it has over 12,000 students.
KMoneyMastery by Stefan Pylarinos is a high-level training program for authors, especially nonfiction authors, who want to learn how to self publish on Kindle and create an eBook publishing empire.
Associations and Organizations for Authors
Independent Book Publishers Association has almost 3,000 members and provides some great discounts and special offers for members, as well as tons of educational info, articles, resources and meetings.
Joanna Penn‘s site is a great resource for writing and self publishing information.
Steve Scott is one of the most successful self published nonfiction authors right now, often ranking in the Top #10 Business & Investing and Self Help authors on Amazon. His site has tons of great info on Kindle publishing.
YouTube is the only video host you need! Totally free to use and it’s the world’s second largest search engine. You can even get paid by YouTube in their Partner Program from advertisements.
Note: YouTube pays via their AdSense program, which is also a good potential tool to earn ad revenue on your website(s) and blog.
Google Hangouts is my preferred tool for livestreaming, recording interviews, and much more. It syncs with YouTube and will automatically record, backup, store, and publish your Hangouts – all you have to do is click record!
See the video tutorial on how to use Google Hangouts.
Udemy is a great site for authors to share your content, ideas and information in video courses and lectures and get paid for it. I know several non-fiction authors who earn more from their sales on Udemy than from their book royalties.
Screen Capture Software
Camtasia for PC or Mac is a great screen capture recording software.
Screenflow for Mac is the best screen capture software for Mac users. I use it for most of my video recording, and highly recommend it.
Interviews with Bestselling Authors
The Hugh Howey interview
Hugh is the legendary bestselling author of Wool and a self publishing success story, having sold over 2 million books now.
Audacity is a 100% free audio recording and editing software. You can use it for podcasting and even recording and editing audiobooks!
The Blue Yeti runs about $100 and is a great all-around mic for home recording use.
The Blue Snowball runs bout $50 and is great for traveling due to its compact size and light weight while still producing great quality audio.
Libsyn is by far the best audio host for podcasters. Almost all the big podcasters use Libsyn.
Financial Tools for Authors
Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding site. If you don’t meet your goal, you don’t get to keep the cash.
IndieGogo is a crowdfunding site. If you don’t meet your goal, you can still keep the cash.
Mint.com makes it simple to track all your spending, create budgets, manage your budgets, see detailed charts and graphs of your spending and much more. Totally free.
CreditKarma.com provides 100% free credit reporting unlike the other sites that tell you they will show your credit score for free, and then only try to upsell you on a $15/m program.
bit.ly is a free tracking link service. It’s great if you want to find out what links readers are clicking in your books, what links are leading to traffic to your website(s) or Amazon book pages, and more.
goo.gl is a free tracking link service provided by Google.
Clickbank is the largest marketplace for online digital products and services. It’s an affiliate marketers dream. If you’re looking for products to promote to your audience in your market or niche, or you want to allow others to promote your products or services, Clickbank can help. (For example, our Bestseller Ranking Pro service and training course is offered through Clickbank).
JVzoo.com is similar to Clickbank. Some marketers like JVzoo more because they charge slightly lower fees to product owners/merchants.
Miscellaneous Marketing Resources
Wattpad is a fun little site for writing and distributing your novels or books for free to build up an audience. Some authors have started with Wattpad and build huge platforms very quickly.
Writer’s Digest has been around for 90 years, and still has managed to keep up to date and be known as one of the leading industry sources for info on writing and publishing.
Google Hangouts is a great free resource for connecting with your audience and recording interviews, hangout chats, coaching calls and much more. I always use Google Hangouts for interviews rather than Skype because I find the video and audio quality is better, and it automatically records the video and backs it up in my YouTube account with the push of a button. See the video on how to use Google Hangouts here.
Namechk.com is a free service that allows you to see what social media sites your name or brand is and is not featured on. They have a paid service, but I’ve never felt the need to use it. Wikipedia. Authors who have won awards, major deals, and have otherwise earned notoriety may be eligible for a Wikipedia article on you and possibly your books.
The book Guest Blogging Goldmine walks you through the process for finding great guest blogging opportunities and building long-lasting relationships with the most successful and influential bloggers and thought leaders in your market or niche.
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Jim Rohn was the king of personal development, and his legacy still echoes in the lives of millions of his students.
Tony Robbins is not only a New York Times bestselling author, he’s one of the greatest teachers today on personal development, self confidence and success.
Author Success Stories
Kindle Success Stories is a book that shares some great success stories from self published authors and lessons learned along the process of writing, publishing and marketing.
Here are some lists of bestselling authors who are self published or started with self publishing:
Avoiding Ripoffs and Author Scams
Always Follow the Rule of 3
Always get 3 quotes for any project or contract work at a minimum, and always call a minimum of 3 referrals before hiring someone! You should probably do 3 online search queries as well, check out the BBB or any other online ratings for companies or contractors you might do business with.
Writer Beware provides information and reviews of many best practices and norms for literary agents, publishing companies, editing services, and more. Although I certainly don’t agree with everything on their site, much of their information is valuable especially for new and first-time authors who aren’t sure what’s normal and what’s a scam in the publishing world.
If you have any questions about how to get started as an author, publishing, marketing or anything else, post your comment below and I’ll be happy to help!