These days, most authors identify with the title “authorpreneur.” In order to sell books, we have learned to wear multiple hats. We aren’t just writers, we’re marketers, bloggers, graphic designers, and more. As such, we are always in search of professional writing resources that can help us make the best use of our time and show off our stories in the best possible light.
About a week ago, I answered my own Writing Question of the Day (posted on Facebook and Twitter), which in turn prompted a request that I discuss some of my experiences with professional writing resources.
In the earlier years of my career as a full-time writer, I tried just about any service or product that came down the line. On some of my books, I went the full-blown, try-everything route. But these days, I’ve gotten better at knowing what is most useful, time-effective, and cost-effective for me.
Below, I’ve listed all the product-production categories that pertain to me (although I’ve probably forgotten a few). I’ll talk about a few of the things I’ve tried and no longer use, for whatever reason, but for the most part I’m going to be sharing only the things I currently use as part of my routines for writing, publishing, and promoting my work and my website.
Although I agree it’s valuable to see what others are doing, it’s also important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successful authorpreneurship. One of the reasons I rarely write on marketing and publishing topics is that I don’t feel what works for me is necessarily the approach everyone should use. I also don’t consider myself a publishing/marketing expert or guru. Some of the authors whom I follow and am continually learning from on these subjects include:
Most of what’s below probably originated with them. :p
My Top 15 Professional Writing Resources
Below, you’ll find a list of the various aspects of product production I engage in on a regular basis. You’ll find a handful of affiliate links because it is my policy to share affiliate links only for products or services I use and love myself—and these are those products!
1. Writing Software and Tools
My writing process itself doesn’t rely on anything too gimmicky or fancy. For outlining, I use plain ol’ (recycled) notebooks, as well as Perry Elisabeth’s wonderful WriteMind Planner—which I reviewed here when I first started using it.
For drafting, I use the writer-specific word-processing software Scrivener. For years, I used and loved the free program yWriter. But since diving into Scrivener when writing my gaslamp fantasy Wayfarer, I’ve never looked back. It’s an incredible program that offers an amazing capacity for organizing notes, scenes, chapters, and more. I’ve talked about my process for outlining, writing, and editing with Scrivener in these posts:
I have hired various editors over the years, none of whom are currently taking new clients. These days, I don’t hire an editor, mostly because my beta readers are so awesome. One of those beta readers, Linda Yezak, is a professional editor in her own right. You can read about her services here.
You can also find a group-curated list of editors here (be sure to check the comments, as they contain many further suggestions).
My absolute top recommendation for proofreading—aka, typo-hunting—is to find software that will read your manuscript aloud while you read along. The old Kindle Keyboard will read aloud, as will Adobe Reader. I estimate I’m able to catch 95% of typos in my books using this method.
If you’re wanting to also hire a professional, I’ve often used the services of Wordplayer Steve Mathisen’s OddSock Proofreading & Copywriting.
4. Paperback Formatting
Through the years, I’ve personally formatted most of my books, using the typesetting software InDesign. At one point when I was experiencing severe repetitive stress injuries in my wrists, I used the paperback formatting service from Damonza (more on them below in the cover design section) for the publication of Structuring Your Novel.
These days, I’m back to formatting most of my books myself. I understand and enjoy typesetting, and I like the extra degree of control it gives me over the product’s appearance. Plus, it’s cheaper on the whole.
However, I recommend authors take on any kind of design work only if they truly understand the principles of the job.
If you can’t afford a professional service such as Damonza’s, you might check out Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates. These pre-formatted templates can be used in Microsoft Word and will produce files that can be successfully uploaded to KDP and other publishing nodes. I haven’t used the templates personally, but they look great and the idea is clever and helpful.
5. E-Book Formatting
I have hired a couple e-book formatting specialists over the years (including Damonza), and although I was always happy with the end product, what I didn’t like was that I wasn’t able to revisit the finished files and make changes as necessary. Since I frequently need to tweak something (such as updating links), I need the autonomy of being able to access and change the files at will.
For this, I use Scrivener to format and convert my books into e-book formats. Scrivener does the job admirably, but it’s definitely not the single best e-book design and conversion option. It’s also not the easiest conversion system to master, although once you get the presets configured, you shouldn’t have to figure it out again.
While Scrivener works just fine for publishing to Amazon and most other sales platforms, Smashwords is notoriously more finicky about the files it will accept. For Smashwords versions of my e-books, I usually purchase a Fiverr gig. Most recently, I’ve used Kimolisa.
6. Cover Design
Among the many jobs most authors should not do themselves, cover design tops the list. Although there certainly are authors who are also skilled and educated in visual design, most of us are not. I myself know just enough to be dangerous (which I proved with some early book-cover designs). These days, I rely on the pros at Damonza to design all my covers. If you’re interested, they offer a 5% discount when you order through my affiliate link using the code HWBA5.
7. Illustrations, Infographics, and Maps
Whenever I need an image—whether it’s an illustration (such as those in Storming) or a map or an infographic (such as those the Creating Character Arcs Workbook), I turn to Joanna Marie Art. I’ve dabbled with other creators, most via Fiverr, but I like the consistency of Joanna’s work.
8. Website Design
Like most blogs these days, mine runs off WordPress. Both Helping Writers Become Authors and my author site KMWeiland.com were professionally designed by Varick Design, for whom I can’t express enough appreciation as an amazing company. In addition to their great design work, they’ve also helped me through many a technical question.
9. Website and Domain Hosting
I’ve hosted the sites at a number of places over the years. Due to the current size and volume of traffic, they’re now parked with Siteground. I use Start Logic for domain registration. I don’t remember why I started using Start Logic; pricing probably. Siteground came recommended by Varick Design.
10. Image Sourcing, Editing, and Design
I source most of the images I use for the blog and social media from Pixabay, which offers free stock photos. On the occasions when I need something I can’t find on Pixabay, I purchase photos from iStockphoto.
11. Podcast Recording, Editing, and Hosting
I record my podcast using a Blue Yeti mic (which I’m probably going to be updating sometime soon) and the free recording software Audacity. I’ve just recently started hosting it on Libsyn, both to take the stress of traffic off my own site and to distribute the episodes on more platforms.
If you’re a longtime listener, you may have noticed an improvement in audio quality within the last few months. This is thanks to PodTone, with whom I consult on how to improve the sound while recording (hence, the coming mic upgrade). They then master the finished podcast for professional-level sound quality.
They’re just starting up business, but are currently taking on some testers at reduced rates. They don’t yet have a website up and running, but if you’re interested in their services, you can email them at info [at] podtone [dot] com. Be sure to mention my name or Helping Writers Become Authors in the email body.
12. Social Media Scheduling
For scheduling routine daily tweets and Facebook posts, I use HootSuite.
13. Email Campaign Manager
My mailing list is hosted by Campaign Monitor. I was fortunate to land with them from the very beginning, and I’ve never looked back. They offer lots of templates and other easy-to-use tools for managing mailing lists on a professional level.
I use OptinMonster for popup subscription boxes that offer e-books as a thank-you when people join the mailing list.
14. Onsite Selling Platform
In addition to publishing my books via KDP, Nookpress, Smashwords, and Kobo Writing Life, I also sell my books and software directly off my site. For this, I use the e-commerce platform Selz, which processes all payments.
Marketing is probably the most interesting topic amongst writers looking for resources. Over the years, I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that—more things than I can even remember. For the most part, I feel my platform has been built on the time and sweat of weekly content creation and social media interaction. I’ve yet to discover a magic pill.
I have yet to tackle (much less conquer) advertising (although I did watch and appreciate Dave Chesson’s free Amazon ads course). The only marketing service I’ve returned to repeatedly is Penny Sansevieri’s Author Marketing Experts, which I’ve used primarily for updating keywords on Amazon and promoting freebies or discounts.
So there you have it—all the professional writing resources I currently use. With any luck, you’ve find something here you didn’t know about that will prove helpful producing and marketing your work. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.
Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What professional writing resources do you use and recommend? Tell me in the comments!
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