Tools To Make Your Writing Life Easier
I often share writing tips and indie publishing shortcuts in the Writers’ Forum at the end of each month, but today I’m writing an entire article devoted to my favorite products and platforms that make my life easier. These are my secret weapons! (Well – not so secret anymore!) Some of these are free and some are well-worth the money, depending on where you are in your publishing journey/adventure.
I do have an affiliate relationship with a few of these products*, which means that at no cost to you purchases made using some of the links below give me a small fee. But please know that I never recommend products unless I feel they are useful and worthy of the investment, because we all work too dang hard at our writing to eat up our profits with bad products!
I love this free online editor, probably because of its visual cues as it shades sections of text to help you improve your writing. Sentences that are very difficult to read are shaded red (or rather a deep pink), somewhat hard sentences are yellow, adverbs are blue, passive voice is green . . . you get the idea. I also love that it gives you a grade-level readability score—particularly important if you’re writing for the children’s book market.
The Hemingway Editor is a free online tool, but you can purchase the program for Mac or PC for $19.99. If you are not always (or don’t want to be) connected to the internet when you write, then you’ll probably want to buy the program. But you can check it out for free first to see if you like it.
Are you beginning your agent or editor search? You might like to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace where you can see the book deals reported each day and have access to the entire database to search for certain agents, editors, literary agencies, publishing houses, topic key words and more. I particularly appreciate getting the daily deals email each morning and the Publishers Lunch email with publishing industry news. I subscribe on an annual basis because I use this site for my clients. For personal use as you market your work, you may want to invest in a monthly membership and cancel when you’re done with your research: $25/month or $275 for 12 months. Click HERE for registration page.
If you are hoping to format your own e-books, I highly recommend the Jutoh program. It allows you to create both epub and Kindle (mobi) formats. Once you buy the program, you can switch your license between PC and Mac—which is rare for software licensing. The software is $45 and will save you hundreds of dollars you might otherwise pay to e-book formatters. (Shout out to Christine Keleny at CK Books Publishing for recommending this software to me ages ago!)
If you are looking for an e-book distributor, look no further than Draft2Digital. I know many of you are exclusive to Kindle with your e-books, but if you’re looking to distribute widely you either have to upload your book to each platform separately or you use an e-book distributor. Draft2Digital is the one I chose for my e-book distribution because the set-up is FREE and it is so easy to upload all of your book information, book contents/cover, and make your book available for purchase. You can choose which stores your book will be sold in, you can easily set your price, and it’s simple to make changes. One of their newest features I love is the ability to set date ranges for price promotions. Their customer service has been responsive and helpful! With no upfront costs, Draft2Digital is paid 10% of the retail cost of your e-book each time a sale is made. (This is pretty typical of all distributors of this type.) Personally, this is a small price to pay to have all of those digital bookstores managed from one location. Otherwise, if I had changes to make, I would need to log into each separate store (Kobo, iTunes, Nook etc…) and that’s time consuming. (I know – I used to do that!)
Oh my, oh my! Is there ANYTHING that Canva can’t do? Well, it won’t write your book for you, but it will make your promotional tasks so, so much easier. You can tell how much I love this online graphic design tool by all of my gushing. I first started using the FREE Canva platform to create graphics for social media posts and ads for places like BookBub and Facebook. You can also create newsletter or blog headers, banners for your social media profile pages, bookmarks, book covers and so much more. (It’s not just for authors either . . . anyone in need of professional graphics will benefit from this website.)
My favorite feature is that each graphic design template is already properly sized for whatever you’re creating. That means there’s no guesswork on the size of a Facebook ad or a Twitter banner. (We know how frustrating THAT can be.) There’s a wonderful library of designs you can customize to meet your needs. So Free Canva is great . . .
Could Canva Pro really be that much better?? Yes, yes, yes! It’s been an amazing upgrade!
I wanted more font and color choices as well as a larger image library to choose from, but I found even more features that I can’t live without:
Resizing graphics - If I create a Facebook post image, but I want to use the same thing on Instagram or Twitter (or anywhere else), the resize image function lets me do that with just a few minor adjustments. Badda Bing!!
Custom colors – I can also match the custom colors of any image I upload, like a business logo or a client’s book cover.
Canva Pro does all of this and more for $9.95 when paid annually or $12.95 when paid monthly. I know I sound like an infomercial . . . but there are no pots, pans, or padded hangers included with this deal. (sorry)
Check it out for FREE here. (There’s a 30-day free trial.)
If you’ve been reading my blog for the last couple of years, nearly all of my graphics have been created with Canva. Here are a few of those.
Podia is a digital storefront that helps you create and sell online courses, memberships, and downloads, no technical skills required. When I began to build the first of my online courses last year, I started with another course platform that shall remain nameless so I don’t get sued! In my opinion, that OTHER platform was a huge mistake as I quickly grew frustrated with the design process and was unable to get the help I needed from their customer service.
Then I found Podia! The design of their website is intuitive and easy to navigate as I create courses, products, free downloads and the newest feature--webinars. Creating course content already takes enough time—Podia makes the rest of the process simple. Check out my Author Pro Storefront! Plus, you get paid immediately each time a customer purchases a course, unlike other platforms that hold onto your earnings for 30 days or more. Customer service has been amazing, too.
(They don’t even ask you for a credit card at this point, so you can play around with it and see if it’s right for you and not worry about remembering to cancel if you don't like it.)
Formerly KDP Rocket, Publisher Rocket (from Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com) is a handy tool that analyzes keywords for your books, helping you to properly use the right ones in your own book info as well as target the right ones to make your Amazon ads work better for you. If you already know who Dave Chesson is, then you probably already know about his amazingly helpful Kindlepreneur website/blog. His tutorials are first rate and often they’re free. After taking his Amazon Ad course, I realized I needed the shortcuts that Publisher Rocket could provide. I now use this for my own books and my clients.
► It identifies the keywords shoppers actually type into Amazon when they’re looking for books.
► It also shows the competitiveness of certain keywords by listing the number of competitors using a certain keyword, the average monthly earnings for that keyword, and the estimated Amazon searches each month.
► It helps you find the best categories for your book, including the ones where it is easier to hit best-seller status. Did you know you can have up to 10 categories listed for each of your books?
► It shows you how well other books are doing, which identifies what’s selling well and how you might find your niche market as well.
► It find the keywords to use as you create effective Amazon ads. For this alone, the product is worthwhile because creating long lists of keywords for Amazon ads can be incredibly time consuming.
Publisher Rocket is $97 (and worth every penny in my opinion!) Plus, Dave’s a good guy and offers a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee. (Since I’ve had the program, it’s been updated once already – and there’s never any charge for the updates which bring you more bells and whistles.) Learn more about Publisher Rocket here.
So, now you know all of my secret weapons. Time is my most precious commodity. And all of these tools are time savers. They also allow me work smarter when it comes to my clients and my own book marketing/writing! Let me know if you have questions. I’d be happy to tell you more about why I love them so much.