Orna Ross
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Tools I Use To Self-Publish and Sell

best self-publishing toolsEvery creative business is now also in the publishing business. If you want to attract followers and fans to a passion- or purpose-centered business,  you need to create text, video and audio assets that explain who you are, what you do and why, how you can help, inspire or entertain them and how they can best support your work.

People often ask me what tools I use, so I’ve gathered some of my favorites on this page.

Without these tools I simply wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I am unendingly grateful to the people and companies who created them and made them available, some for very little cost.

Two things to note: 1) Some of the links I use here are affiliate links. This means I make a small amount of money if you click through using this link and then go on to buy the tool yourself. This affiliate income is one of the ways I earn my living as a writer, teacher and facilitator.

I only recommend product and services that I use myself, have seen work well for countless others and trust to look after you and treat you properly. Using my affiliate links benefits me, at no cost to you.

2) The second thing to note is that tools are far less important than the assets and processes you develop with them. Income follows assets, not tools. For more on this, alliancesee the Go Creative! series, books about doing creative business the creative way or join the Creativist Club.

If you are serious about earning a living from self-publishing, the Alliance of Independent Authors is a non-profit association that can really help you (in case you don’t know, I am the Founder and Director) with curated information about being an indie author, connections with industry experts and other authors and many other benefits (21 benefits here), including a watchdog service so you can avoid being ripped off, and a Self-Publishing Advice Centre that includes a daily blog and weekly podcast. You can also avail of many valuable discounts and deals. Alliance of Independent Authors.

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Writing

Scrivener

scrivener

For my money, Scrivener is the best writing software and at mere $45, outright payment worth its weight in gold, silver and lead. It makes me weep to see writers trying to write books, especially long books, on Microsoft Word or Mac Pages.

Scrivener makes moving through chapters and section so easy and when you’ve finished writing, it will compile your book into .mobi & .epub formats so you don’t have to hire a professional formatter or use another formatiting software, unless you want to (see formatting below

If you want to accelerate your use of Scrivener, so you can benefit most from all the fantastic features, then I recommend Learn Scrivener Fast.

Speech To Text

dragon dictate

I put down hundreds of thousands of words each week and I use Dragon Dictate to do it. There is a learning curve with speech-to-text yes, and it takes an investment of time to get used to it, but you will save hundreds and thousands of hours, over time, as well as writing more freely (and more healthily) if you master it.
Dragon is still the premier speech-to-text software. I use it every day, I’m using it to write this.

Evernote allows me to make notes that I can synch across phone, iPad and desktop. Its nowhere-to-hide search function, web clipper, photo note function and 1000 other features (I seem to discover something new and knockout every day) make it far and away the best notes app for my money (I use the premium version, so it’s available on all my devices at all times, online and off).

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Editing

grammarlyI run book chapters and other writing through Grammarly, to catch typos or grammar mistakes, and have it enabled on my websites.

Like all such software, Grammarly is not infallible and doesn’t like you to get too creative, but it is a great start in getting clean copy.

Do you need an editor? No question, you definitely do. Maybe more than one.

You can find a good editorial partner through the Alliance of Independent Authors Publishing Services Directory.

Design

I use professional cover designers. Again, you can find a good design partner through the Alliance of Independent Authors Publishing Services Directory.

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Production

I used to use Scrivener (see Writing above) for formatting but now I’ve switched to Vellum software, which creates beautiful ebooks so, so easily, and which I now use unless I’m producing a special editionvellum design, in which case I work with a formatter. Vellum actually makes formatting fast and fun (three words I never thought I’d be able to put together).ThreEbooks:

If you don’t want to do this work yourself, you can find a good formatting partner through the Alliance of Independent Authors Publishing Services Directory.

 

 

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Distribution

Ebooks: I use Amazon KDP, Apple Books and Kobo to take my ebooks directly to readers around the globe and use the aggregators Draft2Digital, PublishDrive to reaching those readers that the Big Four don’t reach.

Print: I use Amazon KDP and IngramSpark to take my pbooks directly to readers around the globe. Dave Chesson (see below) has a good article on the merits of KDP Print versus Createspace.

Audio: I am just embarking on audiobooks — back soon on those.

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Marketing

Marketing has two aspects. First is setting up your books, yourself/your company and other IP assets so they are found by the right people.

Website

The first essential is a website.  Creativepreneurs who are serious about earning a living doing what they love should have a self-hosted website, not one hosted on a free service. I’m constantly surprised by the number of indie authors and artists, coaches and educators who build websites on free platforms like blogger, Wix or free WordPress.

Don’t do this. As a creativepreneur, your website is your shop front, your calling card, your marketing hub, your sales funnel and your cash register.  As you create and improve it, you will be building it into your most significant creative and commercial asset.

Own it. Here’s my tutorial on how to build your own self-hosted website in under 30 mins.

Keywords and Categories

For effective self-publishing, choosing the right sub-categories and keywords is vital.

best self-publishing tools klyticsK-lytics can help you determine which data and metadata to use for new books, to reposition older ones and even to decide on a whole new category or genre.

 

Need help researching your Amazon keywords for self-publishing or Amazon/Facebook advertising? I recommend KDP Rocket, run by the great Dave Chesson. He also offers a tool to decide whether your book idea is valid, a great article on keywords and a special article on keyword strategy for fiction authors.

Author Marketing Club

 

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Promotion

Email Services

These are services that let readers know about discounted and newly published books by email.BookBub is the heavy-hitter, but I also recommend FreeBooksy, BargainBooksy, NewInBooks. They don’t have the reach of BookBub but they are more affordable and you are more likely to be accepted.

 

Best Self-Publishing Tools: Rights

IPR Licence. 

And finally, not quite a tool, but one of the three powerful creative practices and the one that underwrites (literally) everything else:  Thank You F-R-E-E-Writing for too much to tell.