Below are the resources I recommend for all writers and publishers. They’re the same tools that I have used over the last three years while building a successful writing and publishing career.
Scrivener is so important it deserves its own heading. If I had to give up every single tool I use save for one, the one tool I would keep is Scrivener. I was lucky enough to stumble upon it within the first month of beginning my writing career and I’m eternally grateful for that. It completely changed the way I approach both writing and publishing.
Here’s only a short list of things this amazing software can handle:
- Word Processing
- Content Management
- Revision Management
- Centralized Services
- And so much more!
I could go on and on about Scrivener, but perhaps you should check out some of the free tutorial videos I’ve put together so you can get a first-hand look at everything it can do?
Scrivener: See above.
Write Or Die: This app is essential to my fast drafting methods. It will single-handedly take you from writing 500 words an hour to 2,500+ words an hour. It’s the single biggest reason I was able to successfully complete NaNoWriMo in a 24 hour period not once, but four times!
Dictionary: I just use the basic Dictionary app included in Mac OSX. It has a dictionary and thesaurus wrapped into one bundle, making it a wonderful little tool when I’m doing revisions and edits.
iA Writer: If you’re on the go a lot and do some writing from your iPhone or iPad then I definitely recommend you check out this app. It’s clean and has a minimalist interface. It also fully supports Markup syntax, making it especially handy for writing web pages or taking quick, cleanly formatted, notes. (In fact, I’m writing this in iA Writer right now!)
I’ve been listening to podcasts since around 2007, and I love them! My love of podcasts and my desire to share all of the things I’ve learned in the last few years is what drove me to create the Author Strong site and podcast in the first place. These are some of the wonderful writing podcasts I’ve found over the last few years. If you have any other favorites I’d love to hear about them!
Writing Excuses: Headed up by NYT Bestselling Author, Brandon Sanderson, this podcast is a font of immeasurable value. I’d also recommend you check out the Write About Dragons YouTube channel to get an inside look at Sanderson’s writing course at BYU.
Rocking Self Publishing Podcast: Simon’s podcast was one of the first writing podcasts I came across that really sucked me in. Every week he interviews the movers and shakers in the indie publishing community to dissect their processes and extract what qualities make them successful.
The Creative Penn: NYT Bestselling Author Joanna Penn heads up this wonderful podcast. Hers was one of the very first podcasts I came across back in 2012, and she’s the reason I started using both Scrivener and Write Or Die, the very two apps that have greatly influenced my entire writing and publishing career.
The Self Publishing Podcast: Johnny, Sean, and Dave bring their own style of crazy antics to the podcast world as they discuss the unique strategies that work for them.
Newsletters are going to be one of the most important facets of your writing and publishing career. It is vital that you take ownership and control over the content that you’re putting in front of your readers, and the easiest ways to do this is through your newsletter. Here’s a few of the popular mailing list service providers out there.
MailChimp: This is the mailing list provider that I’ve used for all of my pseudonyms. It’s also the same service I’m using for the Author Strong Newsletter. It almost goes without saying that MailChimp is my recommendation for the service provider you should use, also. A couple of their biggest perks are that their newsletter setup is very intuitive and easy-to-use, and MailChimp is free to use for up to 2,000 subscribers! It’s hard to argue with a risk-free trial of up to 2,000 subscribers!
AWeber: I don’t have much personal experience with AWeber, though I’ve heard that the user experience can be very similar to MailChimp’s. It does cost money from the start, but you can get your first month for only $1. This should give you enough time to play around with AWeber’s features to determine whether or not you want to continue using them.
Book Cover Design
If you’re going to be handling your own book cover design, it’s supremely important that you work with a designer who knows exactly what they’re doing.
99 Designs: This is a wonderful site where you can find professional designers to meet all of your design needs (in fact, the Author Strong logo was sourced through 99 Designs!) If you’ve never worked with a designer before, this is one of the first places you should go. You’ll be able to create a project and have multiple designers bid for your work. You’ll be able to give them notes and get updates to the covers before you ever commit to purchasing any of them. I highly recommend you check it out. (Big thanks to Emily and her daughter for making sure we included this on our Resources page!)
Just like your Newsletter is going to be wildly important to your career, your website is going to be another critical touch point between you and your readers. Your website is not something you want to consider as an after-thought—you need to provide your readers with the professional experience that they’ve come to expect from all of their other favorite entertainment providers right from the beginning.
HostGator: This is my host of choice. You can get monthly hosting for as low as $5/month, but you can also upgrade to a full business account for around $15/month and host multiple sites! I pay $15/month and can host as many sites as I want! (AuthorStrong.com is currently hosted by HostGator.)
GoDaddy: I have used GoDaddy for hosting, but now that I’ve moved all of my hosting to HostGator, I’m only using GoDaddy as my domain registrar of choice. Make sure you shop around for some domain registration discounts. It’s often possible to register a domain for as low as $2.99 or even $0.99 for the first year!
WordPress: This is the content management package that I use to create all of my websites. The best feature of all? It’s free!
Special Note: Overwhelmed by the thought of creating your first website? My friend, Simon Whistler of the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, has put together a free video tutorial on how you can get your author site up and running in just a few hours. I highly recommend you check these videos out, they’re the same ones I used when I setup my first site and they made the whole process infinitely easier!
If there’s anything you should know about me it’s that I can get a little bit crazy with tracking my time and trying to ensure that I’m being as productive as possible. How else could I possibly find the time to launch a blog and a podcast while also cranking out a novel’s length of material every 4-6 weeks? Here’s some of the tools I use to make sure that I’m staying on top of my To Do list.
OmniFocus: This is a wonderful little project manager. Using this and my calendar I set my desired release dates for each of my novels and then work backwards to calculate deadlines for everything else that needs to get done to successfully launch each book!
Freshbooks + Chronomate: This is the best $1/month I spend. I use a free Freshbooks account so that I can use Chronomate, the best time tracking app I’ve found by a long stretch. I setup multiple timers for my different projects and then make sure I have the appropriate one running while I’m working!
RescueTime: I’ve been using this app since September 2014 and am in love with it! One of my only complaints about Chronomate is that I need to actually turn it on! This is a critical step that’s very easy to forget when you’re up against a deadline. Enter RescueTime! This app is always tracking what I’m doing (Hello, Big Brother?) and makes sure it records just how productive I am. What’s great? It’s free to use! That said, I instantly upgraded to their premium, $10/month version once I saw just how helpful it really is.
Self-Control: This is a Mac-only app that does one simple thing. And it’s one of the most important things that you’re going to need to do if you’re struggling to get stuff done! It ruthlessly, viciously kills the internet. Set a time duration, push a button, and kiss the internet goodbye until that little timer counts down to zero.
Evernote: While I don’t personally use Evernote, there are many authors who live by it. If you’re doing a lot of research, or constantly on the go, then Evernote may just be the right thing for you.
Backup and Data Security
I’ve had too many friends lose their manuscripts due to circumstances completely outside of their control. This is one of the most demoralizing things that can happen to any writer or publisher! Don’t let it happen to you! By implementing your backup security right away, you can ensure that nothing catastrophic happens to you. I’ve never lost a single word of my writing, and it’s only because I’ve used the tools below. (I drink way too much coffee for some of it not to end up on my laptop… and that’s all I’m going to say about that…)
Dropbox: This alone is nearly enough to keep you safe, provided that you use it the right way! Dropbox automatically syncs in the background while you work. All of my work files are kept inside my Dropbox folder, so they are all instantly backed up to the cloud whenever they are updated. I even have an exception setup in my Self-Control app that prevents it from blocking Dropbox’s syncing, because I’m that paranoid about it.
Carbonite: This is another solution to backing up your files. I don’t personally use this service, but know many other writers and publishers who live by it. Be wary, I’ve heard of instances where backups are not kept 100% up to date. I’ve even heard of authors losing 1-2 days worth of backups. But it’s better than nothing! Make sure you’ve got some kind of data redundancy in place.
Time Machine: This is Apple’s built-in backup feature. I personally use an external hard drive with a Time Machine backup in combination with Dropbox to make sure I’ve got redundant copies of all of my work.
On Writing by Stephen King: Part autobiography, part tips and tricks, this is the premiere authority on what it takes to be a successful writer.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk: Get this (the ebook is free!). You won’t regret it.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King: This book is a wealth of knowledge on how you should go about looking at your own stories when you’re doing your first-pass revisions.
From 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron: Get this. Now. Seriously. … No, I’m not joking. This single, short text has changed my life more than all of the above combined. Go!
Audiobooks Books For Indies by Simon Whistler: Simon has cut his teeth in the audio world with freelance work, hosting multiple podcasts, and recording multiple audiobooks. When it comes to the topic of working with audio, he knows what he’s talking about, and he shares that knowledge with everyone in this book. If you’ve ever even considered having your novel turned into an audiobook (and you should!) then you need to read this.
Bootstrapping For Indies by Simon Whistler: In this book, Simon gives a great primer on how you can realistically bootstrap your way to a successful writing and publishing career. He covers topics such as where you should spend money, when you should spend it, and provides a variety of shortcuts that can be taken in the earlier parts of your career as you work to establish yourself and your audience. Not only is this a great primer on the topic of bootstrapping, but it’s a wonderful look at many of the various aspects that go into a successful writing and publishing career. Best of all… it’s FREE. Go check it out!
Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant: Brought to you by the gentlemen of the Self Publishing Podcast, and narrated by Simon Whistler of the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast, this tome is a direct approach to one of the many successful ways you can and should approach your writing and publishing career. There are a lot of tips to be picked up through the narrative, especially for those looking to publish some of their first works.
4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris: This book is a blueprint to how you can change your life. It will fly in the face of everything you’ve come to understand about the way the world works. I strongly encourage you to pick it up and give it a read.
Unfortunately, we aren’t living in the world of your high school creative writing class. This is a business, and along with that comes certain business-like activities. But don’t worry, the resources below are straight-forward and easy to use. You’ll be up and running with them in no time.
Freshbooks: If you’re not in the client service industry then you can probably get away with using the free version of this amazing cloud-based accounting software. I primarily use it to track and record expenses, along with tracking my time on projects so that I can continue to hold myself accountable for my work.
Quickbooks: This is a much more powerful accounting suite and is not for the feint of heart. That said, it offers some very powerful tools for the savvy business person to better track their income and expenses.
Legalzoom: You’re running a business now, and it’s time to get your head in the game and start treating it as such. One of the best ways to do that is to get all of your ducks in a row from the get-go. Use Legalzoom for nearly all of your legal-related needs.