My Favorite Publishing Tools...
Since beginning my indie publishing journey, I’ve spent countless hours over many months researching best practices for indie publishers and building systems to make my author business as effective and efficient as possible. Below are some of the tools I use. I’ve included names, some information about the business or service listed, and in some cases a link where you can learn more. I hope this post will be a helpful one-stop reference fellow authors can come back to as you search for best practices, and I’ll try to keep it updated as I learn more.
Vellum – I use Vellum to format my books. It’s awesome and makes it easy to produce ebooks or print books. At last check, it cost $249 for a lifetime license and you need a Mac computer to use it. Alternatives include Atticus, Scrivener, and Draft2Digital.
Mailchimp – Mailchimp is kind of an old school and relatively expensive solution for running your email list, but it’s the one I use. It allows you to send a series of welcome emails to your newsletter signups and, importantly for me, it integrates with Bookfunnel.
BookFunnel – I love Bookfunnel. It allows you to easily send ebook copies out to your ARC team and your beta readers. You can use it to automatically deliver a free ebook to people who sign up for your newsletter, and you can also sign up to be included in author promos to get your book in front of more readers. The tech is highly reliable and intuitive, and you get all this for $15 per month.
Wix – My author website is built and hosted on Wix. They have been effective, reliable, and user friendly. You can also buy your domain and build the site all in one place, which is convenient. There may be other options out there, but Wix is what I use. Just stay away from GoDaddy. Don’t get me started on them…
Ebooklaunch.com – This is the cover designer I used for the Girl of Hearts and Mother of Spades covers. They aren’t the cheapest, but they do a great job and are very professional to work with.
Miblart – This is the company that did the cover for The Thief and the Lucky Boy. They were less expensive than Ebooklaunch.com and also did a great job.
Ads for Authors course by Mark Dawson – This ads course is expensive (over $800) but it is the gold standard for authors wanting to learn how to effectively advertise their books. Many authors cite this course as a factor in their ability to take their author business to the next level.
Advertising – Facebook + Amazon Ads – These both kind of suck for me, but if you have the cash to dump into them, you can reap rewards. Just don’t count on them to generate a positive cash flow until you have several books in your series so you can generate more money from read-through. Most authors have not found ads on other platforms besides these two to be very effective.
Book Promo Sites – It is beneficial to have your book listed on book promo sites or shared in email newsletters when you have a promotion running. These can give your book a big rankings boost, which can be extremely important for book sales. They range widely in price and effectiveness, with BookBub at the top of the heap. David Gaughran curates a helpful list of these sites, which you can find here.
PublisherRocket – This database scrapes Amazon for data and creates a user-friendly database with lots of helpful information about keywords and categories in both the US and UK Amazon stores. It’s helpful for setting up your metadata. A lifetime membership costs just under $100.
Kindlepreneur.com – This site runs PublisherRocket and Atticus and often has helpful info for indie authors.
The Book Couple – If you’d like some help with editing, formatting, or cover design, I recommend The Book Couple. Carol was the editor on my first traditionally published books and she and her husband Gary, who is a book designer, struck out on their own to help indie authors make their books a reality. Their services are not low-budget solutions, but they are seasoned pros who are great to work with.
Helpful Podcasts – The Creative Penn Podcast with Joanna Penn, The Self Publishing Show Podcast with Mark Dawson. Listen. Learn. Repeat.
Kindle Direct Publishing – I have my ebooks exclusive to Kindle and on KU and also offer paperbacks through KDP.
IngramSpark – I offer paperback distribution through IngramSpark and offer a 55% discount to retailers with no returns allowed. This allows my local library and bookstore to stock my books, although I only make something like $.37 per book on each sale.
Audible / ACX – my audiobooks are created via ACX and distributed exclusively through Audible. You can use ACX to audition voice talent and manage audiobook production. It’s a great tool. An alternative for authors who want wider distribution is Findaway Voices.
Linktree - Linktree is helpful because it allows you to list all your links in one convenient link / landing page. That means you can put it in your bio in places like TikTok and Facebook and people can click on it to jump to your website, the Amazon pages for your books, your social media links, and more. It's convenient and free. Plus, it gives you data on how many people have clicked on a given link inside their "tree," which can be very handy information.
Canva - Canva is a tool that makes graphic design a breeze. There is a free version or a paid version. It's helpful for making things like Facebook ads and headers, creating instagram ads, editing TikTok videos, and more. I recommend it.
Bookbrush - Bookbrush is similar to Canva but it's more optimized for book marketing. I have it now but don't use it too often, so we'll see if I keep it or not...
MidJourney - I've used MidJourney AI to create marketing images for some of my books. A lot of authors use stock photo sites for this purpose, but AI generated images can be more specific. It's $30 per month and kind of a pain to use, but it can create some really cool and evocative imagery.
TikTok - TikTok is an amazing place to connect with readers. It has become the backbone of my marketing strategy. It's a lot of work because you really need to post daily to see the full benefit, but the potential is tremendous. If you're an author, I recommend you bite the bullet and get on here, STAT!
An important note: the services above or their equivalents are all you need to begin an indie publishing business. While there are legitimate author services out there that can help you with things like book design and marketing, there are many more scammers. You DO NOT need to pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to some company to publish your book. If you wanted to, you could format your book in Microsoft Word, create a KDP account, and upload your book for free. Do your research. Invest your money wisely! Publishing effectively is expensive enough without handing your money out to scammers.
That’s it! I hope this list is helpful, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I love helping my fellow authors.