Five FREE Tools To Help Self-Published Authors Succeed.

Joleene Naylor:

Some great free finds!

Originally posted on Nikki McDonagh - author and photographer:

It is hard being an author, whether self-published or traditionally, getting your manuscript/book looking good, free of grammatical/typo errors and noticed when it is published, is very difficult. So the more tools at your disposal that can help you do that is surely a good thing.

I have recently discovered a few neat little devices that can help to make those jobs easier.

1: Scrivener – The first and truly brilliant, especially if you are considering self-publishing, is this word processing and book formatting tool – You can download it for a Free trial to see if it is for you.

Don’t take my word for it, though – the self-publishing legend that is Joanna Penn (you can learn more about Joanna and her books to help self-published authors here: has a blog about the value of using Scrivener.


I’m sure most of you have…

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So You Want to Publish a Book (Post 4): Links to Help You Get Your Book Ready, Published, and Promoted

Up to now in this series, I’ve discussed whether or not your book is ready to be published, being realistic about your sales expectations and saving for taxes, and pursuing the best publishing path for you.

Let’s say you decide to publish the books yourself.  On this blog, we have articles already written dedicated to the “How To” of getting your book out there.  

Where to Publish (if you self-publish) by Ruth Ann Nordin and Janet Syas Nitsick

Some Handy Formatting Tricks (for ebooks) by Joleene Naylor

Making a Paperback Interior Book File for CreateSpace by Ruth Ann Nordin

How to Get a Cheap Book Cover (This is a book Joleene Naylor wrote on making book covers or tips on finding a good cover artist.)

If you want a list of people who can format your book or make your cover without breaking your budget, there’s a list on Smashwords you can check out.

Okay, so you got your book formatted and the cover ready.  Now what?

How to Publish with KDP by Joleene Naylor

How to Publish on Smashwords by Joleene Naylor

How to Publish on CreateSpace by Joleene Naylor

How to Use Cover Creator on CreateSpace by Joleene Naylor

There is also the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker

I think that is all the how-to articles we have for actually publishing your book.  The other sites (Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life, etc) will be similar.  If you can publish on the sites above, you can publish directly anywhere.  Personally, I’ve decided it’s easiest to publish on KDP to get into Amazon and then publish on Smashwords to distribute everywhere else.

After publishing directly to Nook Press (Barnes & Noble) and Kobo, I realized it is difficult to balance a lot of books in all those places.  If I have to make a change to the book (say someone found a typo), or if I want to change the description or book cover, it is a real pain to go to multiple sites to do this.  I currently have 58 books (almost 50 of which are romances), and it is a lot easier to keep them all at two places instead of four.  So recently, I’ve gone back and de-listed everything on Kobo and Nook Press so I could use Smashwords to distribute them to those channels for me.  I know that is a little off-topic, but when you are a new author and thinking of where to publish, something to consider is how you best want to use your time.  If I could go back in time, I would have just kept everything simple by uploading to KDP and Smashwords.  I would never have gone direct to Kobo and Nook Press.  So I’m passing that along in case it can be useful to anyone reading this.  You will increase your chances of success if you simplify your life.  Simplifying your life allows you to focus in on writing more books.

Okay, not that I’ve rambled on about that, I have some advice on marketing and promotion:

We pretty much do promotional ideas on a regular basis on this blog, so I won’t bog everyone down links to all of those.  What I will do, however, is point anyone interested to two free books Mark Coker has written on the topic.  These are, in my opinion, the best resources on book promotion out there, and better yet, they are straight forward and to the point.

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success by Mark Coker

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So You Want To Publish a Book (Post 3): How Should You Publish Your Book?

So you’ve taken the time to make sure your book is well-edited.  Now you have to make a tough decision.  Do you find an agent, submit directly to a publisher, or self-publish?  I’m not here to tell you what to do.  That’s not my job.  But what I am going to do is give you some guidance.  Below I provide some main points to help lead you in the right direction to you.

paths in publishing

The most important thing you can do is follow your dream.

I’m dead serious when I say this.  Too many times we let other people live our lives for us.  If you follow your own dream, you are much less likely to have regrets in the long run.  If your dream is to find an agent who might find a big publisher who can get your book into bookstores, Walmart, the grocery store, etc, then pursue it.  Try to find the agent.  If your dream is to find a small publisher who will take the burden of having to upload your book yourself, design the cover, provide editing services, etc, then submit to a small publisher.  If your dream is to self-publish because you want full control, then self-publish.

Early on (2009) when I got serious about self-publishing, I had a lot of people who argued with me over my decision.  This ranged from family to friends to strangers who sent me emails.  So I know what it’s like to feel the pressure when other people don’t agree with your choice.  But in the end, I wanted full control.  I didn’t want some publisher telling me what I could or could not include in my book.  I wanted to write my story my way.

Sometimes I see authors on forums arguing with a new author who tells them he wants to go with a traditional publisher.  So it’s not just those who want to self-publish that deal with the negativity.  This comes from all sides.  Be prepared to have to disappoint someone, whether they are close or someone who happens to email you out of the blue.

If you want to seek advice, ask questions from others.  Gather as much information as you can.  Do your homework.  Then make the decision that is best for you.  I know it takes courage to go against the tide and to do your own thing, but I also think the rewards are so much better if you pursue your dreams.   Things we often regret are the chances we didn’t take.

This doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be successful.  You might not be.  But isn’t it better to take the risk and find out than to never know?

Rules of Thumb If You Choose To Look for an Agent or Publisher

This is not an exhaustive list, but they are guidelines to help you get on the right path

1. Money flows to the author.  If an agent or publisher wants money in order to represent you or publish you, run away.

2. Do your homework on the agent and/or publisher.  What other authors do they represent?  What is the quality of those books?  Do those books seem to sell well on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, etc?  What marketing does the publisher do for the authors?  Does the publisher pay the author on time?  Feel free to email the authors the agent or publisher represents.  They might not respond to your email, but it never hurts to send a message.  Asking questions is how I came to learn most traditionally published authors aren’t earning a living at writing.  (The average self-published author isn’t making a living either, by the way.  From what I’ve researched, it’s still not the norm.)

3. Realize small publishers might not be able to do as much marketing for you as large publishers will.  Regardless of the agent or publisher you get, prepare to market your own books.  Don’t expect someone to hold your hand through everything.

Rules of Thumb if You Choose to Self-Publish

1. Be willing to invest time and money into your product.  Tell a compelling story.  Get a good quality editor.  Get a good cover artist (unless you have the skill for this already).  Take time to learn how to format a clean manuscript or pay someone to do it.  I know it’s a huge pain to put the money into the book, but you are competing with a lot of high quality, low-priced books.  I’m surprised at how many authors skimp on this area.  Why should a reader invest in your book if you aren’t willing to?

2.  This is not a golden ticket to the easy life.  You’ve probably heard the stories about a few authors who self-published and made a killing in sales.  Keep in mind, these are outliers, not the experience of the average self-published author.  Can you make money?  Yes.  How much?  You won’t know until you put books out there.  But I promise you sales are up and down and often unpredictable.  Your mileage will vary depending on your genre, what the market wants, and other forces outside your control.  So embrace the fact that your journey is a huge question mark when you start it.  (The same is true for traditional publishing, by the way.)

3.  Do it because you love writing.  If you think sales is going to make you happy, you’re wrong.  Money, sales rank, and recognition are an illusion of happiness.  They might provide a temporary high, but the high doesn’t last.  There’s always someone more successful than you.  There’s always someone who hates your work, and they might even hate you because you had the nerve to write it.  Sales don’t always go up.  There’s a point when they go down.  Someone might steal your book and try to make money off your hard work, and Amazon isn’t always willing to remove the stolen book.

There are a ton of reasons why this is a hard path.  Lasting happiness comes from doing what you love most and focusing on it.  When I stopped worrying about all the external factors, I got my joy back.  Now, regardless of highs or lows in sales, I’m happy.  The reason I’m happy is because I’m enjoying the process of writing.  So my last piece of guidance is to focus on what you can control and let go of the things you can’t.  It’s not easy, but it makes a world of difference in how your emotional health.

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