This list is copied and adapted with permission from Magelight Press, my imprint.
I want you to be informed, and hope to help with that. Below are a list of links of websites I value that offer the indie author valuable information and services. Please note that I am not affiliated with these websites in any way unless otherwise stated, and that I am not endorsing any products they may sell. They are resources I currently use, or have used in the past and found invaluable, and only seek to share.
INDUSTRY NEWS AND INFORMATION LINKS
http://www.thecreativepenn.com – The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn has hundreds of informative podcasts, courses, and useful information. Joanna is witty, funny, and a genuinely sweet person who wants to help others succeed by sharing her own experiences, and bringing you guests on her podcasts to offer you a constant stream of new and up-to-date information.
http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ – Writer Beware holds up-to-date information on literary scams that seek to ruin indie authors.
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ – Dean Wesley Smith’s website is chock full of useful information for indies. His online workshops and lectures are highly sought after, and small so that you get his undivided attention.
http://www.kristinekathrynrusch.com/ – Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith’s wife, is an editor and award-winning and USA Today bestselling author who shares a wealth of knowledge about the business of self-publishing.
http://www.thepassivevoice.com/ – The Passive Voice keeps you up to date on trending issues. It is “A lawyer’s thoughts on authors, self-publishing, and traditional publishing” and full of helpful information.
http://www.kboards.com/index.php – Kboards has such a wealth of constantly updating information that it can become easily overwhelming, especially for new authors, but we would be remiss if we didn’t include it here.
WRITER/AUTHOR ORGANIZATIONS WORTH YOUR TIME
https://www.rwa.org/ – Romance Writer’s of America has events, educational resources, and a plethora of other useful things to help Romance writers of all types. They charge a $25 USD application fee and the dues are $99 USD per year.
https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/ – ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) is a non-profit organization for self-published authors. They offer many things including education and advocacy and representation for authors and pushes all self-published authors to uphold an ethical standard to achieve excellence. It is a very helpful group of people who strive to help each other in as many ways as humanly possible. Their fees are: Author Member- $99 USD per year; Professional Author- $139 USD per year; Partner Member- Price depends on how many employees you have; Associate Author- $75 USD per year.
http://www.sfwa.org/ – Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America hosts a wealth of information as well as the Writer Beware site listed above. This is also a non-profit organization for published authors and industry professionals and offers much of the same benefits of ALLi and RWA, but mainly for Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. They are the organization who presents the highly sought after Nebula Awards. Active member dues are $100 USD per year, Associate and Estate members pay $90 USD per year, Affiliate and Institutional members pay $115 USD per year, and Senior members (who have been with SFWA for over 30 years) are granted free Active membership for life. The caveat for this is that it is mostly for traditional published authors, and their elegibility requirements are extensive.
PUBLISHING AND WRITING COMMUNITIES
http://forums.romancedivas.com/index.php – Romance Divas is a forum comprised of a community of delightful men and women who share their experiences, offer emotional support while cheering you along, and has a substantial wealth of information throughout the site. The Divas are helpful, insightful, and there is a bright mix of traditional published authors with the indies, and hybrids galore all sharing what they learned during their careers. They also offer an unofficial chat where you can join Divas for sprints to help you get those elusive words.
PROMOTIONAL AND MARKETING LINKS
https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing – BookBub is the current gold standard in book promotion. Authors of all walks of life clamor for the chance to be featured in their newsletter, and most have war stories of constant rejection. But when you land a BookBub slot, results are almost guaranteed.
http://ereadernewstoday.com/ent-free-book-submissions/ – ENT is a more affordable option to BookBub for free and reduced price titles. It is also easier to land a slot with them. They have promotions for both free and $0.99 USD ebooks.
http://www.ryanzee.com/ – Ryan Zee provides awesome service to grow your mailing list, automate your sales, and he offers coaching and support for your marketing ventures. He is affordable, timely, and if he cannot help you, he isn’t afraid to point you toward someone he trusts who can.
https://www.fiverr.com/bknights – Bknights is extremely affordable, fast promotion for your free or reduced price ebooks. ($5-$20 USD)
http://www.newsletterswap.com/ – Newsletter Swap is a new site that connects authors with others who write in similar genres. You set up your account, and input how many newsletter subscribers you have. Then, you’re able to go through and see others in your genres through an easy search, find authors who have newsletter spots open (and see how many subscribers they have), and request a promotion spot in their newsletter for specific dates. Once you have your account set up, it won’t be long before you start receiving newsletter promotion requests, as well. It works on an honor system via points. But, the service is 100% free.
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBER SNATCHERS AND FREE eBOOK GIVEAWAY SITES
http://www.instafreebie.com – Instafreebie is an easy way to turn a free ebook into hundreds of subscribers. They offer a 30 day free trial of their plus plan, and thereafter it is only $20 USD per month to continue funneling new subscribers into your MailChimp newsletter list, or into an exportable CSV file which you can use to add the subscribers manually to MailerLite or whatever newsletter service you prefer.
http://bookfunnel.com/ – BookFunnel is more for sending books to your eARC team, beta readers, and as freebies for your newsletter. This service has plans that start at just $20 USD per year, which is phenomenal. Their customer service is beyond stellar. If your reader can’t figure out how to get their free book onto their device, there is a conspicuous (they can’t miss it) help link where they can get a live person to help them through the process for free.
http://literatureandlatte.com/ – Scrivener (for Windows and Mac) has changed the lives of many authors of all types, from bloggers to novelists, to non-fiction writers. It is a powerful tool, but comes with a rather steep learning curve. Instead of your writing residing within one enormous document, you create individual chapters, or divide your writing into scenes, or just brain dump files that you can rearrange at any time by just clicking and dragging a file where you want it in the binder. For those of you who are non-linear writers, this is the program for you. And when you’re done, and ready to send your written darling out into the world, you can compile to epub, mobi, PDF, .doc/x and many other formats with the click of a few buttons. (Yes, we just told you how to format your own ebooks for free after buying this software for only $45 USD, which is generally reduced to half price for NaNoWriMo winners each December.)
- Literature and Latte also makes Scapple which is a stunning mind-map software. Best thing? You can easily drag your Scapple notes directly into Scrivener when you’re ready.
https://evernote.com/ – Evernote is similar to OneNote (below), in that you can use it for series bibles, notes, and extraneous data. This is Mac software, whereas OneNote is for Windows. However, Evernote can work well with Scrivener. We prefer OneNote, but Evernote is a viable alternative, especially if the integration with Scrivener makes a substantial difference in your work flow.
https://www.onenote.com/ – Microsoft OneNote is perfect for series bibles, notes, and any extraneous data you need to keep at your fingertips no matter what device you’re working from. This program is for Windows, but it is finally now available for the Mac, and is free on all operating systems.
http://www.jutoh.com/ – Jutoh is the gold standard for ebook formatting in Windows and Mac, both for price and quality of output. It is what we use to turn your stories into beautiful, professional looking ebooks. And with a flat price of $39 USD for the basic edition, or $80 USD for the plus edition, it is extremely affordable.
https://vellum.pub/ – Vellum is Mac only software, but does much the same thing as Jutoh. They offer several options of payments: Unlimited is $199.99 USD, or you can pay per title: 1 title is $29.99 USD and 10 titles is discounted to $99.99 USD.
http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign.html – Adobe InDesign is a powerful tool to create gorgeous, press quality books for print. There are versions for both Mac and Windows, and the subscription fee starts at $19.99 USD per month. They also offer a 30 day free trial. Give it a try! We offer an Adobe InDesign Workshop to show you how to use it, too.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/instapic/9wzdncrfhwhx – InstaPic is an application that allows you to access Instagram on your PC, completely bypassing the “Smartphone Only” hindrance. It allows you to edit images on your computer and upload them via the app without ever touching your phone, so you can make more amazing photos and get more followers. Best thing? It’s free!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timecard-pro-hours-work-schedule/id455487988?mt=8 (iTunes) and https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/timecard-pro/9wzdncrdj24g (Microsoft) – Timecard Pro is an app that allows you to keep track of your hours. Set up different tasks, and use the button to “Clock in” and “Clock Out”. It keeps track of hours worked, breaks, project switches, and other necessities so you can accurately see where your time is going, what you need to work on, and what is crowding out your writing time. Protect that writing time! It’s a powerful tool for only $2.99 USD.
https://www.wunderlist.com/download/ – Wunderlist is available on all devices and operating systems. This powerful (and FREE) to-do list app is great for anything from creating shopping lists, publishing checklists, and organizing your day, to jotting down plot notes on your phone when you’re away to come back to when you can next sit down at your computer. You can create lists, add people to share the lists, or just jot down a quick To-Do on the go. Want to save that website link for later research? Add it to Wunderlist. “But, MP, there are only two features!” you say? That’s what makes it perfect for the busy author. There are only two features, so you have to work hard to use it for procrastination purposes. (Don’t give us that look! We’ve been there, too.)
BACKUP YOUR WORK!
https://www.backblaze.com/ – Backblaze is the one thing that will save your hind end if you haven’t backed up and your computer suddenly catches fire. Yes, it is that awesome. For $5 USD per month, Backblaze continually backs up your computer’s most important files and folders. If your computer dies a horrible death, you have options: Download a zip file from your Backblaze account, ask them for Mail Restore and they will mail you a USB hard drive via FedEx. Return the USB hard drive for a full refund once you have restored your data, or access it on Apple iOS or Android phones. The BEST thing? You can use this service to locate a lost or stolen laptop. This feature is delicious, because with a few clicks, you can not only locate your computer down to a physical address, but you can then call the police to go get it and arrest the thief.
https://www.dropbox.com/ – In this day and age, everyone needs multiple backups of their writing. Dropbox offers affordable cloud storage, the first 3.38 GB is free. Thereafter, the Pro plan is $8.25 USD per month, and the Business plan is $12.50 USD per user per month.
https://www.google.com/drive/ – Have a Gmail account? You automatically have 17 GB of free storage in your Google Drive. This is a free alternative to Dropbox until you reach that 17 GB threshold, and just as secure.
Ideas for backing up:
- How some authors work with this is to put their Scrivener files into Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or iCloud—some form of cloud storage—and have Scrivener automatically save to that folder, which automatically backs up to the cloud (so you can access it from any device). Backblaze continuously backs up your computer, but it can easily back up a corrupted file. So saving in multiple locations is necessary, thus…
- When you finish for the day, compile into a PDF or Word document, and email it to yourself. Make sure you put the date in your file’s title so you know what day you saved it, and put it in a special folder for book backups.
- You can even create a special email account just for holding your story backup files. Then make series specific folders, and book specific subfolders.
INEXPENSIVE COVER ARTISTS WORTH YOUR TIME AND MONEY
https://papertigerswag.wordpress.com/ – Katie de Long is a fantastic and talented digital artist who charges $100 – $150 USD per cover. Check her site for examples of her work.
http://sicarius8.deviantart.com/ – Yuriko Matsuoka is one of the best digital painters we’ve seen that does gorgeous work fast and for a decent price that authors can afford. We can’t recommend her enough. For book covers with a simple background and one individual, she charges $80 USD. Check her website for examples of her work. You can commission her here: firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE WORDPRESS WEBSITE NECESSITIES
https://websitesetup.org/customize-wordpress-101/ – This is a straightforward and easy to follow tutorial that goes into great, step-by-step detail in how to set up your WordPress website. The information is thorough and shows everything from how to customize your site to what plugins to start off with. The main things it does now show you is how to install wordpress itself (WordPress has instructions on their website), how to tweak your CSS to make changes that your theme doesn’t allow for out of the box, and how to display your books.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mooberry-book-manager/ – Mooberry Book Manager is the WordPress plugin we favor for displaying books, book grids, and information relating to your books on your author website. It is easy to use, simple to set up, beautiful, and integrates with almost any theme seamlessly. We prefer this over MyBookTable due to the ease of use and the way it looks. However, MyBookTable is also free and worth your time to check out.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/mybooktable/ – MyBookTable Bookstore is much like Mooberry Book Manager, but its features are more robust and technical, and its look is much different. We recommend trying both Mooberry Book Manager and MyBookTable Bookstore to see which suits your needs, preferences, and aesthetics better.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/sitemap/ – Sitemap is just that. With a single shortcode placed in a page on your WordPress website, you have a functional Sitemap that search engines can use to help index your site. To be SEO friendly, a sitemap is a necessity that you don’t want to overlook. It is a simple, quick step to help others find your website when searching for authors.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/simple-share-buttons-adder/ – Let people pimp your name out! This is our favorite plugin for adding share buttons to your pages and blog posts to help those who love your website and content to share with others on their favorite social media. The buttons are customizable with many different styles and shapes, and they are all gorgeous. As with all of the plugins we list, it’s easy to use, easy to customize, and easy to implement on the pages you choose.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-plugin/ – If you only want one contact form on your website (and you want at least one if you want to keep your email private or keep yourself from wading through hip-deep spam), Contact Form by BestWebSoft is easy to use, and easy to implement. It looks nice, and with a few clicks and minimal setup, you’ll add another level of professionalism to your website to make it shine.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-polls/ – WP-Polls is one of the best and easiest to use polling plugins we have found. Why guess what your newsletter subscribers want? Create a simple poll and ask them! It integrates with all themes, looks gorgeous, and is easy to set up.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/rename-wp-login/ – Afraid of hackers? Want to add extra security to your website? Rename wp-login.php is essential to keeping your website safe. It gives you an extra field to fill in within your WordPress settings that will rename your login area. Make sure its long, isn’t easy to guess, and that you bookmark it once you’ve created it. An example would be your pet’s name with a dash in place of spaces, their birthdate, and place you bought or rescued them from, ie, “fluffy-mcfluffers-10-29-15-city-rescue.php”. Get creative! If the evil-doers can’t find your login page, it’s less likely (but not impossible) they can hack your website.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/ – This awesome little plugin reduces the file size of your images once you have it all set up. Run it from the media area in your wordpress dashboard to smush the file sizes of images you already have, and if you have it set up correctly, it will smush images as you add them. There is a paid version that goes into more details with more features, but the free version is powerful and worth your time just the way it is.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/meteor-slides/ – Meteor Slides has a little more knowledge that needs to go into it, but if you’re looking for an awesome slider to showcase custom slideshows, or to replace your header with slides featuring your books, this is the plugin you want. It’s easy to set up, but in order to replace your header, you need to know how to manipulate PHP at least a little.
AWESOME BOOKS FOR CRAFT AND BUSINESS
Practical Emotional Structure by Jodi Henley – If you have a hard time getting your showing words to mean something and don’t like black and white rules, turbocharge your story with Practical Emotional Structure. A simple, plain-English guide to connecting with your readers using emotional theory and the transformational character arc. Jodi’s words are easy to understand, resonate, and we couldn’t be prouder to say her books are on our shelves and will stay there forever.
Backstory, Motivation and Conflict by Jodi Henley – Didn’t we just say Jodi is awesome? Well, here she is again. Backstory, Motivation and Conflict show you the inner workings of a Developmental Editor’s mind, and show you how to wring your story’s neck and make it better, stronger, and more of the story you wanted to tell, rather than what it came out as when you finished the last page. Her blurb says it all: Do your characters suffer from boring emotional arcs? Have your readers said your characters feel forced or inconsistent, or wondered why your hero and heroine love each other? Do you really understand the transformational character arc, conflict, or where motivation comes from? And have you ever wanted to know the actual mechanics of how to manipulate story emotions so you can produce consistent results? Written in an easy, conversational style, Backstory, Motivation and Conflict makes it easy to understand the theory you need to write emotionally resonant books, each and every time.
2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron – From her blurb: “Have you ever wanted to double your daily word counts? Do you feel like you’re crawling through your story, struggling for each paragraph? Would you like to get more words every day without increasing the time you spend writing or sacrificing quality? It’s not impossible, it’s not even that hard. This is the story of how, with a few simple changes, I boosted my daily writing from 2000 words to over 10k a day, and how you can, too.” If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, this book will help you get higher wordcounts, and if you’re a pantser or a plotster (a pantser who plots but doesn’t outline), you can still use this book for higher word counts without sacrificing time and without sacrificing your love for the story.
Write Faster, Write Smarter 5 book Series by Chris Fox – That’s right. We just linked you to an entire series of books. 5000 Words Per Hour helps you boost your wordcount. Lifelong Writing Habit shows you the benefits of writing every day, whether you want to or not. Write to Market shows you how to boost your sales by knowing your audience and delivering what they want to read. Launch to Market shows you how to make your book launches successful. And Six Figure Author gets your hands dirty by showing you how to collect and use data to sell your books and boost your income. We can’t recommend his books enough. He’s frank, upfront, and his books are actually interesting to read. Nothing dry here.
Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright – Publishing for beginners. Learn the ins and outs of “the current self-publishing landscape” in an easy to digest, easy to follow, and easy to read (and re-read) format. From the blurb: Write. Publish. Repeat. details expert methods for enhancing creativity, building story worlds, characters, and plots, understanding your market (right down to your ideal reader), using the best tools possible to capture your draft, and explains proven best practices for editing. The book also discusses covers, titles, formatting, pricing, and publishing to multiple platforms, plus a bit on getting your books into print (and why that might not be a good idea!). But most importantly, Write. Publish. Repeat. details the psychology-driven marketing plan that Sean and Johnny built to shape their stories into “products” that readers couldn’t help but be drawn into — thus almost automatically generating sales — and explores ways that smart, business-minded writers can do the same to future-proof their careers.
Write it Forward by Bob Mayer – From the blurb: Write It Forward is a one-of-a-kind book focusing on you, the author. In Write It Forward Bob Mayer applies the time- tested strategies of the Green Berets to the world of being a successful author. He has taught thousands of writers over the years, but this new and innovative program probes deeper than words on the page. It is designed to teach writers how to think, plan and become the future best-sellers of the new age of publishing. The benefits you’ll gain from this book will extend far beyond your writing and reach into all areas of your life making dreams a reality.
Outlining Your Novel Boxed Set by K.M. Weiland – Want to learn how to outline better to produce a more coherent book and keep from getting lost? Outlining Your Novel is your greatest friend. K.M. Weiland explains in easy to read and interesting ways how to “help you choose the right type of outline to unleash your creativity, guide you in brainstorming plot ideas, and aid you in discovering your characters.” The boxed set holds both the book and the accompanying workbook to help you along your writing journey.
Gotta Read It! by Libbie Hawker – The blurb says it all: Blurbs, product descriptions, query letters… no matter what you call them, they’re a chore to write. And yet the success of any novel can depend on its pitch. What’s an author to do? In this short, instructive ebook, Libbie Hawker takes the pain out of pitch-writing and shares the secrets of a perfect fiction pitch. Whether you’re an indie writer seeking to improve sales of your self-published novels or an author hoping to hook your dream agent with a can’t-resist query letter, GOTTA READ IT! Is the ebook for you.
How NOT To Write A Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman – This is a truly awesome and hilarious book that shows you how to avoid common writing mistakes, thus enriching your writing and making you a better author. Every page has a laugh and a half while giving you sound, important, and usable information to carry you throughout your writing career.