Writing Advice

10 Easy, Affordable Tools for the Self-Published Author

If you’re a self-published author, you know how hard it is to publish and market on your own. Writing a book is challenging enough without worrying about all the other things that go into publishing and marketing a book. Some authors are fortunate and can afford to hire help, but many aren’t. It’s exhausting being not just the writer, but also the editor and the agent and the publicist and the publisher and the designer and… well, everything, really. It all falls on your shoulders. That can be a crushing burden, especially if you don’t have the skills to create professional-looking content.
 
I would not have been as successful publishing and marketing The Heaven Corporation if I didn’t have the following tools at my disposal. These affordable tools help make everything easier, so I’m going to share those tools with you now.

 

  1. Snappa

    Snappa is a free online tool for creating custom graphics for social media, ads and blogs. It eliminates the need for graphic design expertise and expensive software like Photoshop. Snappa makes it easy to create professional graphics to promote your books and blog. Choose a size template, select one of the free premade designs and edit to your liking. Snappa will allow you to download five of your graphics per month before you’ll need to buy a premium plan at $10 a month. This works out fine for me because I only need Snappa to create featured images for my blog. I update my blog weekly, so I’m only downloading four graphics a month.
     
    Besides unlimited downloads, the subscription comes with other features, like saving graphics and unlimited access to all design templates. If you think Snappa is something you’ll be using frequently, it might be worth your while to subscribe to the premium plan.
  2. Stocksnap

    Stocksnap is partnered with Snappa so if you notice that the images here are the same ones that Snappa offers, well, that would be why. Stocksnap is a fantastic resource for thousands of high-quality images that are free from copyright restrictions. You can freely use, modify, and distribute all of the images on Stocksnap, even for commercial purposes, without worrying about getting caught up in a copyright infringement battle. The images on Stocksnap are great for a variety of purposes. Authors may find them especially useful for book covers and social media graphics.

  3. Canva

    Canva is a free online tool for creating professional book covers. I don’t actually use this one myself. I have some experience with Photoshop so I make my book covers from scratch, but I know this isn’t an option for everyone. For those writers, Canva is the next best thing. It works much the same as Snappa. Choose a premade template you like for your cover, then edit to your liking and save. Some of their templates are free. Others cost money, but the cover designs are sleek and professional. Canva is better suited to ebooks since it doesn’t support back cover designs or spine designs which are needed to produce paperbacks. If you’re an ebook author with no design experience and limited funds, Canva could be a lifesaver for you.

  4. Hemingway Editor

    I will always recommend hiring an editor over using a computer program. At the very least, have several well-read friends look it over. Human eyes are always more reliable than a computer algorithm but if that isn’t an option for you, the Hemingway Editor is a great tool. You can download the desktop app for both Windows and Mac for about $20. You can also use the in-browser editor tool for free. The Hemingway Editor will point out sentences that are difficult to read and let you know if you’re using too many adverbs or passive voice. It will also offer simpler alternatives for complex phrases and tell you what grade level your writing is suitable for. It helps make your writing clear, allowing you to get your point across more effectively. I use this tool all the time for my blog posts.

  5. OpenOffice Writer

    In truth, I recommend Scrivener over OpenOffice Writer, but Scrivener costs $40. OpenOffice is free. A program as flexible as Scrivener is worth $40 but OpenOffice Writer is a good, free alternative. OpenOffice Writer is a word processor with some added features tailored for authors. Custom trim sizes, title pages and support for chapter breaks are just a few of these features. It eliminates a lot of the headaches that come with trying to format your book in a word processor. If Scrivener isn’t an option for you, OpenOffice Writer is the next best free writing tool.
  6. Social Jukebox

    I discovered Social Jukebox through Victoria Griffin’s blog and never looked back. Social Jukebox is a free tool for managing your social media accounts. This leaves you with more time to do what you do best; write your books. Social jukebox allows you to schedule your tweets. Your followers will see daily content from you even when you’re busy writing your next novel. Social Jukebox goes beyond other scheduling tools because it can post a tweet more than once. Write up your tweets, throw them in one of your jukeboxes and Social Jukebox will take care of the rest. I find this useful for promoting my blog posts and book reviews. Once it’s in the jukebox, I never have to worry about it again. It will post to my Twitter feed all on its own. I also have a second jukebox of inspiring tweets for writers to keep my feed balanced. The variety avoids spamming my followers with constant advertisements for The Heaven Corporation.
     
    Social Jukebox’s free service allows you five tweets per day with a maximum of two jukeboxes. There are a variety of paid subscriptions that will allow you to have more jukeboxes and posts per day. Check out the different plans to see which one suits your needs.
  7. Later

    I discovered Later while looking for a way to make bookstagram easier for me to keep up with. Shooting, editing, uploading and tapping out captions on my phone was exhausting. Later saved my bookstagram. If you use Instagram and Facebook a lot to market yourself and your books, you need to be using the Later app. You can schedule your Instagram and Facebook posts so you don’t need to worry about them every day. Install the app on your phone, upload your photos, then use your computer to schedule all your photos at once. You can even save your most used tags and captions to make the process faster. I spend all Sunday shooting, editing and scheduling my bookstagram posts for the rest of the week. After, all I have to do is tap a few buttons to post to Instagram when Later reminds me. By design, Instagram does not allow third party apps to post to your account for you. All Later can do is remind you to post what you already had scheduled but it still saves hours of time every week.
     
    You can make 30 posts a month with Later for free, which allows you to keep your Instagram active on a daily basis. If you want more posts, you’ll need to buy a subscription. The subscription comes with several other perks, like collaborating using groups.
  8. Vistaprint

    If you’re looking for cheap author swag like bookmarks, coffee mugs, t-shirts, tote bags and more, look no further than Vistaprint. Almost anything you might want to sell or give out to readers can be ordered through Vistaprint. You can also custom order promotional posters and signs for your next author event. Take advantage of Vistaprint’s professional design services or create your own designs. I have yet to find another company with such high-quality custom products for such a low price. I order my author bookmarks from Vistaprint and plan to branch out to coffee mugs and tote bags in the future.

  9. 1001 Fonts

    Most people recommend DaFont for free fonts, but DaFont is not suitable for authors. Authors sell their books for profit. The majority of free fonts available on DaFont are only licensed for personal use. You could get yourself into a lot of trouble by using those fonts in your books and on promotional images. The great thing about 1001 Fonts is that many of their fonts are licensed for commercial use. You can filter your searches to only show fonts that are free for commercial use. 1001 Fonts’ commercial fonts also have a green dollar symbol next to them when you search. This makes it easy to find a great font to make your next book cover or promotional image stand out from the crowd.

  10. Write or Die

    This free tool saves my life every year during NaNoWriMo. It kicks me into high gear when I’m reluctant to write. Write or Die forces you to write as much as you can as fast as you can by punishing you for not writing. There are different punishments you can select, like a scary image or a shrill alarm sound. Choose kamikaze mode to pack on the pressure. Kamikaze mode will start erasing what you’ve already written if you stop writing. If you’d rather reward yourself for writing, you can opt for that too. Rewards include pictures of cute kittens, pleasant nature sounds and congratulatory messages.
     
    The basic version of Write or Die is free but for extra options and more fun, I recommend buying the full program for $20. The full version offers a wider variety of punishments and rewards. It also allows you to compete with your friends in word wars to see who can write the most in an allotted time frame. I love my full version. It was worth every penny.

 

So there are my top ten free and/or affordable tools to make self-publishing a stress-free experience for authors. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me. Do you use any free or cheap online tools for your writing that you absolutely swear by? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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