Useful Apps and Tools To Save You Time
This post was inspired by a Facebook question: how do you do it all? And I said: I don’t. I’ve got a list of tools that help me out. This is that list.
I’ve added in a google docs spreadsheet containing most of these tools – scroll down to the bottom of this post to download.
*NOTE* updated 1 Oct 2017
I publish my own books through my own imprint, WaverleyProductions.
For me the biggest advantage of self-publishing is time. Because I am busy, I have to have control of the process; I can’t handle the stress of working to a third-party’s deadline.
I find that now I’m self-publishing, I can create a better book. And ironically, I can do it faster than a traditional house.
But Isn’t Self-Publishing a Lot of Work?
Yes. And No. Not really.
Here’s the truth: writing is always a lot of work. Whether you’re published or self-published you’ll still have to put the words on the page. You still need to interact with readers, whether it’s through social media or author talks; you need to put those hours in.
I’ve heard: ‘I couldn’t self-publish. I don’t have time for all that marketing’. And that same writer will drive for three hours to talk to a book group of ten people. News for you honey: talking to people is marketing. But you’ve just spent a whole day doing it! I can send a tweet or an instagram post and reach 50 people. If they like it they might share it! And it takes me thirty seconds.
The trick with writing, whether self-published or traditional, is to be as hands-off as possible. Find a tool that creates a good product, that you don’t have to spend a lot of time learning and is (ideally) free. The key is AUTOMATION.
Here’s a list of resources that I’ve found really useful. I use most of these tools every day; and together they’ve saved me a fortune in time and money.
1 Canva – Canva is graphic design software lite. Sure, you can’t do as much with it as you can with Adobe or Gimp but it’s SOO much easier! It will take you about 5 minutes to figure out. Plus, it’s free, unless you use a licensed photo. I’ve used it to create bookmarks, book covers and more. The graphic at the top of this blog was created in Canva. The only downside? You can spend ages touching up the filters!
2 Smartmockups – Smartmockups was created by two graphic designers, who were sick of creating boring mockups! Wouldn’t be easier, they thought, if we make a package that’s are so easy to use that no-one will bother us ever again?
Most of the images on this blog of my books inside an iPhone or as a 3D cover were made on Smartmockups.
There is a free application, but I ended up paying the one-off license charge, because it contained a lot more options.
Smart Mockups have recently created a whole new range of book mockups. They’re not that flash TBH 🙁
3 Vellum – this magic software allows you to format your own e-book within a couple of hours! It is the best investment I ever made. Created by two pixar engineers, it only work on a mac, but it’s super simple to use and produces a very high-quality e-pub or mobi file. Update: a print-ready file option is now available! I’ve not yet tried this, but some authors have and rave about it. It’s quite an expensive upgrade at $149.00 USD so I’m sticking to my print-ready template for now.
The price is $29.99 for a single license. I ended up paying for the unlimited license, as it just freed me up so much.
4 Facebook – enough said.
5 Pixabay – this is a catalogue of stock art. Licensed under the creative commons, images can be downloaded for free. I download them and manipulate them in canva. Many of the images on this website were from Pixabay. Some are really really great quality, so it’s worth taking time to discover your favourite photographers.
6 RecurPost – a scheduling tool for social media. You can load it up with content, and create libraries of say, blog posts. If you’re reading this later than March 2017, chances are you’ve found it from a recur-generated tweet! This little baby allows me to recycle useful content over and over again. It takes a couple of hours to set it up, and then you’re good to go. I check it every two weeks or so to make sure I’m not repeating myself too often. The basic plan (which I use) is free.
7 Draft2Digital – a publishing and distribution agent. This is super easy to use, and distributes your books to most online platforms. It normally takes me around 30 mins to publish a book with this honey. It’s not free, but you pay as a percentage of your earnings, so there’s no upfront fee, and the royalties are reasonably modest. Plus, they pay out monthly.
OCT 17 NOTE: D2D have added some additional functions to their platform. These include: free access to Books2Read Universal Links. These are fab and save SO much time. Click HERE to see an example. They’ve also enabled beautiful ebook formatting – nice for non-Vellum users. And of course, an audio publishing option through Findaway Voices. I’ve not used this as my sales don’t justify this. But for big sellers, it’s an interesting alternative to other audio platforms
8 BookFunnel – this platform allows easy sharing of share digital files with readers. If you’ve downloaded my any of my extra giveaways, chances are you’ve done it through Bookfunnel. There’s an alternative called instafreebie, which is also good, but I prefer the word ‘bookfunnel’! This wee wonder is a whole lot easier than putting files on your website (believe me, I’ve tried it!) and a lot more secure. It costs around $20 per year for the basic plan.
Oct 17 NOTE: Bookfunnel have just added bundling promos and a paid platform. The book promos are fab, I’ve done a few, with amazing results. They can format a book page so it looks beautiful! Here’s a link to Welcome to Faery, my freebie page so you can check it out.
9 Mailchimp – this is a newsletter and list management platform. It’s free for the first 2000 subscribers then ramps up quickly. It’s not that intuitive to use, but they have helpful videos. It took me ages to send my first email, but now it takes about 20 minutes. It works really nicely with book funnel, too, so I can add a link to my newsletter and a ‘download here’ button , and my subscribers can grab their giveaway. (Did I mention that I’m nice like that :)) *NOTE* I’m now over the 2K and MC is too expensive for me at $USD55 per month. I’m currently trialling Mailjet (approx $10USD per month). This tool is definitely not as good as Mailchimp. I know a lots of writers use Mailerlite, but Mailjet is about half the cost of Mailerlite.
10 WordPress.org – this is a website platform. Others are Wix and SquareSpace. Personally, I prefer wordpress, as it’s got a whole heap of additional plug ins that are very inexpensive. This website is a wordpress.org on a Genesis theme.
Websites aren’t free; you need to pay for the hosting and the domain name. But they’re very useful, and they are a lot of fun. Cost is dependant on the theme and whether or not you pay a developer. If you want a free solution, you can try Tumblr, wordpress.com or blogspot. (I’ve tried two of these, so have inserted links so you can see what you can do with them). However, after trying a few alternatives, I prefer a proper website.
11 Youtube – Nuff said.
12 Google analytics – this is super powerful reporting software. It’s not that easy to use — like most google products — but it’s very useful. Through analytics you can track whether or not people are looking at your site. You can see how they came to you (social, search, whatever) and you can see where they’re based. I know, for example, that most people find me through search or Facebook. Google analytics is free.
13 Yoast – this is a plugin, not an app. It’s free, and although it takes a while to figure out, is a super powerful way to ensure your site shows up on search engines. Did I mention that most people find me through search? Since I set up Yoast, I’ve had a doubling of traffic. If you need help setting it up, check on Youtube. There’s a whole heap of helpful videos.
14 SumoMe – the contact me field below and the pop-ups inviting you to download a fairytale for free are by SumoMe. This plug in is free for the basic plan. It takes a while to figure out (I watched a youtube video) but once learned, it’s easy to maintain. I’ve had this going for about 10 months, and have about 2 – 3 sign-ups per week on it.
15 My Book Progress – this is for fun, but I love it. It’s a free plugin, and helps you keep track of where you’re up to with your writing. If you click to my home page and scroll down, you’ll see what it looks like. – *1 Oct NOTE* – I’ve removed this now, as it seemed to slow down my site, but I kind of miss it :).
NEW – OCT 17
16 K-Lytics – this site offers lists of keywords and high-ranking Amazon categories. It’s not cheap, although there are free teaser trailers that you can review. If you’re a prolific writer, or have a whole lot of back-list books that you’re wondering what to do with, my feeling is this is a worthwhile investment. Alex Newton, who runs the site, is super helpful and very approachable if you have questions.
17 ABlurb – another writer kindly told me about this. This is the coolest, most basic tool I’ve yet discovered. Want to format your Amazon book description so it actually looks nice? As in, as nice as this website looks – with paragraph breaks, italics and larger headers? This tool does it for you! Just type in your words and use the html shortcodes below the tool to see how your description will look.
18 PublishDrive – an online book distribution company with a focus on European and non-English-speaking markets. The front facing platform took a little while to learn and the English of the support crew is a bit weird (they’re Hungarian). But I’ve actually made some sales on this platform, so hey! give it a try! You can access Google Books this way.
19 Adazing – Book marketing. This site has a free 3D ebook cover creator. You pop your email in, upload a pic of your book cover and hey presto, they email you a 3D book cover. Very nice. Only downside: the image is a low-res so you can’t use it as a big image, and of course you go onto their email list – you can unsubscribe tho. Here’s a sample of the image they produce:
Download The List
But wait! There’s more!
Here’s some suggestions from other authors. I’ve not used these so I can’t make any comment their functionality or cost:
- Smashwords publishing platform offers more online bookstores than D2D, apparently. I’ve not used S/W – I took one look at the website and my brain shouted: ‘Run away! Run far away!’
- Scrivener. Again, I faded on this. But I know heaps of people use this writing software and love it.
- Pro Writing Aid. I’ve not tried this yet, but it looks intriguing
- Visme. Someone from this graphics tool got in touch, I’ve not tried it, but it looks interesting.
- Pronoun. A book distribution supplier. I’ve not used this, but a lot of writers use it to access Google Play.
And that’s it — for the meantime, anyway. This is a growing field so I imagine I’ll be updating this post in the future.
Any thoughts? Any other tools you’d recommend?
Disclosure: a couple of these links are affiliate links. My comments are made regardless of this linkages and I’ve only taken affiliates from products I’d recommend.