Being a self-published author means not only writing the books, but project managing the publication and marketing of those books. Over the 7+ years I’ve been doing this independent publisher gig, tools and websites have come and gone, and I’ve probably tried most of them.
This list contains what I currently use (as of October 2023) in my workflow from first draft to publication and marketing and beyond.
(Strap in. This is a long one).
Writing and drafting – Scrivener
I am a plantser, which means I plot enough to allow the story to go off on tangents I hadn’t thought of, but I know most of my big story points and milestones so I don’t go too far off track and get lost. The amount of plotting I do depends on the story, and each one is different.
Scrivener allows me to reorganise chapters and scenes as I write if the order of story elements needs to change, and it allows me to organise my outline in a way that makes sense to me.
I love its flexibility, which means it can morph and change as I need it to.
It does have a one-off cost, but you can download a free trial to see if it’s for you.
Ebook and Print Book Formatting – Atticus
You can write your draft in Atticus as well, but I prefer to just use Atticus for my formatting. It’s built specifically for authors, and it makes formatting ebooks and print books so much easier than wrangling word documents into shape. It’s quite intuitive, and if you’re just starting out, you can use their pre-built templates.
I’ve developed templates for my own series’, which means all of the books in a single series will look the same, and I don’t have to remember what font I used or what size, whether I used drop caps or decorative chapter headings. Atticus saves all of those for you.
It has all of the usual sizes for print books, and links with another tool I use, Bookbrush, to create gorgeous fullpage images, chapter headings and scene breaks.
It’s also a one-off cost, but is well worth the time saving for creating beautiful books easily and quickly.
I’ve used several cover designers over the years, and my current go-to is Get Covers. They create beautiful covers, quickly and relatively cheaply, and they really know their stuff.
I’ve also used Reedsy (also has an online book formatting program), which is a curated marketplace for cover designers, interior designers, formatters, marketers, editors and illustrators. It’s basically a one-stop shop for everything you could need to publish your book, and you’ll be working with some of the best in the world. That’s because the freelancers on Reedsy are curated by Reedsy, and have worked for some of the biggest publishers across the world, and with some of the biggest authors.
That does mean that the services on Reedsy are not cheap, but you will be accessing publishing and book industry knowledge. I would suggest a budget of at least $2,000 for cover design and interior formatting (ebook and print) if you use Reedsy, but you will get something that is bang on for the market you’re trying to hit.
Printing and Publishing
When it comes to publishing books, the biggest ebook publisher is Amazon KDP. You can access that at kdp.amazon.com
KDP also does print books, and I do upload my print files into the KDP platform, but I don’t use their global distribution because I use IngramSpark for that. Amazon have their own printers, and will print your books on demand as readers buy them.
I’m a huge advocate of going direct where you can because you keep the highest amount of royalties, so I publish directly to KDP. Although I have books on Kobo, I have since started using Draft2Digital as my aggregator of choice for my ebooks to access all other markets (except for Amazon).
D2D also gets you access to library markets through Overdrive, and smaller international ebook retailers as well. It means you upload your ebook file once and all your sales comes back through D2D and then to you.
For print distribution, I use IngramSpark. You can use IS for ebook distribution as well, but I prefer to only use them for my print books. I use their wide distribution, as that allows readers to buy from their preferred bookstores online and in person. I have consistent sales through IS, which is a nice bonus each month.
I also buy my print books for in-person events from IS because, being an Australian, postage costs and times from overseas, where Amazon have their printers, just isn’t viable. I can order a box of books from IS and have them within a week if I need them quickly.
It’s also allowed me to have some wholesale agreements with small businesses that I wouldn’t have if I couldn’t get books printed and delivered economically and quickly.
For my marketing resources (ads, launch graphics, flyer design etc), I use Canva and Bookbrush. Bookbrush has pre-set templates for ebooks, audiobooks and print books that allow you to plug in your cover design and download a read-made cover reveal graphic or launch day graphic within minutes.
Canva takes a little bit more work, but if you have a background in design, or are confident in design, then you get many more options to create content that relates directly to your brand (and you should have a brand!)
For my email list (you should have an email list!) I use Mailerlite. I’ve used Mailchimp in the past, but Mailerlite is by far my favourite option. You can also use basic sites like Tiny Letter which is a free, basic version of Mailchimp without the bells and whistles, or Substack which is useful for non-fiction authors, and allows you to put some of your content behind a subscription paywall for extra income.
For ebook distribution for my mailing list freebies and other giveaways, I use Bookfunnel. It’s a paid platform, but they handle the distribution and support so you don’t have to. Well worth the money, and you’re able to give away ebooks of any description, as well as audiobooks.
Booklinkr is a free site that gives you one website link to your book listings on Amazon across their stores. Instead of having to create separate links for each country’s store (US, AU, EU etc), Booklinkr provides one single link that when clicked, will take a reader to their country’s store.
I’ve started selling books directly to readers both online and in person, and the two platforms I use for this are my Square site (print) and Payhip (digital). Payhip also allows you to sell print books now, but it didn’t when I first started. I use Square because I like their hardware for in-person sales, and the ability to track my stock.
Square and Payhip are both free to sign up, and Square offers a free site option (which I use), which is enough to get started selling online. Both stores take a percentage of sales in fees, but it’s minimal compared to other options (especially for in-person sales with EFTPOS machines from banks).
When you start selling internationally, you’ll realise how much you lose in fees when you get your royalties deposited directly into your bank account. For this reason, I have a free Wise account, with accounts in most currencies I sell in so that I don’t lose out doubly on foreign exchange fees. I get my Amazon and Draft2Digital royalties deposited directly into my Wise account, exchange the amounts into my currency at the end of each month (AU), and then transfer into my business bank account. Compared to the $12+ transaction fee I was getting charged for each foreign deposit into my Australian bank account, $1-2 in fees, depending on my deposit amounts, is next to nothing.
I also have a Paypal account, as currently that’s what IngramSpark pays out to for anything other than $US. The fees on paypal are similar to Wise and Square.