Some Great Resources For Writers

These days, writers – especially self-published writers – typically need to do their own marketing, book and cover design and… well, everything!

In the course of my own writing journey, I encountered some good resources and added them to my list – and thought it might be a good idea to share it with other struggling indie authors. That said, I compiled a short list of free self-publishing platforms, ecommerce sites, file converters, royalty-free image sources, useful reference pages and cover design/3d mockup sites that should help make your workload as an indie writer easier!

Self-publishing platforms:

I’ve only included the free platforms in this list, since I view self-publishing platforms that levy fees for the very basic opportunity of publishing a book, with contempt. That said, here is a list of fine FREE self-publishing platforms:

Smashwords: Smashwords gives the user complete control over eBook distribution, pricing, library access etc. and is also completely free. Their distribution channels are impressive and will get your eBooks to most of the usual channels – except Amazon, unless your book reaches a minimum sales point on the other channels first. (No idea why they do that, since other platforms all provide unrestricted access to Amazon even on free membership.) Smashwords’ dashboard gives a great amount of detail, including daily sales updates via various channels. They pay out monthly via Paypal and their cut is reasonable. The only thing I can complain about re Smashwords is the pedantic, anal level of micro-management when it comes to formatting of uploaded manuscripts – and each time their system finds a comma out of place or perhaps a paragraph which is styled slightly different to the rest of the text, the book is flagged and the user receives a string of snarky emails to ‘stick to the Smashwords guide’! Other than that, once you’ve got past the hiccups and pedantic obsession with their style guide, Smashwords is a joy to use – they have several sales per year, with customizable pricing! I rate them at FOUR STARS.

EBooks2go: This platform make self-publishing a book simple and easy. Although I’ve only used them to distribute my eBooks in the last year or so, they do also tie into the paperback market, with options to facilitate turning them into audiobooks as well. Their distribution channels differ from and overlap slightly with most other platforms, and their help team is responsive, friendly and I’ve found them to be helpful. Their dashboard is informative and updates daily with new sales. They’re free to use – and uploading and publishing new titles is a simple, easy business! Once you’re used to the form you need to fill out while doing so… and just remember to click “save and continue” and not “save and exit” if you want to actually publish your work, or it will lie there in limbo until you figure it out! Also, from what I can tell, you need to supply your own ISBN number (which is easy if you already have a free one from another platform for the same version of your book). I’ve had modest sales via EBooks2go in the last year or so (and these are increasing since I’ve moved the rest of my titles there from Lulu and expanded their distribution) – and they pay out via Paypal without much fuss. The only bone of contention I have with them is their vague understanding of their own phrase “three business working days” when it comes to money actually being paid into my Paypal account. FOUR STARS.

Draft2Digital: I’ve had some of my books on D2D since sometime last year, and as of July this year I’ve also added most of them there to increase my distribution. Perhaps it’s a little soon to tell, but although I’ve selected distribution options in order to not clash with those selected on other platforms, I still haven’t had a single sale via this platform. As I said, more mainstream distribution options haven’t been activated to prevent duplication on book selling platforms, so it’s probably not a true reflection of what D2D can really do if I went all-out D2D. That said, their upload (publishing) interface is simple and easy to use, they’re free (most importantly) and they pay out via Paypal. FOUR STARS.

StreetLib: I only added my books to this platform about a month ago and as yet have not made any sales from it – although it has to be said that the channels I selected are mostly to smaller markets in primarily non-English-speaking countries (Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the like) – but they do offer mainstream distribution like Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Baker & Taylor, Overdrive etc. etc. – which I couldn’t use since the same books are already being distributed there via other platforms. StreetLib does have a very easy to use uploader and a simple dashboard – and the longest list of linked distribution channels on offer I’ve ever seen, so I’m very impressed! Most importantly, they’re free, they pay out to Paypal and offer free ISBN’s. FOUR STARS. Lulu used to be my mainstay self-publishing platform between 2005 and 2020, until they performed what they described as a ‘long overdue upgrade’ – and which, as far as I’m concerned, turned out to be nothing less than a disaster of Brobdingnagian proportions! Although still free to use (if you do everything yourself – as I’ve always done) Lulu has done away with everything on the dashboard that allowed users to keep thorough tabs on their sales and distribution, scrapped their perfect publishing and design wizard and replaced it with some monstrosity that no longer accepts Word manuscripts – and also chucked away any previous sales databases in the process. Logging in at Lulu is a pain in the ass too, since even when the correct password is entered, some users keep getting referred back to the log-in page. Their help desk has also deteriorated and most likely imploded under the weight of complaints from irate users. On the plus side, they’re still free, offer free ISBN’s, and their distribution channels are still good. They accommodate eBook and paperbacks, pay out in paper checks (useless in South Africa) or Paypal, and they don’t take a heavy slice of the royalties.  Another thing that hasn’t changed is their habit of only updating sales figures after the 5th of every month, so you would spend the rest of the month checking in the vain hope of seeing sales updates. It’s up to you if you want to choose Lulu or not, but as you can see from previous examples there are other free platforms that don’t treat the user as an afterthought. I rate them at TWO STARS.

ECommerce & Distribution Service Providers:

Payhip: I saw a writer raving about how many books he was selling via Payhip some time ago, and rushed over to give them a try. Payhip is not a publisher or distributor of any kind – they’re an ecommerce solution that allows users to upload digital content and sell it. As such they’re free (Payhip only takes a cut of each sale). EBooks are easy to upload in any format you choose (epub, mobi or pdf, or all three), and you can include a cover or any other images you’d like the buyer to have with it. You can create “collections” for a series or box-set if you like, and set pricing. They pay out conveniently via Paypal. You can also set affiliate marketing as you choose – and share the link on your social media pages or on your book website etc. But there it ends. They don’t advertise or distribute for you – that’s entirely your baby – but to be fair, they don’t claim to. They also don’t respond to help-email suggestions to improve anything in the marketing department. As such, I’ve had most of my books up there for close on 2 years, including the free download samples, and still not had a single sale – despite some of them receiving over 150 views (probably from bots). I’ve opted to just leave it all up there just in case people seem my profile and titles – as a free marketing exercise.

File Converters:

These are services offered for free online via conversion engines that will convert a file from one format to another for free.

Ebook Online Convert.comNeed to convert your Word doc into an epub? An epub into mobi? Or a Mobi into Word? This free online tool will convert just about any file into anything.

Google Drive: Need to convert a scan (or a photo) of typed pages into editable text? Use Google Drive – there’s a nice free built in OCR function that allows you to convert images of typed text into editable text – with fewer errors than any app I’ve ever seen! I even used it on photos taken with a mobile phone camera which I emailed to myself and then uploaded, with brilliant results! Plus the storage is a brilliant way to safeguard your files from data loss.

Royalty-Free Image Sources:

Pixabay: The best royalty-free FREE image library on the web.

Pexels: Another very nice royalty-free FREE image library where you can find elements or complete images you can use to make book covers or posters etc. without paying a cent or having to give attribution to the creator.

Public Domain VectorsFree clipart site.

Cover Creators/3d Mockup Generators:

MyEcovers: This nice online app will help you to turn your 2d book covers into 3d mockups for displaying on your website or Facebook page. Although they are a paid service, you can open a free account and use the small selection of templates to make very nice 3d mockups of your books! (You can save them as png files and transpose the covers over a variety of backgrounds using other apps, like PowerPoint.)

DIYBookcovers: This great free site will allow you to create great 3d mockup marketing images you can download as png files to transpose over other backgrounds.

AbsoluteCovers: This online service will allow you to create some nice free 3d mockups of your book covers.

Covervault: If you use Photoshop to create covers and posters and marketing material for your books, this site has a truckload of free template files to download – for FREE.

Dunnnk: While not entirely about books, they offer free means to put your book cover on the screen templates of laptops, phone, and smart-watches for marketing purposes.

Useful Free Reference Tools:

Free Character Name Generator: This easy to use tool will help your pick original and authentic-looking names for your characters!

List of Hairstyles (unisex): An non-exhaustive list of hairstyle descriptions and names for males and females.

Men’s Facial Hairstyle Names: Need to know the difference between side-burns and muttonchops for your character description? Consult this interesting list!

Well there you are! I hope you find this list of resources useful!

Until next time, keep reading!

Cheers! 🙂

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If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2020. 

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