Writing Tools and Links

old booksThese are some useful tools and information websites for writers. My favorites are in bold type.

Also, I’m breaking this list into individual, focused pages. Check them for new & updated links: Book Cover Designing Resources (Free) /

Free, Random, Useful, and Quirky

The Advertising Slogan Generator – Useful for subtitles and sarcasm.

The Alphabetizer – When you want to create a tidy, alphabetical list. (Here’s another: Alphabetical Order Tool.)

Textalyzer will analyze the first 1,000 words in any document. Lexicool will help you analyze a longer section, but be sure to double-check its accuracy.

Inflation Calculator – For example, when you need to know how much $1,000 (in 1927) would be worth, today.

Remove Line Breaks – When you’re cutting-and-pasting text, and you just want those pesky line breaks (or even paragraph breaks) to go away.

Creative Commons Search – When you need a free image or content you can use — not copyright free but with minimal terms & restrictions.

Convert to Title (lots of options) – When You Want To Capitalize Every Word In An Entire Sentence. (I have no idea why, but there it is.)

Convert File will help you work with pesky formats.

Editing, Proofreading, and Rewrites

Hemingway App is a free, desktop tool that highlights problems in your writing. Brilliant. Useful. I love it!

Pen Names and Profiles

Fake Name Generator – The simplest way to think of a good pen name.

MorphThing – Perfect for profiles. (Tip: If you still want to look at little like you, start with your own photo and morph it with just one celeb.)

Cartoonizer – Some people rave about this site, to “cartoonize” your real photo or one that’s morphed. I didn’t have much luck, but you might.

Cover Graphics and Illustrations

It’s key to remember that all graphics are copyrighted as soon as they’re created.  Unless the copyrights have expired (generally, pre-1923 works), they’re not in the public domain.  However, some artists and photographers allow their work to be used with some or no restrictions, via things like Creative Commons or Copyleft licensing.

FreeImages.com (formerly Stock.xchng) – I’ve been using them since forever.  Search using the “no restrictions” option.  You’ll want to double-check with the artists and photographers to be sure you can use their graphics on covers, and it’s polite to credit them for their work in your book.

MorgueFile.com – Not what it sounds like, it’s one of the best of the free graphics sites you can use without permission. IMPORTANT: Many (most?) specify creating derivative works, not using their images on commercial works, as-is.

PD Photo – Since the 1990s, one of the original sites for free photos and images.

Freerange Stock Community – Not the easiest to navigate, but some high-quality photos make it worth the trouble.

Cover Design Ideas

To get cover design ideas, check Pinterest’s Best Book Covers and Goodreads’ Best Book Covers Lists (for example: 2012, 2015). Also see Design Observer Group’s “top 50″ winners (check their latest nods to good covers). And, one of my favorites for at-a-glance inspiration, The Book Cover Archive. Remember, some of those are great printed book covers, not so great as Kindle covers.

Another site worth mentioning, not quite so good due to navigation speed, but it may be the inspiration you need: Greatest Book Covers. That link takes you to over 2k big covers… at a site with over 450k covers from comics & more.

For interesting and basic tips about creating covers, hear ePublish Unum’s show with Aaron Wood and John Ward and read the related comment thread. That website is another really useful resource for authors.

Tip: If you see a book cover layout that you like, use it as inspiration or a template for your own, unique design.  My problem with most commercial cover templates is: Too many people use them, and they quickly become clichés.

Many best-selling books use covers loosely based on the Rule of Thirds, or some other tried-and-true geometric rules.  You will not go wrong if you keep the Rule of Thirds in mind.

Great reference: Composition: Using the Rule of Thirds on your Cover.

Free Fonts for Commercial Use

Font Squirrel – I absolutely love these!

Misprinted Type – Freeware fonts can be used on commercial projects. Weird, very grungy, and quirky.

Fonts Cafe – Snag the free fonts and support the designers, too. Those are stand-out-in-the-crowd fonts.

Free fonts, but be sure to check the terms of use: DaFont.com, Fontspace, Abstract Fonts,

If you’ve seen a book cover with a font you love, but you don’t know what the font is, use What the Font (if you have a digital copy of it) or Identifont (if you have to describe it in words).

Lots of freebies related to design and how you use fonts: Spoon Graphics.  I signed up for his premium content access and it’s worth every cent.

Tip: Make sure your font is readable in thumbnail size.  Some artistic fonts are a little too difficult to read when they’re tiny and competing with your cover graphic.

Not free, but very good: DesignCuts.com, CreativeMarket.com, and InkyDeals.com

Cover Templates (Printed books)

Generally, sites like Create Space provide excellent made-to-measure cover templates. However, if you’re publishing a workbook or other printed book with a trim size of 8.5″ x 11″, CS might not offer what you need.

Here’s where you can build and download the cover template you need: http://bookow.com/resources.php#createspace-cover-template-generator

Formatting – Free Tools

First, remember that Kindle accepts a wide range of formats, including PDFs and DOCs.  When you’re starting out, you don’t have to do your own formatting. Your Kindle books may not look gorgeous, but they’re good enough when you’re getting started.

If you’re using Draft2Digital (aka “D2D”), they accept a lot of formats and turn it into a nice looking book (for multiple digital distributors, including Nook, Kobo, and iTunes) for free.

Calibre is open-source software that not only formats from DOCX, PDF, and TXT (and a lot more), but it also formats to most ebook file formats, including AZW3, ePUB, and MOBI. Some people swear by it. I’ve tried it for a few books, and wanted to swear at it.  Going from PDF or DOC to ePub, and vice versa, it made all kinds of ugly changes.  So, it may work for you, but I’ve thrown in the towel on it.

Marketing

“Perma-free” means your book is always free, even at Kindle. It can be a smart tactic for the first book (or an intro book) in a series. Though (as of late 2014) you can’t make your book free at Amazon, you can make it free at Nook, Kobo, etc., and then ask Amazon to price-match your book. (To understand how this method works, this thread at Goodreads is helpful.)

Also see what Nick Stephenson says. Rock-solid advice, especially useful if you’ve bought a marketing course or report that overwhelms you. (If it does, it’s probably bad advice.)

Distribution

I love Draft2Digital.com. They charge nothing up-front, and add my books to Kobo, Nook, iBooks (iTunes), and so on. Their commissions seem fair to me, for how much time I save (and how much more I earn) when I have an easy way to list my books in other, popular outlets.

Smashwords.com may be the biggest indie distributor. I’ve read rave reviews, but my eyes crossed when I saw their formatting requirements. If you go that route, this checklist may help.

Other Writing Tools

These aren’t free, but — for now — they’re tools I use and like… some more than others.  None of these are affiliate links, so don’t worry: These are honest reviews. I don’t earn anything by recommending them.

Scrivener – Just get it and learn how to use it. Really. It’s overwhelming at first, so I put off learning for years. Silly me. It’s not as scary as it seemed at first, and it’s streamlined my note-taking, outlining, writing, illustrating, and publishing… big time.  (I recommend “Scrivener Unleashed” as the best course for learning how to use Scrivener on a Mac. David Lee Martin also has a truly wonderful Scrivener for Windows course. And, see lots of tips at Gwen Hernandez’ site, especially her insights about Compiling in Scrivener.)

Jutoh – You may want this writing & formatting software if you are a control freak (like me) and you’re willing to go through a learning curve.  This software is usually the first kid on the block to add new features as Amazon, et al, release them.  It also formats for all kinds of books, not just Kindle.

However, it does not include the writing-related bells & whistles that Scrivener does.

If you’re a Linux fan and think Gimp is better than Photoshop, you might love this software. Since learning to use Scrivener, and relying on Draft2Digital for many of my other books, I rarely use Jutoh.

New Novelist 3 – Plotting, character building, and writing software, but only for Windows computers.  Sometimes, I use this to plan my stories.  Their mix-and-match plotting tools — based on the hero’s journey concept — earns my highest praise. I couldn’t have written my early BOTS and fictional works without it. (As of late 2014, I rely on it less, but it’s still a good product.)

Focus@Will – I used this for months, to get in the habit of staying focused. I feel that it improved my concentration, my writing, and my word count.  As of Jan 2016, I haven’t used it for months, but if I need more focus in the future, I’ll go back to it in a blink. I’m one of many writers who believe this tool can really help.

(March 2016 update: If you’re on automatic billing, double-check your account if you don’t plan to renew. Make sure it really is cancelled, and — if you’re using PayPal — be sure the subscription isn’t active. I don’t think this is a routine problem for them, but my account seemed to fall through the cracks.)

Who have I hired…? These are the people and products my staff and I have relied on for specific tasks. (At the moment, my “staff” is my friend Jane, who represents other authors, as well. I also rely on my agent, Marc, who’s a long-time friend and represents far more famous people than me.)

Vikncharlie – For great bookcovers, especially gothic and moody imagery.  Her work is excellent, delivered quickly, and I have no copyright concerns. (Fiverr)

Songnet – If you need a voice for your videos or podcast intros & outros, this is the man to hire. (Fiverr)

Ninona – Lovely illustrations! When she’s available, hire her. (She was at Fiverr. I’m not sure if she’ll be back.)

 

 

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