11 (mostly) free self publishing tools for your next best seller

If you’ve got the creative urge to put out a book, there’s a bunch of (mostly) free self publishing tools and resources to help get you out there as a self-made author. My latest book, Create Or Hate, launched last week. It’s my fourth foray into the world of self publishing. Back before my first book, The 7 Day Startup, I never even considered myself a writer, let alone a published author. Since then my books have been ordered 55,000 times on Amazon and translated into 9 languages.

Here’s what I used to get my books out into the wild without a book deal.  No need to wait 17 years for a book deal like renowned author Steven Pressfield did!

Dribbble

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First impressions count – make sure your front cover doesn’t create a bad or indifferent one.

With Create Or Hate I spent a lot of time on the front cover concept and design. I had a vision for exactly what I wanted it to be and went through a few designers to get it. Good design is an art and a skill, so if you can afford it hire a world class designer  to help you. But don’t just leave it up to them, it’s your vision they will be executing.

A great resource for finding designers is a site called Dribbble, which is a community showcasing the work of elite designers, typographers and illustrators. They bill themselves as a ‘show and tell site for designers’, with contributors sharing small screenshots of their work, processes and current projects. It’s a hub to promote, discover and explore design.

Google Docs

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Google Docs is an online word processor that lets you create and format text documents and collaborate with other people in real time. All of your documents are stored in the one location, Google Drive, which syncs all devices with the cloud.

Google Docs took the place of Microsoft Word for my document creation about 5 years ago. It’s where all of my books and blog posts have been drafted.

It’s a much more collaborative way of sharing and updating information, allowing all with a stake in the document to be across it in real time. This allowed me to engage in two-way feedback as the drafts of my books were being refined.

Trello

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Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into tasks on boards. I like to think of it as the post it notes of the online world. Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

Trello is my app of choice for planning and organizing. I’ve used it extensively to map out the process of writing my books. It provides me with the structure to manage my ‘to do’ lists as well as those of my support team, for example assigning action items and inserting automated tasks. It’s very versatile and allows me to move tasks and items around with a minimum of fuss.

It also has useful project management applications. I assign color coding to tasks to keep up to speed on how things are tracking. I also use it to gather testimonials as they come in for the books, which are gold for website copy and Amazon copy. And best of all it’s free!

Thunderclap

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Thunderclap is a bit like an online flash mob. Join a Thunderclap, and you and others will mass-share the same single message at the same time via one or all of Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. It’s a useful tool for making some real noise above the general chatter of your social networks.

I used it to pre-schedule promo tweets for my second book Content Machine.

Upviral

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Upviral is a rewards based content sharing tool that can deliver highly effective referral marketing campaigns by encouraging ambassadors to promote your business for you. The way Upviral works is you set up a landing page for people to opt into to be notified of the launch. After they opt in, they are encouraged to share the news and earn rewards.

For Create or Hate, we had hundreds of social shares as a result of the Upviral campaign. I gave away copies of my previous books to get people sharing. The person who won the competition was responsible for 51 people opting into the email opt-in page.

Drip

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Drip is an email management tool that lets you send out marketing emails to targeted groups automatically on a schedule. MailChimp is an adequate starting point, but Drip is where you can take your email list creation and management to the next level.

Although somewhat ‘old school’, email is still highly effective in getting people’s buy-in, so the importance of creating and building email lists cannot be underestimated.

I’ve used Drip for delivering automated email sequences around book related milestones and announcements, both pre and post launch. I also use it to communicate with book Ambassadors, allowing me to reach out to them directly and create a personable, trusting relationship so that they feel inspired to help spread the word once the book hits. Once the book was launched I sent a few emails encouraging people to grab it and spread the news.

Related: How I used Drip in my 7 Day Startup business.

OptimizePress for landing pages

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OptimizePress is a tool that lets you create landing pages, sales pages and membership portals within WordPress.

If you’re launching a book you’ll need a landing page to direct customers to sign up to be notified of the launch. After the launch you’ll need one to encourage people to buy the book.

Building a landing page is a crucial skill for today’s online entrepreneur. Luckily it’s fairly simple these days with tools like OptimizePress, which is what I used for both my Black Hops: Operation Brewery and Create Or Hate book landing pages.

I like OptimizePress as it allows me to customize designs and having unlimited control on the look and feel of my landing page for a one off fee.

If you’re looking for simplicity and are happy using generic templates then LeadPages is another option out there. Both convert well on mobile devices, which is important.

CreateSpace

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CreateSpace is an Amazon-owned on-demand publishing platform. What that means is when someone orders one of my books on Amazon, it’s printed right then and sent. You don’t have to pre-print thousands of books.  

Setup is free and simple, they just take a commission of the sales.

A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to have books published.

Related: How to Self Publish Your Book With Amazon’s CreateSpace

Amazon KDP

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If you’re choosing to self-publish and already using CreateSpace then it also makes sense to tap into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for the e-book side of things.

It takes less than 5 minutes to self-publish your books to Kindle using Amazon KDP and lets you keep control of the whole process, and again it’s free. I use a process called KDP Select where I give my books away for the first few days. This allows my audience to read the book and leave a review. It ranks well in the free store and when it goes over to paid, it has some momentum.

InDesign

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Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing software application that lets you design your own posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers..and also books.

I used it for the design and layout of the print version of all of my books. Essentially you’re working with frames to layout your text and images. It’s easy to use and allows you to present a professional look and feel. It’s not free unfortunately, I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription because I regularly use Photoshop and Illustrator.

Jutoh

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Jutoh is a flexible ebook creator which splits a book file into sections or chapters, according to whatever criteria you set. Many ebook production programs only let you publish in Epub format, but Jutoh is also compatible with Kindle and Mobi, which is used by Amazon. It’s also compatible across multiple devices and is reasonably priced. My formatter Chris takes the InDesign file and republishes it in Jutoh for getting the extra formats.

I wrote Create Or Hate to inspire people to reject the inner voice of self-doubt and get to work on pursuing their creative urges. If writing a book is your creative calling, with this arsenal of self-managed support tools and resources at your disposal there’s nothing to stop you from making the leap from wannabe author to self-published writer.

Thanks to Unsplash for the feature image.

  • Great list Dan. Thanks for the mention of OptimizePress here too – myself and some of our team are big fans of Create or Hate and 7 Day Startup. Keep up the good work mate.

  • Awesome post Dan and look forward to using some of these for my book launch. I too was considering Google docs but I”m going to with Scrivener for writing and organizing my book. Not sure if you know but it also allows you to format and convert directly from it into ePub and Mobi.

  • Some great tools, thanks! I make use of Amazon KDP Select a lot, will have to look into the other tools!

  • Kellie Stocker

    this is amazing, thanks so much for this great info.