The Professional Writing Resources I Use for All Parts of the Writing and Publishing Processes

These days, most authors identify with the title “authorpreneur.” In order to sell books, we have learned to wear multiple hats. We aren’t just writers, we’re marketers, bloggers, graphic designers, and more. As such, we are always in search of professional writing resources that can help us make the best use of our time and show off our stories in the best possible light.

About a week ago, I answered my own Writing Question of the Day (posted on Facebook and Twitter), which in turn prompted a request that I discuss some of my experiences with professional writing resources.

In the earlier years of my career as a full-time writer, I tried just about any service or product that came down the line. On some of my books, I went the full-blown, try-everything route. But these days, I’ve gotten better at knowing what is most useful, time-effective, and cost-effective for me.

Below, I’ve listed all the product-production categories that pertain to me (although I’ve probably forgotten a few). I’ll talk about a few of the things I’ve tried and no longer use, for whatever reason, but for the most part I’m going to be sharing only the things I currently use as part of my routines for writing, publishing, and promoting my work and my website.

Although I agree it’s valuable to see what others are doing, it’s also important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successful authorpreneurship. One of the reasons I rarely write on marketing and publishing topics is that I don’t feel what works for me is necessarily the approach everyone should use. I also don’t consider myself a publishing/marketing expert or guru. Some of the authors whom I follow and am continually learning from on these subjects include:

Most of what’s below probably originated with them. :p

My Top 15 Professional Writing Resources

Below, you’ll find a list of the various aspects of product production I engage in on a regular basis. You’ll find a handful of affiliate links because it is my policy to share affiliate links only for products or services I use and love myself—and these are those products!

1. Writing Software and Tools

My writing process itself doesn’t rely on anything too gimmicky or fancy. For outlining, I use plain ol’ (recycled) notebooks, as well as Perry Elisabeth’s wonderful WriteMind Planner—which I reviewed here when I first started using it.

For drafting, I use the writer-specific word-processing software Scrivener. For years, I used and loved the free program yWriter. But since diving into Scrivener when writing my gaslamp fantasy Wayfarer, I’ve never looked back. It’s an incredible program that offers an amazing capacity for organizing notes, scenes, chapters, and more. I’ve talked about my process for outlining, writing, and editing with Scrivener in these posts:

I also offer a free Scrivener template, which approximates the one I’ve created for myself, as well as incorporating information from my approach to outlining, story structure, and character arcs.

You can also access my full outlining process via my Outlining Your Novel Workbook software, which is a digital version of my brainstorming guide by the same name.

Outlining Your Novel Workbook software logo 228 250

2. Editors

I have hired various editors over the years, none of whom are currently taking new clients. These days, I don’t hire an editor, mostly because my beta readers are so awesome. One of those beta readers, Linda Yezak, is a professional editor in her own right. You can read about her services here.

You can also find a group-curated list of editors here (be sure to check the comments, as they contain many further suggestions).

3. Proofreader

My absolute top recommendation for proofreading—aka, typo-hunting—is to find software that will read your manuscript aloud while you read along. The old Kindle Keyboard will read aloud, as will Adobe Reader. I estimate I’m able to catch 95% of typos in my books using this method.

If you’re wanting to also hire a professional, I’ve often used the services of Wordplayer Steve Mathisen’s OddSock Proofreading & Copywriting.

4. Paperback Formatting

Through the years, I’ve personally formatted most of my books, using the typesetting software InDesign. At one point when I was experiencing severe repetitive stress injuries in my wrists, I used the paperback formatting service from Damonza (more on them below in the cover design section) for the publication of Structuring Your Novel.

These days, I’m back to formatting most of my books myself. I understand and enjoy typesetting, and I like the extra degree of control it gives me over the product’s appearance. Plus, it’s cheaper on the whole.

However, I recommend authors take on any kind of design work only if they truly understand the principles of the job.

If you can’t afford a professional service such as Damonza’s, you might check out Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates. These pre-formatted templates can be used in Microsoft Word and will produce files that can be successfully uploaded to KDP and other publishing nodes. I haven’t used the templates personally, but they look great and the idea is clever and helpful.

5. E-Book Formatting

I have hired a couple e-book formatting specialists over the years (including Damonza), and although I was always happy with the end product, what I didn’t like was that I wasn’t able to revisit the finished files and make changes as necessary. Since I frequently need to tweak something (such as updating links), I need the autonomy of being able to access and change the files at will.

For this, I use Scrivener to format and convert my books into e-book formats. Scrivener does the job admirably, but it’s definitely not the single best e-book design and conversion option. It’s also not the easiest conversion system to master, although once you get the presets configured, you shouldn’t have to figure it out again.

While Scrivener works just fine for publishing to Amazon and most other sales platforms, Smashwords is notoriously more finicky about the files it will accept. For Smashwords versions of my e-books, I usually purchase a Fiverr gig. Most recently, I’ve used Kimolisa.

6. Cover Design

Among the many jobs most authors should not do themselves, cover design tops the list. Although there certainly are authors who are also skilled and educated in visual design, most of us are not. I myself know just enough to be dangerous (which I proved with some early book-cover designs). These days, I rely on the pros at Damonza to design all my covers. If you’re interested, they offer a 5% discount when you order through my affiliate link using the code HWBA5.

7. Illustrations, Infographics, and Maps

Whenever I need an image—whether it’s an illustration (such as those in Storming) or a map or an infographic (such as those the Creating Character Arcs Workbook), I turn to Joanna Marie Art. I’ve dabbled with other creators, most via Fiverr, but I like the consistency of Joanna’s work.

8. Website Design

Like most blogs these days, mine runs off WordPress. Both Helping Writers Become Authors and my author site KMWeiland.com were professionally designed by Varick Design, for whom I can’t express enough appreciation as an amazing company. In addition to their great design work, they’ve also helped me through many a technical question.

9. Website and Domain Hosting

I’ve hosted the sites at a number of places over the years. Due to the current size and volume of traffic, they’re now parked with Siteground. I use Start Logic for domain registration. I don’t remember why I started using Start Logic; pricing probably. Siteground came recommended by Varick Design.

10. Image Sourcing, Editing, and Design

I source most of the images I use for the blog and social media from Pixabay, which offers free stock photos. On the occasions when I need something I can’t find on Pixabay, I purchase photos from iStockphoto.

I do most of the editing myself in Photoshop Elements. Occasionally, if I need something out of the ordinary, I will use the free template service Canva.

11. Podcast Recording, Editing, and Hosting

I record my podcast using a Blue Yeti mic (which I’m probably going to be updating sometime soon) and the free recording software Audacity. I’ve just recently started hosting it on Libsyn, both to take the stress of traffic off my own site and to distribute the episodes on more platforms.

If you’re a longtime listener, you may have noticed an improvement in audio quality within the last few months. This is thanks to PodTone, with whom I consult on how to improve the sound while recording (hence, the coming mic upgrade). They then master the finished podcast for professional-level sound quality.

They’re just starting up business, but are currently taking on some testers at reduced rates. They don’t yet have a website up and running, but if you’re interested in their services, you can email them at info [at] podtone [dot] com. Be sure to mention my name or Helping Writers Become Authors in the email body.

12. Social Media Scheduling

For scheduling routine daily tweets and Facebook posts, I use HootSuite.

13. Email Campaign Manager

My mailing list is hosted by Campaign Monitor. I was fortunate to land with them from the very beginning, and I’ve never looked back. They offer lots of templates and other easy-to-use tools for managing mailing lists on a professional level.

I use OptinMonster for popup subscription boxes that offer e-books as a thank-you when people join the mailing list.

14. Onsite Selling Platform

In addition to publishing my books via KDP, Nookpress, Smashwords, and Kobo Writing Life, I also sell my books and software directly off my site. For this, I use the e-commerce platform Selz, which processes all payments.

15. Marketing

Marketing is probably the most interesting topic amongst writers looking for resources. Over the years, I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that—more things than I can even remember. For the most part, I feel my platform has been built on the time and sweat of weekly content creation and social media interaction. I’ve yet to discover a magic pill.

I have yet to tackle (much less conquer) advertising (although I did watch and appreciate Dave Chesson’s free Amazon ads course). The only marketing service I’ve returned to repeatedly is Penny Sansevieri’s Author Marketing Experts, which I’ve used primarily for updating keywords on Amazon and promoting freebies or discounts.

***

So there you have it—all the professional writing resources I currently use. With any luck, you’ve find something here you didn’t know about that will prove helpful producing and marketing your work. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What professional writing resources do you use and recommend? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Isn’t most of this what your publisher does to earn their percentage?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I publish independently, so I’m responsible for either accomplishing or hiring out for all tasks. That said, just about everything mentioned here except product production would still be the author’s responsibility, at least in part.

  2. Katie, this list is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Jeffrey Chapman says

    What this post makes me realize, more than anything, is how many hats you wear! I guess I realized this, abstractly, but the fact that you are juggling novels, craft books, a blog, a podcast, a website, typesetting…it’s crazy! But it seems like this is the truth of being a self-sustaining writer: you have to work INCREDIBLY hard, in so many different arenas.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Well, as Spidey says, with great power comes great responsibility—and that is essentially what has been granted us with the opportunities of independent publishing.

  4. Eric Troyer says

    Great post, but my goodness. When do you have time to write!?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Most of my “work” (aka, anything that’s not fiction writing) happens in the afternoons. Mornings are for reading and writing.

  5. Utterly incredible! I mean I know you are a authoring machine, but I never imagined all the moving parts you pack around with you. This is why you are in the place you are. Well done (and can’t wait for your next novel)!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Doing and working most of these things into a regular schedule becomes second nature. It’s the figuring things out in the beginning that takes the most time and effort.

  6. THANK YOU!!!

  7. Thanks, Katie! Lots of great info here! It made me wonder about one thing, though: do you record the audio for your audiobooks, or do you hire that out?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hire that out, via ACX. I don’t have the equipment (yet) to do really professional audiobooks.

  8. Thank you, K.M.! It’s very gracious of you to take the time to share this information with us. I’m sure it will be most helpful. Thanks again!

  9. When do you have time for yourself considering all the hats you wear? I’ve just started my day on the west coast and reading this has worn me out! Seriously, thanks for all the great information. Truly this post is a treasure…definitely bookmarking AND saving to Evernote.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t do *all* of this every day, or even every week. The blog and podcast are weekly events, but I generally only put out a book once a year.

  10. Thank you, Katie! This is most helpful in sorting things out. The links are great. As a learner, I’m definitely show, not tell.

  11. This post is so helpful. Formatting woes have nearly derailed my publishing ventures, but you’ve pointed me to an affordable alternative. And, as I told my husband after reading this, I’ll be following up on your additional referrals for the next month. Thank you for sharing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      If you’re talking about Joel Friendlander’s templates, I’m excited for you. They look like a lot of fun–and very easy to use. Let me know how they work out.

  12. Very helpful. I’ve shared this with my workshop people. I like to do my own covers, but would definitely hire an artist for fantasy. Not sure about my Mystery/Romance/Western, though.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I did my own covers in the beginning. I have some experience with graphic design, but I can’t reach anywhere close to a truly professional level, which is why I hire Damonza now.

  13. Thanks for the post! In terms of digital publishing to all the different formats you mentioned (including your own blog), I am wondering vaguely what percentage of revenue tends to come from those sources as opposed to just Amazon. Like many, I am debating whether to offer books on Kindle Unlimited, and since they require exclusivity, I wish I knew how big a sales source those other markets could potentially be. Are they worth it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In my experience, Kindle Unlimited doesn’t really enhance Amazon sales. The vast majority of my sales come from Amazon, but I would still recommend diversifying as much as possible.

  14. Sally M. Chetwynd says

    A newbie writer friend consulted with me the other day about how to go about writing a heavily fact-based historical novel for which she already has done tons of research. This blog post is right up her alley, as well as mine. She’s nowhere near needing most of this yet, but she now knows what to begin familiarize herself with.

  15. Hi, great post. I totally agree with you about having one’s text read back, and have found natural readers. https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/ a great resource. It’s free for 20 minutes of read back per day, or there are subscription options. One nice thing about it is that it contains different digital voices, both male and female, along with a variety of US and British accents. And yes, Scrivener rocks.

  16. Awesome. Wow! I’ve been doing my eBook formatting on KDP but got stuck with paperback but my books only appear on Amazon so I’d like to try Draft2Digital next times. I will look into InDesign. I’m a slow learner and so everything takes me time. Thanks so much for all your help.

  17. Wow! What a tremendous Resource for all of us to refer to. Thank you for putting this together. I too am both impressed & intimidated by the many hats that a self-published author must wear. You’re amazing! Thanks again,

    Colliegurl

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s important to remember you don’t have to all of this once. For many, you’ll *never* have a call to do all of these things. These are just tools to help you tackle whatever is in front of you right now.

  18. This is a great list! For the e-book formatting, I use Sigil to polish the output from Scrivener. If you know basic CSS and HTML, Sigil is all you need to make an attractive and professional-looking ebook. It automatically takes care of the cover and table of contents, too. It edits epub files, and Amazon has a free conversion program to turn it into the Kindle mobi/kf8/azw files.

    Some people use Calibre instead of Sigil, but I really only use Calibre to add metadata to ebooks I get from non-Amazon sources.

    Here is the Sigil link: https://github.com/Sigil-Ebook/Sigil/releases/tag/1.1.0

    I don’t know what your link limit is, so I’ll respond to this comment with a link to Calibre.

  19. Because of my characters, I’ve hired out for custom art. But if you don’t necessarily need to show your heroes, you can find some great stock fantasy art on iStockphoto and its rivals. I’ve seen some of the art in this search result on the covers of fantasy novels.

    https://www.istockphoto.com/illustrations/fantasy-warrior?mediatype=illustration&phrase=fantasy%20warrior&sort=mostpopular

    The reason to either pay for custom or use stock art is to make sure of the licensing rights. Never take a random image you don’t pay for; legally it can and will come back to bite you. But that’s another post for another day 🙂

  20. WOW! Such a useful post. Between the lines, it also provides insight into process and your daily writing schedule. Amazed!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Well, maybe not daily. 😉 I use these tools spread out throughout the week and sometimes even the year, depending what project they’re used for.

  21. Thank you for this comprehensive list.

  22. Thanks for all this! There’s a lot here to consider. The info that will probably help me the most is the link to good book editors. I’ve had a few editors for my first novel, but they either weren’t the right fit or they are no longer taking on editing projects.

    One thing I’m looking for right now is book reviewers. I’ve found a few resources. What is your experience? Any particular recommendations on finding book reviewers? By book reviewers, I mean both blogs that post book reviews and finding ways to encourage people to leave book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve never messed around much with getting bloggers to review. I’ve tried a number of tacks to secure Amazon reviews, but mostly I just remind people about the value of reviews when I launch the book these days. You have to be careful though. Amazon is getting stricter and stricter about what reviews it allows and from whom. Don’t ask family or anyone whose address you’ve linked to your Amazon account (e.g., someone to whom you’ve sent a gift) to review. Amazon will deem these reviewers “biased” and delete the reviews.

  23. Wow, thank you so much for all this! I don’t usually look into specific products without researching them for years in all directions. 🙂 Your previous experience with them saves people like myself a lot of time and mistakes. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I still recommend doing some research, since everyone has different needs. But, yeah, I’ve found great value in everything listed. 🙂

  24. Thanks much for your list of resources. I will be taking a look at each one. I realize from your post that you do a lot of your own prep for publication: editing, formatting, cover design, etc. But in your experience what is the typical cost for the editing to publishing phase of a project. I have a quote of $300 to edit my novella length MS and have no idea if this is reasonable or not. I intend to use KDP to publish my MS and I have a DIY cover design. Like you, I use Scrivener and have used Grammerly, ProWritingAid and a couple of beta readers to catch things like spelling, punctuation and some grammar. What I like about ProWritingAid is that, unlike Grammerly, it interfaces nicely with Scrivener. Any feedback will be much appreciated.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It really depends. I’ve spent anywhere from thousands to hundreds on a book launch, depending on what it was, what my goals were, and what I was experimenting with. In-depth editing is always the most expensive thing. Usually editors charge around $.03 per word.

      $300 for a novella sounds extremely reasonable, almost too reasonable. I’d want to make sure the person really knows what they’re doing and/or be aware that what you’re paying for may only be an overview critique.

  25. David Snyder says

    Katie,

    This is really cool.

    Thanks to the poster who mentioned Natural Reader (and for your tip on Text to Speech). That is a goldmine. I have bookmarked that to my desktop.

    Beyond typo fixing, this has really reawakened my sense of story and pacing. I ran some stuff through the reader that I thought was my worst, and it was actually my best. I didn’t know it until I heard it read aloud. It had me engaged. I then thought to myself: “Storytelling….yeah…telling a story…”

    Oh Doh!

    I also ran some stuff through it that I thought was my best and I was like, “Oh dude, how long can this go on!”

    I wonder if that process gives you any “second sight” on the mind of the reader?

    Hmmmmmmmm.

    Also, I love trying out the different accents on my characters, especially foreign ones. It really brings it all to life and sparks the imagination.

    I am hooked.

    🙂

  26. This is a great resource list, K.M.! I was pleased to see some services I’ve used, and thrilled to find new ideas, too 🙂 Your posts are always gold–thank you! I was frustrated with fiverr for covers, and learned to do some of my own design. But, like you mentioned, I know enough to get in trouble, and am looking for some new options…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I forgot to mention I also used 99Designs for the icon for the Outlining Your Novel Workbook software. That’s another option for covers.

  27. I personally LOVE Canva and I use it constantly. I also use wordpress although I need to transfer to a paid version so I can have more customization. I used Hootsuite for a long time until they somehow kept posting my posts as private posts which did nothing but irritate me. I like Buffer, and Tweetdeck as social media managers. I also like pixabay but there’s another called pexels.com that offers a broad range of stock photos. Many photo sites tend to have overlapping content. I

    Great list of resources. Thanks!

  28. Thank you so much for sharing your tools! As I work through the steps toward publishing my first novel, it will be helpful to see what you use. Totally love Scrivener and Siteground. Been using both for years. What a great idea to use my old Kindle to help me proofread. Thanks again for the ideas!

  29. At a writing workshop I heard a successful published author recommend pacemaker.press. Its a goal setting tool eg if you wanted to set a date for finishing your first draft, it calculates what daily word count needs to be achieved and measures your progress, or you could use it to set a date for completing your outline and how you would measure those milestones. Its flexible so you can build into your plan that you may only be able to work certain days of the week or going on holiday.There’s a free option and a fee paying premium option.

  30. K.M.,

    Thank you for such a comprehensive list. I’m currently looking for an independent editor for my first novel, and the timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect. The link to the Top Recommended Book Editors will be an invaluable resource!

  31. I’ve been using Treepad and Ywriter, but they left a bit to be desired. Ywriter is great but it is too prescriptive, a bit like running a register rather than a tool that is designed to work for me. I’m sure that’s just a subtle difference between how Hal Spacejock and I think, and it’s really a wonderful software.

    One day in to really trying Scrivener and I am hooked, every feature I actually used in the other software with a bit more of a sense of freedom. Really worth the fifty dollars or so that it will cost after the trial. Fantastic!

    Thanks for the lead, you always have such good information.

  32. Abigail Welborn says

    Just in case no one’s mentioned it, Microsoft Word, Outlook, and OneNote will read aloud to you, also! https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-the-Speak-text-to-speech-feature-to-read-text-aloud-459e7704-a76d-4fe2-ab48-189d6b83333c

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