My Author Tool Box
As an Indie author, writing your next book isn't even half the battle. In fact, it's probably not even a third of the battle. You spent a LOT of time doing behind the scenes things. Like making graphics. Promotion. Marketing. Networking. Engaging with Readers. Editing.
With so few Indie authors making more than 10k a year, hiring people to help isn't always possible. Luckily, there are a TON of really great resources out there to make your life a little less stressful.
This week, I'm sharing my favorites, what they do, why I use them, and how they help. I'll also be sharing tips to help make your life easier.
I do not receive any sort of financial compensation for any of these.
One of my new favorite tools, READERLINKS, has made my life SO MUCH easier. Because I write under a penname, I currently have 46 (!!) titles to manage. Readerlinks allows me to input them once, and track them forever. I can upload my KDP reports to help me keep track of what is selling and what is struggling. I can upload ad reports from Amazon and Facebook to see how much I'm spending compared to how much I'm bringing in. This also allows me to see what series readthrough looks like for each series. I can also quickly create trackable links for everything from the back of the book to social media to ads.
With their automatic link creation tool, you tell them once what links you want created automatically (ie: one to post on social media), and it does it automatically for every new book.
I have an assistant (Hi, Mateo!) who helps me out. Readerlinks allows him to have his own PA Account to help me out. And if you have more than one penname (like me), you can have a PA for each. You can also create reader teams (for ARC reviewers), and book pages (so your readers get to see all of your books in one place).
ReaderLinks also allows me to track expense and other income, so I have a full picture of where I stand financially every month.
The most time consuming part of ReaderLinks is setting it up. It requests a LOT of data. But it's worth the work.
RL costs $25 a month.
CONS: You have to upload Ad Reports twice if you advertise for more than one pen name. You also can't link or share expenses between pen names.
PRO-TIP: If you're planning to give RL a try, go through all of your books NOW and collect their ASINs, their ISBNs, the KENP Page Read Count, and your delivery costs. This will save you so much time setting it up!
Trello has been a huge time saver for me and my assistant. Instead of emailing back and forth 50 times or uploading things to a shared folder, we create cards. I can then assign Mateo tasks, with everything he needs to complete right there in the card. Once he completes an item, he can check it off the list and add anything I need back right there into the card. No emailing a million things. No uploading everything to a shared folder like Google Drive.
There is also a calendar feature that allows me to pre-plan social media posts. My assistant can then grab everything from the calendar and schedule it for whatever day it needs to be posted.
We also have cards that have all of my branding information (colors, fonts, bio, branded links, etc), and a card for each book that contains the cover files, ARC files, and Media Kits. We're able to keep these updated without needing to email back and forth.
Trello can also be used as a storyboard, to keep up with important deadline tasks...you can use it a million different ways.
Trello has free options available. All the features above are free.
CONS: If you want to create a template card, you have to do it before you add anything to it. Otherwise, you have to delete out all of that stuff in every single new one you create.
PRO-TIP: Create different boards for different purposes instead of trying to fit everything into one. It's much neater this way and things are much simpler to locate.
Keeping up with social media is HARD. There. I said it. I have to schedule a lot because I work nights. With Later, I can schedule everything on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter by uploading my media, dropping them onto the calendar, and adding my captions.
I plan and write my social media content, and then Mateo then schedules it out for me and adds the hashtags. This saves me a lot of time. Especially since I have two pen names to keep up with.
I can also see everything laid out as it will be on IG to shift things around if I need to do so.
Later has free account options, but there are limits to how much you can schedule. You can't schedule IG stories, you can't have team members, and you can only have 1 account per platform. Their cheapest paid account is $15 a month.
CONS: Later has gone way up in price since I joined it in 2019. My plan is $19 a month, and I get an extra team member, an extra social set (1 extra account per platform), and 250 posts per month for IG and 250 for FB. Now, you're going to spend $30 to $60 a month for comparable features.
PRO-TIP: If you can't afford the subscription, you can also schedule your 30 a month on Later and then up to 10 more IG posts at a time on Buffer for free. You can also schedule as many tweets as needed for free using Tweetdeck.
I use PublisherRocket to help me find relevant keywords, to look at book categories available on Amazon, and to help find keywords for Amazon ads. It's incredibly easy to use and has a lot of great information (like how many books have used that specific keyword and how many times a month it is searched on Amazon and Google).
PublisherRocket currently costs $97 for a lifetime subscription.
CONS: The last update on Amazon made it a LOT harder for PublisherRocket to pull relevant data, so returning good keywords is harder.
PRO-TIP: Stick with using shorter search terms when looking for keywords to pull a longer lists (ie dark romance instead of dark romance mafia). This gives you more suggestions to work with.
I use BookBrush and Canva to create teasers, social media graphics, advertisements, etc. Both are easy to use. Bookbrush also has instant book mockups and a 3D cover generator, which is a huge help. They both also have a stock media library, which is massively useful.
Both have free account options. I pay $99 a year for Bookbrush & $12.95 a month for Canva. They are well worth the expensive for me because I use them all the time.
CONS: Bookbrush can be finicky at times, especially when creating your own graphics. Canva doesn't have a lot of font controls, so things like gradient fonts are impossible.
PRO-TIP: SAVE TEMPLATES! This will make your life so much easier.
I cannot say enough about Mockupshots. Creating instant mockups and 3D mockups is a breeze with this program. BUT it is expensive ($198). You only pay once, but if you're on a budget, finding that one-time payment can be tough!
PRO-TIP: Adazing, the service behind Mockupshots, has a lot of great tools for authors, but their emails can get annoying fast. They change the name of the sender and give them misleading titles just to get you to open them. I finally unsubscribed because it annoyed the hell out of me.
I use BookFunnel to distribute ARCs and send gift copies of books. I also use it to enter multi-author giveaways. It can be tremendously helpful with growing my mailing lists. BUT a lot of readers who sign up are only in it for the freebies. You'll get a lot of subscribers, but then they'll unsubscribe or simply never open your emails, when drags your open rate down.
BookFunnel has free options available.
PRO-TIP: Join multi-author giveaways every few months, not every month. This will ensure that you're reaching new subscribers instead of the same people over and over again.
For stock photos, I use DepositPhotos and Pixabay. DepositPhotos has a huge collection, and you can pay for a monthly or yearly subscription that allows you to download so many photos for one price. They are constantly running promotions and specials to make it cheaper.
Pixabay has a good selection of free stock photos. These can be great if you don't want to spend the money, but the selection isn't as extensive.
PRO-TIP: Search a variety of terms related to what you're looking for, as they aren't always listed as you would think. Get creative when searching!
I use BookSprout for ARC Reviews. You can receive up to 20 for free. I usually get a good response. That said, it's almost unheard of to have 100% of reviewers who claimed an ARC actually write the review. But if you need a few reviews to get you started, this is a great option.
PRO-TIP: Be careful responding to emails. There are a LOT of scammers on Booksprout who will get your email address just to spam you. Do not EVER send ARC files via email. They will pirate them with a quickness!
For my mailing lists, I use MailerLite. It's cheaper than MailChimp and is easier to use. I can drag and drop elements to create my newsletter, save templates, segment lists by grouping, and create automations, forms, and websites. They also have a free account (up to 2000 subscribers, I believe).
These are the big tools in my toolbox that I use on an almost daily basis.
PRO-TIP: Templates are your friend! Create them, save them, use them. It will save you a lot of time and grief.
Need to create Universal Book Links but can't afford ReaderLinks? Try Books2Read.com (for all retailers) or Booklinker.com for Amazon.
Need branded links? Try tiny.cc! You can brand your links for free. Just be mindful that you can only get so many clicks out of them!
Want to change text size, add italics or bold in your Amazon book description? Use the Kindlepreneur HTML Generator!
Need fonts? Check Google's font library. They have a ton of free fonts you can download.