An Author's Starter Kit

An Author's Starter Kit

You may think as an author, all you might need is Google Docs, and you're done. But if you're serious about writing and self-publishing, you will probably need a few tools to help you get 'er done. 

 

I've tried a ton of the tools out there, but these are some of the tools that I love and adore and use for every single book:

 

  • Plotting is made easy with Plottr. They have a TON of visual outlines, story structure bibles, character arc templates, series planning, and cloud and device syncing. Even better, you can drag/drop your events and set it up however you want. For me, I built The Curse of Beauty off the timeline and the character arcs. In the picture below, each dot expands to encompass the plot elements and you can drag and drop it, fully customizable. Anyway, it's an amazing tool!  And because I love Plottr so much, I signed up to be an affiliate. The link is a referral link, so if you sign-up through my link, I get a small commission at no cost to you.
  • I draft everything in Scrivener. Yes, you can export/import your Plottr plot right into Scrivener. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve, but I can track the progress, POVs, timeline, research links, character charts, etc. I can do pretty much everything in Scrivener. See an example of what it looks like with my Warrior King manuscript. Scrivener also connects with ProWritingAid, which I mention as a nice-to-have in the section below.
  • After drafting, you edit. And for me, edits occur in MS Word. In case you were asking, yes, Scrivener exports into MS Word.
  • Formatting made easy with Vellum. It is software made for Mac. If you don't have a Mac or don't want to rent Mac space, I recommend using Atticus. I have both, used both, both are wonderful. I tend to lean toward Vellum even though the price point is tad heftier. And why yes, you can import your finalized, edited MS Word manuscript straight into Vellum or Atticus. And if you ever need to export your book, Vellum exports to MS Word and Atticus export to MS Word feature is in the works as of this blog post date. Both Vellum and Atticus create all the files you need for Amazon exclusivity, wide distribution, and selling direct through BookFunnel delivery serivce. 
  • I use Canva and BookBrush for book covers, creative design work, developing book trailers, author stationery, author merchandise, and ad creation. You probably don't 100% need both, but I've found BookBrush to valuable for product mockups that Canva just can't accomplish in the same way, but Canva is more valuable to me for everything else. I like BookBrush single mockups and series with more than 3 books better than MockupShots (which is forthcoming in the list); however MockupShots has much better (in my opinion) lifestyle images and alot more to choose from. See picture of a product mockup in BookBrush:
  • Next, you need a website. In the past, I used GoDaddy Websites+Marketing for my website because I've had it forever, but I've heard good things about Nrdly, and Nrdly was made and designed specifically for authors. It is a WordPress theme.
  • Blog Update: I've now migrated to Shopify to scale my readership, but I wouldn't go to Shopify until you have a backlist of which to bundle and sell or if you want to sell something to your audience. Other options for selling directly are PayHip, Gumroad, ThriveCart/SamCart, etc. I use PayHip as my backup sales site in case something happens with PayHip. I used Gumroad a long time ago, but I don't even remember my login at this point. I also have ThriveCart which I bought during a liftetime subscription. Right now, Shopify has disallowed ThriveCart and SamCart to integrate with it, but I plan on using ThriveCart for my affiliate sales so I don't have to pay for a monthly subscription through Shopify. Its in the works, so I will update once I get there. AND yes, they all work with BookFunnel digital book delivery service.
  • Once you've got a website, you need to start growing a newsletter and getting an email list. My go-to is Mailerlite. They are free up to 2,000 subscribers and then reasonably priced after that. They have amazing drag-and-drop features, and I all around love the simplicity of the tool. Another one I have not used but it comes highly recommended is AuthorEmail. It is built specifically for authors.
  • Again, once you scale your readership and/or start selling directly to your readers AND you use Shopify, Klayvio is the go-to because it is so aligned to your Shopify store and will really allow you to gain those insights. I wouldn't get rid of my Mailerlite because you will have readers on MailerLite that will never buy anything FROM you - they are following your journey as an author and will only ever buy from book retailers. Klayvio is strictly for readers who will buy FROM you (which is great because Klayvio is super pricey).
  • BookFunnel is amazing for growing your newsletter list, distributing reader magnets, sharing in group promotions, selling direct, sharing audio teasers, etc. If you are just starting out, I'd go with StoryOrigin. I used it for a long time, but eventually, I needed the features of BookFunnel. And yep, they both integrate with Mailerlite and all your major website providers.
  • I use HeroPost for my social media scheduling. I bought a lifetime access license for really cheap during a Black Friday sale, and it's been good for the price. The only platform it does not integrate with at this time is TikTok.
  • If you are just starting out, I'd go with the BookReport Chrome add-in since it's free to track your sales. If you are sticking with Amazon, Author Helper Suite (formerly Readerlinks) is amazing for tracking sales, ad spend ROI, book links, etc. The downside is you must manually import your other sales and expenses. SO, if you are going wide and/or selling direct, ScribeCount is uhh-mazing and they are constantly adding feeds for automated dashboard reporting including automated feeds from ACX, Findaway, Draft2Digital, BookBub, and now Shopify. There is almost no manual entry needed which for a busy author is awesome and why I made the switch. The link is a referral link so I get a small commission at no cost to you if you signup using my link. :)  Because I don't want to share a breakdown of my revenues here, I am using the homepage screenshot to show you what it looks like. 
  • I use Manager.io for maintaining my financial, tax, and accounting books. The desktop version is free, which is amazing, and it's completely customizable. The downside is, I have to manually input everything. Takes about half an hour every month.
  • Then you need an ad service to reach readers. I use Amazon Advertising, Meta, Pinterest, TikTok, and BookBub, so you'll need to create business accounts on the platforms you use to advertise and probably take some free classes or paid classes to figure out how to run them effectively.
  • I would also highly recommend setting up a Business PayPal account—it will save you so much time down the road. It's free.
  • You'll need mockups of your book covers for marketing purposes too. I use MockupShots. It is a lifetime license and they have thousands of mockups to choose from. The link is a referral link, so if you sign-up through my link, I get a small commission at no cost to you. I use the mockups in ads, holiday campaigns, emails, and my book shop, such as this one:
  • Lastly, you need an empty bookcase so you can start piling up the books you write, and give you a sense of fulfillment and pride in your work. It matters because Imposter Syndrome is real, and somehow, casting your eyes on everything you've done sometimes keeps you from going insane.

Here are some tools you don't exactly need but I find extremely useful.

  • Brain.fm is the brainwave magic to get my creative juices flowing. I use it for deep work and creative work. Amazing! And the link is a referral link so you can get your first month for only $1.
  • NaNoWriMo is a free tool that tracks all of your projects and word counts and shares in an author community. It stands for National Novel Writing Month (which is in November). They recently had a scandal dealing with a very sensitive topic, so I haven't been as active in their communities. I understand this could happen anywhere but I didn't appreciate how they handled it.
  • Trello is an amazing productivity tool that tracks to-do lists and obligations. It's free, and I'd be so unorganized without it. I started using ClickUp as I needed more features and still free!
  • Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, DesignPhotos, Pixabay, DepositPhotos Freesvg, and Unsplash are great resources for image licensing for book covers, trailers, and ads if you can't find exactly what you are looking for in Canva and BookBrush. 
  • OneStopForWriters.com is an amazing site with all of the thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi online, and they have many storyboards, character arcs, and miscellaneous templates you can use too.
  • If you want to consider reader sensitivities in your writing, this blog post sent from Emma, one of my blog readers, has a good overview of examples and areas for a greater awareness as you draft/edit. Right now, the demographic I write for seems not to care about everything listed in the post. But if you are writing to a specific demographic that does, its a good resource to have in your back pocket. I'd also consider hiring a sensitivity beta reader if  sensitivities are important to your readership. I secured one for my books The Fifth Prophet and Exiled, because of the much darker nature of those stories than what I usually write. I did make some updates as she suggested before publication, such as adding a disclaimer and changing the book description hook for Exiled
  • Grammarly Pro and ProwritingAid are my go-to for self-editing. I'd get the lifetime license for Prowriting Aid. Grammarly Pro is a monthly or annual subscription. I find both pieces of software catch errors and rewrites that the other doesn't, so I do recommend both for a good self-edit before sending to an editor which will likely save you some money in the long run. You can also use Hemingway Editor which is free and has a lot of the same features as Prowriting Aid but it doesn't save anything for future reference.
  • If you'd like a signature logo like mine, I went with Photologo.co.  
  • Lastly, because I don't have the best handwriting, I recently asked MySign Studio to have a professional develop a really cool signature with a training guide so I could sign my books. You can see what it looks like on this TikTok.

 

If you are just starting out, have a limited budget, or unsure of what direction you want to take your writing career, my blog readers, Anna and Holly, kindly sent in this resource reference as part of the kit. Check it out! Lots of good info.

 

So there you go!

Best of luck with your writing endeavors. Hope my toolkit helps you!

Take care, and happy creating!

Back to blog