Tools and Resources
The process of self-publishing books involves a considerable amount of work. There are tools and resources available online which could help you to save time, increase your productivity and achieve the results that you want. Some of these tools and resources might also be useful to anyone who is working from home or as a freelancer.
Within this page I have collected together a list of twenty tools and resources, which are either free to use, open-source or offer both free and paid for versions. The tools and resources that I have included reflect my own experience and preferences, therefore you might find others that better suit your specific requirements.
This dictionary, published by Cambridge University Press, has been available online since 1999 and is free to use. In addition to meanings and definitions of words, they also provide a useful grammar guide to the English language.
This popular free online thesaurus is published by dictionary.com and uses American English. In addition to providing synonyms and antonyms, to help you avoid the repetitive use of words and better express yourself, there is also an American English dictionary that has been available online since 1995.
Calibre and Sigil Ebook
Both of these applications are free and open-source. They can be used on their own, but you could benefit from using them together. They each have a learning curve, which might initially be off putting, but as a self-publisher they could help you to produce well designed ebooks.
Using Calibre, you can take a Word Document saved in HTML format and convert it into an ePub or Mobi file. This will enable you to design your ebook with the fonts, headers and decorative features that you want, using flexible layouts.
When you have created an ebook file using Calibre, it can be imported into Sigil, where additional customisation can be carried out. You can efficiently clean up the file, improving the appearance of your ebook and correcting errors in the text, before publication.
The use of suitable fonts in your online content can improve the quality of your design and better communicate your ideas. When you search this free library of open-source fonts, you could find web optimised fonts to suit your needs. Fonts that you download can also be used within many software applications.
This free to use open-source vector graphics software is available for Mac, Windows and Linux and supports a wide range of image formats. The Inkscape software application contains a variety of drawing tools and can be used to create graphics such as illustrations and charts.
Available for Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is free open-source software which can be used to edit images. Although it lacks some of the features found in PhotoShop, it includes many advanced tools and could be sufficient for your image editing needs.
The free and open-source vector graphics software diagrams.net (moving from draw.io) can be run online within a web browser or downloaded as a desktop application. It enables you to design diagrams, wireframes and flow charts, so that you can more easily represent and communicate complex data and information. The files you create can be saved locally, or stored remotely using services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and Github.
When creating custom colour schemes and palettes for digital or print content, you could find inspiration using Adobe Color CC (previously called Adobe Kuler). This free online tool features a colour wheel and enables you to easily find the RGB, CMYK and Hex values of colours. The tool can display analogous, monochromatic and complementary colours. You can extract colours from an image, such as a photograph, which can be saved as a palette to use in your projects.
The free Colorzilla tool enables you to find the colour of any image that appears within your browser. It can be installed as an extension in Chrome or an add-on in Firefox.
When creating content you could use this free online colour picker tool, from W3Schools, to find the RGB and Hex (Hexadecimal) value of colours. You can also find the HSL, which is the hue, saturation and lightness of a colour.
When creating content you will often need suitable images to complement your text. Pixabay is free to use and provides a searchable database of copyright free images, that can be used within personal or commercial projects. There is no requirement for attribution and you will find more than a million stock photographs, in addition to thousands of illustrations and videos, depicting a wide variety of subject matter.
The photographs available on the Unsplash website are generally of high quality and could be what you are looking for to complement the text in your online or print projects. The photographs are copyright free and include many high resolution images, suitable for use in printed publications.
Available as an extension for Chrome and Firefox, Awesome Screenshot enables you to capture and edit screenshots within your browser.
The use of video content, whether film or animation, can be an effective way of engaging with your audience. Blender is free open-source and can be used for video editing and both 2D and 3D animation. Blender is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Other free open-source animation software programs include Pencil 2D, Open Toonz and Synfig Studio. You might prefer to try a few different programs until you find one that suits your requirements. You could also record videos using your mobile phone or tablet and edit them using iMovie on a Mac, or the Photos App when using Windows.
Audio Recording and Editing
As part of your author platform, you might decide to start a podcast or produce video content for use within social media, such as YouTube. To record and edit the audio, you will need a microphone, headphones and a desktop or mobile device running suitable software. GarageBand can be dowloaded free onto Apple devices and will also enable you to include music and sound effects. Audacity is a free open-source audio recording and editing program, available for Windows, MacOS and Linux.
Planning your work schedule can increase productivity, particularly when collaborating on projects with other people. Freedcamp is a free project management tool, although paid versions with extra features are available. Events can be organised using a calendar view and data shared with popular online tools, such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
Most people are familiar with applications, such as word processors, spreadsheets, relational database and presentation software. LibreOffice is a free open-source suite of office software, available for Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems. Although you might experience a learning curve when adapting to LibreOffice, it could provide you with an alternative to Microsoft Office or Google Docs, with which you are probably already familiar.
As a self-published writer, you will need to market the books that you want to sell. Building an author platform can help you to do this, which could include having your own website. Whether you build the website yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it is likely that the website will be developed using WordPress. It is the most widely deployed content management system (CMS) in the world and you will find many resources supporting the CMS. However, it is important for you to understand the difference between WordPress.com, who will host your website on their servers, and WordPress.org, which will require you to find a company to host your website.
Although you can download WordPress from the WordPress.org website, the company you pay to host your website should provide tools that will enable you to install and manage the CMS. The free and open-source WordPress CMS is written in PHP and the data is stored in a MySQL or MariaDB database. A WordPress website can be built using both free and paid for plugins and themes, providing control over functionality and design. Most people can learn how to manage WordPress, without the need to do any coding. However, coding skills would help you to better customise the functionality and design of your website.
Hosting your website on the freemium WordPress.com service could enable you to get online quickly and cheaply. They will manage the installation, maintenance and back up of your site, which is often attractive to people without any experience of carrying out such tasks. However, the restrictions they impose will limit the amount of control that you have over your website. This might not be an issue initially, but it could become a limitation as your site grows. For example, monetising your website will require you to either pay for the business plan, or follow the WordPress.org approach and move your site to the servers of another hosting company.
Available for MacOS, Windows and Linux, this free open-source distribution, developed by Apache Friends, enables you to install a server simulation on a personal computer. You can then run a website on your local machine, for example by installing a CMS (Content Management System), such as WordPress. The XAMPP software that you download contains MySQL, PHP and Perl, simulating a server on which the CMS can run. XAMPP is widely used by web designers and developers as a testing and development environment. However, XAMPP should not be used as a production server for hosting live websites and any server connected to the Internet should be properly secured.