20 Superb Writing and Publishing Resources to Help Your Book Shine
After three novels and one non-fiction novel, I’m at a point in my writing career where I know a great resource from a mediocre one and can tell a helpful tool from a splashy vacant one. I have a system that works for me. Although all writers use different systems and methods to get the words out, I thought I’d share mine in case an established writer wanted to try something new—no harm in changing things up—or a newbie writer out there needed some guidance.
Below you’ll find my favorite apps, books, blogs, tools and more for every step of my personal process. Note: many of these apply to both fiction and non-fiction but there may be some that only apply to fiction writing.
Planning Your Book
I’ve blogged about my love of Evernote on this website so many times, I might need to start charging them for sponsorship. I blog about this app so often because I use it in many aspects of my life: writing, blogging, my journal, health records, receipts, event tickets, house documents, finances, etc. Everything is there, sorted neatly and easy to access on any device.
It’s also perfect for writers planning their book. The Evernote web clipper is perfect for quickly saving articles for research or an inspirational image, you can store all your chapter outlines in there, character biographies, whatever you need. The filing systems is extremely versatile so you can arrange things how you like.
Another resource I’ve blogged about previously because I’m confident it played a part in stopping me from giving up on writing Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire because I thought I could pants my way through it without an outline. I was very, very wrong. After reading this fantastic book, I went back to the beginning, outlined every chapter, and ended up with a book I’m very proud of. (It later went on to be shortlisted for a provincial book award—not too shabby!)
Since I’m currently in the book-planning part of the process, I have two of these helpful resource guides sitting on my desk beside me: The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. These books give full, deep descriptions of different traits to help pull you deeper into who you are describing. These guides are super useful for fleshing out your characters.
Writing Your Book
4. Helping Writers Become Authors
My second mention of K.M. Weiland in this blog post! Her blog and companion podcast are updated a couple times a week, each post offering supremely helpful articles on tackling story, characters, conflict, plot, theme, pacing, and much more.
Well-Storied, brought to us by author Kristen Kieffer, is another blog/podcast featuring lots and lots of helpful articles on writing craft but also dives into living the writer life, creativity, and some aspects of the business side of self-publishing. I’ve taken a few of Kristen’s email courses and they are super insightful. She also offers a few helpful workbooks for authors in need of a guide.
6. Writers Helping Writers
The same folks behind the Writer Guides mentioned above have a fantastic and frequently updated blog where they share advice on writing craft. Super great resource right here.
I’ve been enjoying Reedsy’s email courses on writing craft. What I usually do is find a course I like, sign up, and then forward all the emails to my Evernote where they then get filed and stored away until I can sit down and read all 10 lessons. (Probably not what they have in mind, but whatever.)
8. Chuck Wendig’s Books on Writing
Not only is Chuck Wendig amusing on Twitter and his blog, he is also a fountain of writing wisdom. The Kick-Ass Writer and Damn Fine Story both discuss the craft of writing while also keeping the reader entertained in Chuck’s delightful profanity-seasoned voice.
9. Writing with Jenna Moreci
Jenna Moreci is a charming and hilarious YouTuber offering writing advice, mostly on craft but occasionally publishing and marketing too. She’s very entertaining and I adore her. You should too.
Self-Publishing Your Book
So you’ve decided to self-publish. Congratulations! Self-publishing is a process of many steps and I’ve included resources for many of those steps in this post. However, there are a few resources that cover multiple steps so I wanted to include them here in their own general self-publishing category.
A few words of wisdom from me before we get into the resources though.
- You will probably sell way more ebooks than physical books.
- You can self-publish your book (no matter what genre) but not all genres sell equally.
- Most of your book sales will come from Kindle/Amazon.
Joanna Penn is the darling of the self-publishing world. She has been blogging about indie publishing, marketing, and writing basically since Kindle Direct Press (better known as KDP) opened its doors. Her books, podcast, and blog have made Penn’s empire a highly trusted source for newbies and established indies alike.
11. Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
Let’s Get Digital covers publishing and marketing your self-published book. Gaughran is also an especially good follow on Twitter as he is always the first one to go in depth about Amazon’s (usually ill-advised) algorithm updates.
12. Kobo Writing Life
Kobo loves working with authors and supporting their goals. They have a really great blog and companion podcast about writing, self-publishing, and marketing. Highly recommended.
Editing Your Book
Before we get into the resources, I want to emphasize how important getting your book professionally edited is. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT and I think most writers will tell you that. But then, occasionally, you get someone who thinks they’re perfect and their book is perfect, or, alternatively, someone who can’t afford an editor, and the book is released before it’s ready.
Don’t. Do. This.
I crowdsourced by first book and have been lucky enough to be able to pay for additional book stuff using the money I make from book sales. But even if I wasn’t making any money, I’d save and scrimp until I could afford an editor.
There are multiple types of editors, not all editors are created equal, some editors specialize in certain types of books while others do now, different editors charge different rates, and I can’t tell you how many different types of edits your book needs. This page has a good explanation of the different types of editors and what they do.
13. Colleen McKie
Colleen of Savvy Fox Author Services did a developmental edit on my three novels. She’s great. Thorough in her editing and sensitive in her criticism without being precious about it.
14. Allister Thompson
Allister has copyedited all of my novels as well as my non-fiction book. His turnaround time always impresses me, as does his understanding and appreciation of his craft.
When it comes to picking an editor, I’m a big fan of personal recommendations. You can easily work with someone you find via Google but at least look for testimonials. Or if you have writer friends (IRL and on social media), ask them who they hired and if they got the job done to their satisfaction.
Just… just please get your book edited. Your book deserves to be polished before getting published. If we’re all publishing high-quality books, the self-publishing industry is going to lose its stigma just a bit sooner.
Designing Your Book
I design my own book covers and I format my paperback interiors. I’m a professional graphic designer, now with eight years of experience under my belt.
Your book’s cover matters. Sorry, I should rephrase that: YOUR BOOK COVER MATTERS.
A sloppy book cover you put together yourself in MS Paint is going to make your book look sloppy. You could be the next Neil Gaiman but if your book cover isn’t professionally designed, readers aren’t going to trust that the inside of the book isn’t professionally written.
And we’re all professionals here.
15. The Book Designer
The absolute best resource for learning about book design, inside and out. Their monthly book cover awards make for a good showcase of good and bad design. The blog is also a generally fantastic resource for self-publishers, marketing, and more.
16. Graphic Designers and Pre-Made Cover Templates
(Obviously, I can’t recommend a resource I’ve never personally used so there’s no specific link for this one. But, ya know, Google it.)
As a full-time graphic designer, I’m obviously going to recommend you hire a graphic designer to create your cover from scratch so it’s unique to you and your story. Some authors on a budget prefer to pick from pre-made template covers that designers can just pop the title and author name onto it and the job is done. You can also get templates for book interiors.
Vellum is my friend.
Ebook files are, in their simplest terms, a form of a coded website. I’ve coded ebooks by hand and I hate it, hate it, hate it. Vellum (Mac only) lets the user design ebooks without touching a bit of code while also allowing them to do some fancy things with fonts and flourishes. Big fan. Exporting ebooks for the various different formats is just a click away. You can even get a paperback version of Vellum, too, for laying out book interiors.
(If you want to try your hand at coding, there are countless tutorials out there on blogs and YouTube.)
Marketing Your Self-Published Book
But if my book is really good, it should just sell itself.
Most indie authors don’t enjoy the marketing part of the job but we all must do it, not just those of us who choose to walk the path of a self-publisher. Book marketing is a skill in itself and I recommend learning at least the basics before you hit that ‘Publish’ button. It’ll save you some heartache in the long run.
18. How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
Yes, Joanna’s on this list twice. The woman is that good. Her podcast gets a second shoutout too.
Now that I’m thinking about my go-to sources and the links I’ve used so far, I’m starting to wonder if I only trust Brits when it comes to self-publishing advice. Mark is another well-known name in the industry and his podcast is an incredibly rich and useful resource.
20. Facebook Groups for Writers
There are tons of Facebook groups out there where writers gather. However, I’ve found genre-focused writer groups to be especially useful. Generic writer groups can be great too, as long as the admin is attentive enough, but a really strong genre-based writer group is exceptional because what worked for one author in that genre may very well work for another. When I was writing the Molly Miranda series, I made friends in a group for chick lit writers and it was fantastic. We shared one another’s books on social media, created buzz for big genre-specific online events, and many of our readers regularly checked out and enjoyed their books as well.
Can’t find a group specific to your genre? It might be time to start one!
What is YOUR favorite resource (podcast, book, blog, etc.) for writing and/or self-publishing? Leave yours in the comments.
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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a freelance blogger, a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.