I often get questions from writers regarding how to get started, what software I use, who I recommend for services (e.g., cover designers, editors, web designers), and how to market a book. I have run a business offering workshops for writers for the past decade. I’ve now expanded that business to be online and to offer coaching, as well as one-time concierge services (e.g., book formatting, advertising design, etc.) You can learn more at POV Author Services.
If workshops aren’t your thing, then you might invest in some good books. After preparing many workshops and answering countless questions over the past decade, I decided to write a series of books for career authors. It takes the new author through the basics in Secrets Every Author Should Know, to the publishing process in Secrets to Pricing and Distribution, and then through marketing options in Secrets to Effective Author Marketing. They are available in both print and ebook, and will be available in audiobook sometime in 2021.
There are numerous excellent options for software, for cover designers, and editors. I will list the ones I use at the bottom of this page. However, just because that is what I’ve chosen doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right answer for you. Each author’s career is unique and where you are in your career makes a difference as to what services you might need and who you use for those services.
One of the places to get reliable and objective information on a variety of people and services is through the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). They are an indie author advocacy organization. Membership for authors is only $119 per year. You get a lot of free resources and books to help you succeed as indie author, as well as access to a Facebook private group where authors, like me and others, will answer questions. Membership also provides numerous free educational benefits and discounts with their vetted business partners. They have a Watchdog list that evaluates various services and they put out a regular newsletter and podcasts with invaluable information to keep you up to date on what is happening in the publishing world.
My List of People and Services
No author is an island onto herself. Though I tried to do most everything when I first started out, I quickly realized where my weaknesses were and looked for a team of service providers that could do what I wanted. Over the past decade I’ve had two cover designers, three editors, and a variety of virtual assistants for various projects. Really, I’m not so hard to work with. I just kept finding people who decided to leave the business for a variety of reasons.
I believe I am now settled with people I absolutely love and trust, as well as people who are going to stick around. So below is a list of who I use and software I like.
Editor. My editor is Jessa Slade of Red Circle Ink. She has won two Rita awards for editing and has an amazing sense of story. I use her as a developmental editor. She is VERY busy and does not edit in all genres. So if you need services, check out her page and then decide if she is right for you. She tends to schedule pretty far out, so don’t expect instant turnaround on a project you need tomorrow. Any errors you do notice errors in my manuscript are completely MY fault, not hers. After I get it back I always end up adding and subtracting things and sometimes a typo or errant comma finds it way in.
Cover Design. I’ve been fortunate to have two cover designers in my career. Christy Keerins and Christy Carlyle. Christy Keerins is not taking on new clients right now. However, Christy Carlyle at Gilded Heart Publishing Services is taking on new clients. She is an author herself and has a really good sense of genre. Her covers typically include saturated colors and character-driven designs. She is a Photoshop professional and very meticulous with shadings and blending. She has changed the hair color of a model for me, and melded another person into a tree. She designed all of my books in my Forest People Series and the first three books in my Sweetwater Canyon Series. She would have designed the rest of that series but went on hiatus for a bit.
Christy is easy to work with, reasonably priced, and is always on time with promised delivery deadlines. Like my editor, she is very busy, so I advise you to schedule as far in advance as you can. My personal style is to order all covers for a series at once. In that way, I never have to worry about matching my production to someone else’s schedule. I also LOVE having my covers even before I start writing because they motivate me and I can include some character details that are on the cover.
Ebook and Print Formatting. I’ve always done my own formatting. I have a technical background and it came fairly easy to me. I’ve used several different software programs over the past decade, including Legend and Jutoh. Though I liked them, new options have been developed. I now use Vellum and absolutely love it. It produces both ebook and print book formatting that is beautiful and clean code, making it easy to upload to any vendor or aggregator you wish. It also makes it very easy to create multi-volume boxsets and to switch out backmatter based on vendor specifics. In fact I offer formatting services through my POV Author Services business.
If you don’t want to learn how to format, there are two good FREE formatting options I can recommend: Draft2Digital and Reedsy. They have free programs that are fairly easy to use. IN the D2D offering you upload a Word file (preferably DOCX) and select a template. In the Reedsy option you copy and paste each chapter into the Reedsy program. Both offer templates. Both compile the books for ebook and print. Authors have had different pros and cons about each. I would say try it and determine for yourself if it meets your needs.
Social Media Posting/Scheduling. For social media posting and scheduling I use Buffer. It allows me to schedule posts into up to ten social media locations at one time. Though I do some posts individually, for the most part I schedule my posts in advance–sometimes a week in advance, sometimes a month depending on what’s on my itinerary. I use Buffer to post to my Facebook author page; private groups that I control, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Ebook Distribution. I currently use an aggregator, Draft2Digit to get my ebooks distributed widely. I do a combination of loading directly to some vendors and then use D2D to get everywhere else like multiple library sites and wide distribution throughout Europe, the UK, and Australia.
Print Book Distribution. I use Ingram Spark for distribution everywhere around the world, except Amazon. Their platform includes over 39,000 locations around the world: bookstores, libraries, online vendors, and schools. For distribution ONLY to Amazon online stores, I use AmazonKDP Print. There are many good reasons for using both platforms that I won’t go into here. However, if you prefer to only use one, or you live in a country that Amazon does not serve, I would strongly recommend Ingram Spark. They do distribute to Amazon as well.
Audiobook Creation and Distribution. I use Findaway Voices for all my audiobooks. They distribute to all the major audiobook outlets around the world, including Audible, Apple, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, Playster, Libro.fm, Audiobooks.com, eStories, numerous library distribution services, and many others. They make it easy to find the right narrator for my book, to schedule and pay for the narration, and they get it out to all of their partners quickly once the files have passed QA and are finalized. I also have the option to narrate my own books (which I am doing for my nonfiction and for short stories). I find their support services quick and efficient and they are always looking for new options that authors may need, like their new Direct Sales options through Authors-Direct. With Findaway Voices I own all the files and can take them anywhere I want at any time. That’s really important to me.
Web Design and Hosting. Beginning in 2018, after evaluating 20 WordPress design firms and interviewing three of them, I chose DesignWorks Northwest, owned by Rick Cano. I am ecstatic I did! The site you see here is designed and implemented by him and his team. It is hosted on his servers which come with the appropriate security, backups, and database access. He is knowledgeable, honest, professional, and reasonably priced. Once he has completed a design, he will do training for anyone who wants to maintain or make changes on their site. Or you can pay a reasonable monthly fee and have his team do all your updates for you and never worry about it again. For those who don’t need a new design but want secure hosting with someone who takes care of all the backend complexities, DesignWorks NW also offers that option for reasonable monthly fee.
I have been designing and coding my own websites since the early 1990’s. I began with coding HTML and eventually CSS and a little PHP. Around 2006, I moved to Drupal but found it required even more technical skills and coding than I wanted to invest. In 2011 I moved to WordPress because it was the fastest growing, open source platform in the world and provided a large diversity of plugins to handle the functionality I wanted. The community of developers are amazingly dedicated to keeping it up to date and meeting the needs of most entrepreneurs. In addition to the core developers, there are thousands of theme and plugin developers that provide ongoing functionality integrated with WordPress core. I still highly recommend WordPress to anyone serious about having a professional Internet presence.
Though I still maintain three other WordPress websites, I made an important decision in 2018 to stop designing my own website. I could no longer keep up with the constant changes and the design needs as my business has become more complex AND my time has become more dedicated to writing more books and running my business. The more books and products I had, the more pages that needed to be developed and kept secure. SEO makes a huge difference in discoverability and with the advent of Direct Sales of products becoming more realistic, I needed someone who understood all of these aspects of the Internet and could handle the integrations as well as the navigation needs of my readers. The number of changes in plugins, themes, and WordPress itself was becoming overwhelming, even with my technical background, and I just didn’t have time to keep up with it.
I get no commission or affiliate money for recommending DesignWorks Northwest. However, I feel confident that for those authors or small businesses who want a team that knows WordPress and will treat you with respect and integrity you deserve, I can’t think of anyone better.