In the past, I’ve posted here and there about the tools I use for my web design, marketing and audio projects and figured I’d bring them all together in one reference for others wanting to check them out. This is by no means a full list of all that is out there, just a list of what I’ve had success with. Some are free, some cost a minimal amount of dough. Overall, I know most self-published/indie authors are on a tight budget anyway, making it difficult to outsource some of the different jobs one has to do, so these tools will definitely come in handy if you’re a do-it-yourselfer like me.
Gimp (www.gimp.org) is a great FREE design program if you don’t have the cash to spare for a copy of Adobe Photoshop. I mean a legitamate copy of Photoshop. Gimp has great tools that I use for website, cover and logo design. There is a learning curve, but Gimp has a great online instruction manual, and there are innumerable tutorials online by other Gimp users. Once you learn the basics of layers and importing brushes, you’re on the right track.
Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net) is a FREE program for recording and editing audio. I am currently using it to record myself reading my books instead of paying another company/group hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it for me. I am also using a basic Radio Shack headset with microphone to do it. It seems to work just fine since all I’m doing is reading.
I’ll include some other links that go well with Audacity -
Lame (lame.sourceforge.net/download.php) – lets you convert your Audacity file to MP3 format (FREE)
The Levelator (www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator) – automatically balances out the audio level and volume of your audio file (FREE)
WebEasy Professional 8 (www.avanquest.com/USA/software/web-easy-professional-8-130293) is a web design program I have been using for years now. It is very user-friendly and relatively cheap – $49.95 last I looked – and gives you a great drag-and-drop canvas to work with, allowing you to include video, images, links, code, and other great items in your website. It has a relatively easy walk-through to help you get your website posted to the Web. If you want to check out what I’ve done with WebEasy, head to my website at www.davidnalderman.com.
Musicshake (www.musicshake.com) is a nifty FREE program a friend told me about that allows you to mix different, pre-recorded instruments, beats and vocals into unique songs. I am currently playing around with this program to create some theme music for the beginning of my audio books and eventually for when I desire to start podcasting. The program is free to download and free to use, but if you want to export what you’ve recorded into MP3 format, they offer you to do so at a price of 99¢ per song for non-commercial use and $19.99 per song for commercial use.
Dreamstime (www.dreamstime.com/free-section.php) is a great resource for finding the perfect image for a blog post, your website, or any other design project you may have in mind. They offer royalty-free images for a price, but they also have a section devoted to FREE images that can be used without (from what I’ve read) having to credit the person who posted the image.
Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) is becoming a pretty popular place to set up and sell ebooks. But more than that, what first drew me to Smashwords was the fact that their technology helps you format your manuscript for almost every major ereader out there – for FREE. They include a downloadable PDF that walks you through the whole process. I found when I followed all the steps – including ‘nuking’ (cutting and pasting your document into Notepad to strip it of it’s defunct formatting) the manuscript, which I do before I even start formatting now – that my novel came out looking pretty good on ereaders. You can list and sell your ebook on their website, sign up for the various distribution channels, and even create coupon codes for your work. Smashwords does take a minimal fee from your profits, but the great thing is they won’t take anything from you if you want to offer your book up for free.
Createspace (www.createspace.com) is one of many self-publishing sites out there that put the control of your book – and all of its content – in your hands. I have tried a couple other services such as iUniverse (which I did not have a good experience with) and Lulu (which is very similiar to Createspace), but I go with Createspace because my books are cheaper to purchase myself and that allows me to make more cashola. Createspace lets you upload your formatted manuscript to their site and put it in paperback and Kindle format. They charge nothing if you’re taking care of the cover design, formatting, editing, etc yourself, or they offer publishing packages for a charge. They also offer ISBN#’s, which is convenient. Createspace allows you to set up your own virtual storefront for each of your books, and also offers distribution packages to get more exposure for your novels.
The Creative Penn (www.thecreativepenn.com) is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to useful blogs for indie authors. Run by Joanna Penn, an indie author herself, I have found this blog to be EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to self-publishing, marketing, book design, etc. Joanna interviews many authors, marketing gurus, and other special guests and loads up her blog with useful posts and podcasts that help with many different aspects of author and book promotion, spanning from shortcuts in using FBML in your Facebook pages to the elements of cover design for your book. I highly recommend this blog and this link – http://www.thecreativepenn.com/resources – will take you straight to a page she created for newcomers to start at. She even offers a free download of her Author 2.0 Blueprint which covers many different aspects of book and author promotion.
Hope some of you find this short but comprehensive list useful. I’d love to hear of any other goodies authors have found across the web, so drop me a line or a comment and let me know about them!