This is going to be a big blog (took me two weeks to write it, lol), but not near big enough to say what I want to about each resource here. I will put a list at the end of all the software and websites I use to make it easier for those who don't give a flying fart in space what I have to say about them and just want my treasure.
First of all, let me say two things: One, I don't like people who find GREAT assets and don't share them. Two, I get why they don't. It took me YEARS to get where I am now (which is still nowhere, I might add) and just HANDING over the good stuff I got from time, effort, and pain to someone feels really bad. I tend to be a launching pad for people who shoot way past me, so I decided to put together a list of everything I do/use to produce my books from the blank page to reading the finished hardback in my hands while listening to the audiobook (yes, I listen to my own books. I think my books are great >.< I wasn't always this way...)
There is no writing software like Scrivener for me. There are bunches out there and some might be "better." If you have a better one, good for you. However, I am an old dog. It took me years to unlock half of Scrivener's power and I am in no place to learn a new writing software when I am this engrained in Scrivener.
Why do I like it?
Because I am visual and organized to the point of insanity (I literally have a doctor's note now) when it comes to my writing. Scrivener allows me to keep EVERYTHING I use to write (mega plotter here) in ONE place. On multiple screens within the interface. I often write with my chapter in one pane and something like a list of gods (SO hard to remember every god, heaven, and hell in the Runer series) in the one right below. I often write with the chapter in one pane and the outline in the bottom one.
I also have tons of research, images, scene ideas, things to remember, and character sketches (with goals listed in them) all right there.
Scrivener also divides up your novel into bite-size workable chapters or scenes (I do chapters as I need all the scenes to flow together and I feel I'd make chapters too long if each scene had its own doc). I divide my novels into acts, parts, then chapters. You can then export it into Word, Vellum (yeey!), or almost any other format. It puts in the scene breaks (if you used them) and chapters, already numbered.
Scrivener is now also useable with ProWritingAid! I used to copy and paste chapters into Word and then into PWA. Not anymore!
Scrivener also supports websites being dropped in, images, links, and so much more.
I love it because I put everything I need to write in one place, in the same interface. That really works for me.
I don't use this so much anymore, but a few years ago, I couldn't plot without it. I never stuck strickly to it as each book has its own ebb and flow, but it does help keep you moving and stop you from lingering too long on getting to the meat of the story. I made my own modified version that has things in it like "foreshadow here" and "Put in hint here that will become exposed in part 3." I also used it to plot out series, since each book kind of needs to move the overall plot forward.
Why Do I like it?
Because it helped me understand pace and flow. So many books are slow these days. Or have too much unnecessary info. Some authors that are big can get away with it because they make thousands and have millions in their fan base. Indie authors don't have that luxury. So I used the Beat Sheet to keep me (around...eeshk) 100K words and to keep goals, obstacles, and character growth in focus rather than letting the worldbuilding and characters run away from me. I wanted to say a lot and say it well. For shorter books (like my upcoming YA paranormal horror DarkFront Witness) I don't use it at all because they are too short and I won't get lost. If you are a writer who still gets lost (which is fine, no shame) then I suggest using the 50K beat sheet to keep focused.
I often use the Beat Sheet when I mentor writers through my freelance. It works well for them because those writers are generally new and don't know what a plot point is, how pacing works, or when you need to slow or when you need to speed up. As with all things, with writing more, you'll get stronger. After writing 20 novels, I feel like I am just now getting my footing.
If you have written anything ever in your life that you have turned over to other people and you DON'T have PWA, what are you even doing?
Yes, yes, it's an AI, a software, it's not perfect. If you think running your manuscript through ANY editor that is not human and expect it to be good, you have a lot to learn. It will mess up your paragraphs if you don't know grammar or sentence structure and you just accept every suggestion it throws at you. However, it is galaxies ahead of other editing software.
Why Do I Like it?
It tells you CREATIVE writing edit suggestions. First off, I have a bachelor's degree in creative writing and a master's in rhetoric and writing. I have tutored and taught English for over a decade so I know what I'm doing. But PWA gets creative writing.
It has special settings for Sci-Fi, Fantasy, literature in general, academic writing, business, and technical writing (which I never touch). It also spots spaces where you are missing a word, which is The Big One for me as someone who CONSTANTLY leaves words out when I type (my brain is faster than my fingers and I write about 90 words a minute). It catches my 'teh' and the new 'dindt' that my fingers are fond of.
It also tells you where you can tighten up your writing and stop using passive writing. I was recently complimented on using only five unnecessary passive instances in The Trial of Two and I was pleased someone noticed. I try to get other writers to take it out of their writing, but they don't see what's wrong with it. Use PWA and a human editor to take it out and learn how to change it, and I promise you, you will never not notice it in other people's writing again and it will annoy you.
PWA also does track changes in MSW docs and is now integratible with Scrivener! You can open a MSW doc in PWA, make changes, and it will save them IN YOUR ORIGINAL DOC. That's amazing. It does so much more, but those are the big ones.
4. MS Word
This one is pretty obvious. Recently, Scrivener has been missing my spelling mistakes (but it's still the best thing ever!). I often do once overs for spelling when I export my Scriv files.
Why Do I Like it?
Because I hate Google docs. I love Google docs for convenience and I use the crap out of my Google Drive (it's my hard drive away from home). When I taught uni, SO MANY students tried to turn in their G-doc to TurnItIn and it got all messed as a PDF for some reason and jacked up their formatting (which I am a huge stickler about when it comes to academic writing). So they lost lots of points because I got this weird Frankenstein essay turned in to me.
I like MSW because it's basically still universal. It does a lot of things as well like formatting and some neat tricks. But I like that everyone uses it still (and I will die on the No Google Docs Hill). I export my Scriv files to MSW to send it to my editor so she can track changes and handle it in her comfort. I will say, I do NOT copy and paste each chapter back into my Scriv file so the Scriv file goes out of date the moment I export that doc. That's important to remember.
I work in that MS doc up until I dump that finished manuscript into Vellum.
Oh, Vellum how I love you and do not miss the abusive relationship I had with InDesign. Or the price I had to pay for InDesign.
Vellum is a Mac-only formatting software that is worth every penny. It has come a long way since I bought it a few years ago and is mega versatile now. It formats everything: ebooks, pdfs, and print. Yes, it does have its limitations outside novels, but that doesn't apply to me. You do have to finagle it to make sure your interior looks unique, but that's easy with GIMP and a bit of creative thinking.
Why Do I Like It?
If you asked me to give up Scrivener or Vellum, I wouldn't be able to choose. I love them both so much.
First off, let me say I use Vellum in tandem with GIMP. I make my own headers, images, interior artwork, and other page decorations (showing here is Prince of MidWest! I'm so proud). I use the measurements Vellum gives me to make appropriate graphics at the right size. However, it's gotten easier to put in headers now that Vellum has been updated.
I would cry if I had to pay for one more service for my books. I pay an editor, I pay beta readers, I pay my cover artist, I pay my narrators, I pay for marketing...If I had to pay for a formator, I'd quit. I would literally not be able to afford it. So this is why I love Vellum.
And it's a ONE TIME payment. No FREAKIN' subscription. I swear...
I can do everything I need for my novels and it looks good doing it. The first book I formatted in Vellum was "Why They Killed" and I was SO proud of the title page and all that jazz inside. Vellum even makes box sets for ebooks!
You can do everything you need to make a professional-looking book in Vellum. I choose to go an extra step with creating my own inner graphics to give them a unique look. I do this because I CAN spot a Vellum interior these days. I know the fonts, the layouts, the dingbats--all that. But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.
For novels, it's the best freakin thing.
Oh! And it has a spell check too!
I debated putting this on here but figured I would since IT'S FREE and very powerful. I use it to make all my graphics. I draw in it, edit, make covers (which I am still learning and after the backlash over how trash people thought the Ziyad cover was, I am trying harder with my very limited knowledge) and make dingbats and other interior decors. I did make the Prince of MidWest cover myself and I think it's a bit better. It's just another thing I need to learn how to do to cut costs. I am proud of the DarkFront Witness covers which will be seen later next year (part of one showing here. Wave to Huck, everyone!).
Why Do I Like It?
If it's free, it's for me!
GIMP is FREE and is the strongest image editing software I have run into (and as someone in this production profession for several years, I have run into a lot). It lacks a few things, but the community has covered those with plugins galore. I highly recommend it so you can do more than that screenshot from PowerPoint (no shame in that, though!) It takes time to learn and I have barely scratched the surface, but it's worth taking the time to learn.
Pictures, Video Footage, Music, and Sounds
I'm just going to dump the links here that I use on an almost daily basis.
Free Pics and Video footage
Not ALL of these sites have footage, but some do and it's all free. https://unsplash.com/
Free sound effects
zapsplat.com (I paid for the gold membership, though, when I was producing Golmasiah) I don't use this anymore since my podcast bombed.
Music, footage, photos, literally anything
I use Pond5 for A LOT of things. It is paid, but it's good stuff. I like it because I can purchase individual assets rather than having to buy credits or pay a monthly subscription. I buy my trailer music off there, graphics, footage, images--a lot of stuff. It adds up. If you saw the trailer for Sojourn (which I thought was pretty good) all the footage and music for that cost me almost $200. So you can understand why I'm sad no one watched it. But I'll do it again!
Epidemic Sound is another one for music, but I feel Pond5 has a MUCH better World selection. As someone who writes primarily NOT European/Western style fantasy, that means a lot to me. Gimme those Bhangra beats and Arabian drones!
Jennifer H. Flemming is a goddess. She didn't edit The Trial of Two, but did read it just so she could edit Sojourn for me and check the consistency. She edited Why They Killed, Prince of MidWest, will edit the rest of the Runer series, and basically every short story I've published. I love her and will never leave her. She offers all kinds of edits and gets me and my work. She also leaves comments as she goes, explaining why did something, finding plot holes, commenting on flow, and just so much more. Plus, I recently found out she's a rennie like me <3
The men who give my characters their voices. They are quite amazing talents. The best way I have found to get a narrator is through ACX. That's a long process and if you want to do it, I am more than happy to help you set it up and find a voice for your books ( you don't even have to pay the poor bastards. That's right, you can turn your book into an audiobook for FREE...but I pay my narrators). If you have questions, ask me. I work with my narrators outside ACX now since I've been with them for over 2 years. I also strongly recommend using FindAWayVoices. If you do not want your book to be exclusive to Audible (which I do not) then distribute through them as well. They get your book into B&N, BAM!, Scribd, and over 40 other stores/platforms. I like wide reach, but I hear you make more if you are exclusive to Amazon/Audible (like KU). My Guys are Adriel Brandt (who did Why They Killed, These Darker Streets, and Prince of MidWest). He is on IG as @adreilbrandt_narrator . Fun fact, his French pronunciation is amazing :) His voice for Rocket made me crush madly on my own MC, haha.
Next is Aaron Smith who gave Tzarik and Sybal their voices. It was a pure gift from God that I met/ran into Aaron when I did. He's perfect for my dark fantasy series and any other fantasy. He's done a lot and narrates full time. He live-streams on Twitch where you can chat with him. I recently emailed Titan Books, saying they needed to hire him to read their Sherlock Holmes books. They haven't gotten back to me yet. Hmm...
I have a couple I am working with. I will link you to the three I have used recently/most.
First, of course, is Andre who does the Season of the Runer covers. He's amazing, talented, and has a real mind's eye for fantasy and science fiction. When he sent me the final draft of Sojourn's cover last year, I legit cried. I STILL cannot stop looking at that masterwork of art. I had it blown up, printed, and framed on my wall (sans the text).
I have used Warren Design a lot as well. He's really great, super kind, and easy to work with. I used him primarily for YA fantasy/scifi. He did the cover for Winter's Vindication and my old Revary covers.
More than that though, I hunt down artists on https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/ I found all my artists here and work with them on custom covers these days. I don't do premade much anymore. Most artists on there will do a custom if you like their art style. Keep in mind that custom covers are far more expensive than premades.
I made the covers for Prince of MidWest and my upcoming YA paranormal horror trilogy.
Also, I use Inkarnate for my maps (paid version).
I was recently the victim of a predatory "marketing guy." I'm not naming names, so don't ask. But watch out for them. They KNOW indie authors are desperate and will do some truly nasty things to get you to sign on with them. Watch for their predatory behavior.
But the good one I have used for my last three book launches is R and R Book Tours. They offer a few packages that include IG and Facebook posts, interviews, giveaways, Bookstagram reviews, and some even go ahead and post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I have actually met some very nice bloggers through R&R and still chat with them online. Made real connections. Not only that, but I really like Shannon, the lady who helps me out over there. She's genuinely interested in my books and we've had some great convos. Again, costs money, but after three book launches with them, I don't regret it.
Printing and Distribution
Amazon for paperbacks. That's pretty self-explainatory to most Indie authors. I use them for ebooks too, but I am not on KU. Never will be.
I use Lulu for my hardbacks. They have a HUGE distribution list (B&N, BAM!, and so much more). They are also free. They are just as good as Ingram Spark except they don't have a 5X8... one day. They also do ebooks and distribute mega widely too, but I do my ebooks through each individual outlet. I set up publisher accounts with Google Books, Apple Books, and a few others. That was VERY hard and took a long time. So I recommend just using Lulu's ebook distribution.
I also bought my own ISBNs from Bowker. I don't know who you'd go through outside the US (and, yes, it matters). Again, very expensive, but having my own imprint is worth it.
Just the Links
Shameless plug. I do all this for other people too. I narrate, edit, ghostwrite, and make easy graphics (nothing crazy as I'm still very bad at it). Hit me up if you need help with anything.
Time To Be Bitter
Don't read any further if you want to continue liking me :)
I was going to write a bunch of paragraphs about how I feel about people asking for my resources and wanting my quality but none of the work. I then decided to make a video about it instead since I had a LOT to say and it made me very emotional.
Then I decided not to. I don't want people to see me being bitter and angry. Not only that but--as my best friend Jordon always says-- "HOLY SHIT, NO ONE CARES." It's true. No one cares what I went through or how hard I work to find and afford this quality for my books. The effort and suffering are one of the reasons I love my books so much. But no one cares. They just want the sources, the links, the artists, the software. So here you go. I'm a mentor and teacher at heart, so I believe in climbing a summit and then reaching a hand down to the people behind me. Even though it causes unpleasant emotions in me right now.
"Wow," you say. "You're kind of pompous, mad, and bitter." Yes. Yes. And yes. I didn't always have this thimble-full of self-confidence. It's a long story. Doesn't matter. No one cares. Enjoy the resources and best of luck on your creative endeavors! :)
Ten points to Slytherin (I'm a Slytherin so...) if you got this far AND have actually read my books. You cannot imagine what it means to me. I love you.