We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, and you may be wondering at this point, What do I need to get my book written and published? And that’s exactly what we are going to cover in this chapter: the tools that you need to leverage in order to set yourself up for success with your book.
One last thing before we dig in: This is by no means an exhaustive list but it does include the tools and resources that Pat and the rest of us here at Team SPI have used and had the most success with. We also know that everyone works differently, especially with a hug project like writing and publishing a book. So review what we’re suggesting but always remember to experiment and figure out what works best for you and your process—don’t force yourself to use something just because we recommend it. If it’s not a good fit, move on and try something else.
1. Scrivener (for managing your book project in one place)
Scrivener is the industry standard for writers working on books. It is a desktop application that creates files as projects inside which you can store your entire manuscript organized by parts, chapters, and subchapters, along with all of your reference notes, comments, research materials, and much more. When it’s time to compile a complete manuscript, Scrivener will export just about any type of file format you want from plain text to Word to a pdf. It also will automatically format your manuscript based on standard presets you select for the type of book you’re writing. If you’re writing a novel versus a nonfiction business book some of the page formatting with change according to standard formats for the different genres.
Scrivener has many features that makes it popular with writers, including a distraction-free writing mode, a split screen view that allows you to have different parts of the manuscript side-by-side, and the corkboard view. Corkboard view is exactly what it sounds like: a digital corkboard with index cards pinned to it—each card belongs to a section of the manuscript with title and summary. Rearranging the cards automatically rearranges the corresponding manuscript sections accordingly. It can make organizing and reordering a book so much easier than cutting-and-pasting in other word processing tools.
Now, Scrivener isn’t for everyone and if you go researching the application you may discover that just as many people hate it as love it. Fair warning: it is a robust application that does take some time to learn and get up to speed to get the most out of it. But many serious writers swear by it as the best way to organize and keep all of their book materials in one place.
2. Google Docs (for collaborating on your book and accessing it anywhere)
If you’re someone who might feel that Scrivener is a bit much for your needs then our next choice for managing your manuscript is Google Docs—and, yes, we do prefer it over Microsoft Word. Here’s why: does everything that Word can do, and it’s less bloated and more user-friendly. Not to mention that keeping your material online in the cloud allows you to access it from any device, which gives you more flexibility for when, where, and how to work on your book (as in, you don’t have to be at home working on your desktop all of the time).
Beyond those benefits, working in Google Docs allows for easy, straightforward, and streamlined collaboration. That means when you’re ready to get feedback on your book, whether that’s from a friend or you’re ready to hire an editor, you can share your files with them, set permissions in the doc to determine what kind of access they have (allow them to view only, comment, or edit), and now you are collecting all of your comments and feedback in one place instead of creating multiple versions and copies of your book that now exist all over the place.
If you don’t need or want the bells and whistles of an application like Scrivener, then using something as simple as Google Docs is your best best.
3. Post-it Notes (for organizing your book ideas)
Sometimes you need to spread out and see all of your ideas at once. Post-it Notes are a great tool for this (and if you skipped straight to this chapter, don’t miss chapter 1 where Pat goes into detail on his process for getting started on his book manuscript with Post-its).
Using Post-its to organize your ideas helps to give you a visual of the big picture, but it also engages just enough movement that can also help to trigger new ideas and different ways to think about your book topic. Imagine working on your book in front of your computer, sitting there typing away. It’s a single static environment—the page on your computer screen—with little movement required to type.
Now take a break from that picture to imagine sitting at your desk with a pen and a stack of Post-its. You write a single idea on one Post-it, peel the Post-it off, stick it on your desktop, and continue this movement until your desk is covered in Post-its. Before you know it, you’ve run out of room for all the Post-its so you start moving them from your desk to the whiteboard on your wall. You’re moving back and forth from your desk to your wall, sticking up Post-it Notes, and as you do this you begin to group the notes together in clusters that start to reveal a potential chapter structure.
This movement creates energy, you’re engaging your brain on the project in a different way, and before you know it the ideas are flooding so fast that you can’t even keep up with making new Post-it Notes for each one.
4. Rev.com (for dictating and transcribing your book)
Rev is a tool that records and transcribes audio, which you can use to dictate your book. There are several reasons why you might find dictating your book to be incredibly helpful in getting your material out of your head and down on paper. You might be someone who gets ideas out more easily if you’re talking. You may find that sections of your book that are harder to get out by sitting down to type. Or you may want to make the most of a long commute by multitasking with dictating sections of the book that you can then edit and arrange later on.
Regardless of the situation, dictating your book can be an excellent option for moving quickly through an early draft of your book. The question is once you have the audio, then what do you do? You need to have it transcribed. That’s where Rev comes in. Upload your audio online, order the transcript it’s delivered to you in twelve hours or less.
Even better is the Rev mobile voice recorder app. Record directly into the app, organize all your audio files, and select the ones you need transcribed. Once your transcript is returned you now have your book material in a written format that you can begin to work with, develop, rearrange, organize, and mold into what will eventually become your final manuscript.
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5. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) (for publishing both print and ebooks)
If you have been in the writing and publishing space or following self-published authors who primarily use Amazon to publish and sell their books, you may know that getting a print book on Amazon used to require yet another vendor called CreateSpace. At the end of 2018, Amazon acquired CreateSpace and merged it with Kindle Direct Publishing, its publishing services for Kindle books. That means KDP now offers publishing for both Kindle and printed books.
Anywhere you read online about authors using CreateSpace is pre-2019. Publishing independently on Amazon is now all done through KDP, so you can have a single KDP account for managing both the Kindle and print versions of your book. As with CreateSpace previously, physical books published with KDP are print-on-demand (POD).
Regardless of whether you use KDP for your physical book, if you want your book on Amazon for Kindle the only way to do that is via KDP. This is an account that you or your publishing team will have to create and administer; it’s where you upload your ebook file; it’s where you manage your book listing information, royalty payments, and sales. And remember, like we talked about in chapter 5 on publishing options, KDP requires a .mobi file which is a separate format configuration from the .epub file used on other e-reader platforms.
6. Amazon Advantage (for setting up Amazon pre-orders for your physical book)
In the history of independent and self-publishing, one of the biggest mysteries and hurdles for independent authors to overcome is making their physical books available for pre-order in advance of their publish date on Amazon. It’s an option for Kindle books with KDP, but for some reason not for physical books.
The workaround for this has been to use a separate account with Amazon Advantage, which allows pre-sales on Amazon. It’s a bit of a convoluted process involving setting up the Amazon Advantage account and then submitting a support ticket request to transfer any orders from Amazon Advantage to fulfillment with KDP (formerly CreateSpace, before Amazon acquired it). Pat used this process for pre-orders with his book Will It Fly? When it came time to publish Superfans, we worked with a publishing partner who handled this process for us.
Although it’s cumbersome, it does work. And as of writing this chapter at the end of 2019 it’s currently the only way we know of for independent authors to set up pre-orders for physical books. There has been speculation that this may change now that Amazon has acquired CreateSpace, but that has yet to happen. Also as of this writing, enrollment in Amazon Advantage is currently paused. (More information on this process can be found here.)
7. NEWTYPE (for printing and distributing your book)
We don’t blame you if trying to figure out Amazon and all of its idiosyncrasies sounds nightmare-ish. If it’s something you’d rather avoid altogether, consider a hybrid publishing partner like we talked about in chapter 5.
For SPI and Pat’s most recent book, Superfans, this was our solution and we used a publishing partner called NEWTYPE Publishing. When we started working on production for Superfans, we knew a couple of things: 1. We’d need to do a print run to have copies to give away at FlynnCon1, 2. Pat wanted to do a hardcover book (instead of paperback), and 3. Pat also wanted to pursue distribution to bookstores, which would would also require going with a print run instead of POD.
Some of that could have been accomplished on our own—sure, we could have found a printer and ordered a couple thousand copies of the books. But then getting them into bookstores and on the shelf? Well, that’s a piece of the puzzle that requires a distributor, and that’s something that usually isn’t available for self-published authors.
That is why working with a publishing partner like was the perfect solution for us, because NewType handled the printing and the distribution. The NewType team has a relationship with a printer as well as retailers, and the staff to support managing the printing and selling titles to book buyers. It’s was the ideal arrangement for us: we handed over our completely edited manuscript and design template, and NewType literally handled the rest from layout of the print book and conversion of the ebook, to printing and distribution.
If you plan to self-publish your book but want the support of a publishing partner for the printing and distribution logistics, then this is the option for you. There are other hybrid publishing partners out there, as we talked about in chapter 5, but NewType is the one we can vouch for.
8. Literary Agent (for handling your international rights)
Regardless of whether you self-publish, you might want to consider a literary agent to handle international rights of your book if you’d like to see it translated and published in other countries. Even if you get a traditional book deal, your publisher will buy the rights to your book typically for a specific country or region. In the United States, for example, publishers buy North American rights, which gives them the right to distribute and sell the book in North America only.
But let’s say you have a global audience, like Pat does, and you’d also like to get your book published in Europe. That means you’d need the book translated into different languages, depending on the country—German, French, Spanish, Polish, etc. And that would require a publisher to do that translation, to print the book in that language, and distribute the book in appropriate stores.
This is where a literary agent would come into play, because these are people who specialize in representing authors in other markets. They have the contacts and relationships with international publishers. Not only that, but they also are trained to handle the legalities and the contract that would stipulate the terms you agree to in selling international rights. There are a lot of nuances to a business deal like this, and having a trained professional in your corner to make sure you’re not only getting the best deal but also covered legally is always your best option.
9. Book Launch Team (to help spread the word about your book)
When you’re ready to release your book into the world, you want to create as much buzz as possible around the release date and one of the best ways to do that is with a dedicated book launch team. A book launch team is a group of volunteers that you recruit with an incentive, usually a fee advance copy of your book, to help promote the book during your launch week.
We’ve done this successfully for Pat’s two books Will It fly? and Superfans, and we have done it with the help of a book launch strategist, Daniel Decker. There’s a signup process and a private Facebook group for the launch team to interact with each other, and with you. The Facebook group is also where announcements can be made to the group as well as delivering assets, like graphics and messages for social sharing.
Although it’s been a help for our team to have someone like Daniel on board managing this process for us, but if you are a smaller operation then it’s definitely something you could manage on your own. You can recruit volunteers from your audience using your social platforms and email list, add them to a private Facebook group and you’re off to the races. The most important thing is to communicate with the book launch team on a regular basis, get them a copy of your book as soon as you can (this gives them something to talk about when they promote it), give them specific guidelines of what you’d like them to do, and provide them with assets they can use to post about your book.
10. Calendly (for scheduling interviews with you)
If you plan to do any interviews (podcast or otherwise) to promote your book (and of course we think that you should!), then make friends with Calendly. It’s a tool that will make scheduling so much easier and eliminate the back-and-forth of “that doesn’t work, how about this instead” emails. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate SPI earns a commission if you purchase through this link.]
Calendly syncs with your Google calendar and allows you to set up events with preset windows of time for your availability. So let’s say you were going to be available for media interviews two days a week on Mondays and Wednesdays between 2-5 p.m., you create an event in Calendly with those parameters. It generates a link that you can send people where they will see your available times and book the appointment right online. An event gets created and added to your calendar, and that time is no longer available to others who look at your schedule via your Calendly link.
Calendly also integrates with platforms like Zoom if that’s where you plan to take your meetings, and will send the meeting details with an email confirming the appointment. The premium and pro plans allow for automated reminder and follow-up emails.
There are other scheduling tools available, so pick one and streamline your scheduling process (even beyond book launch marketing interviews). We just happen to use and love Calendly.
11. Social Media (to share about your process and let your audience know about your book)
It should go without saying that if you’re going to publish a book, you need an audience—an audience who will buy and read your book—and the most cost-effective way to do that is via social media. It’s also the best way to share your process and start talking about your book as soon as you start writing it, or even before you start writing it as Pat did with Will It Fly? (Revisit chapter 8 for more on that.)
The benefit of leveraging social media is that you don’t need to be invited on a podcast or TV show to have a platform for talking about your book. You can create a video and share it anywhere you want. You can go live on your platform of choice and host a Q&A about your book. You can do any number of things in your own feed that will help people get to know you and what your book is about. It doesn’t really matter if you are on one or all of the social media platforms. What matters is that you figure out where your audience is most active, go there, and engage with them.
12. Teachable (for creating a companion course for your book)
What happens when your book is published and people who have never heard of you buy it, read it, and love what you have to say? Awesome, right?
Yes, awesome! Except…how do you know who these people are? You don’t have a way to reach them, unless they google you and start following you. And even then, how do you know if your new followers are people who read your book?
That’s where a companion course comes in. You can use a platform like Teachable to create a free course for people who have read your book. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, SPI earns a commission if you purchase through this link.] You don’t promote it or share it beyond the pages of your book itself. You include the course url in the book with encouragement for people to join, like additional resources and material that compliment the book. It’s free to join, so why wouldn’t they? If you provide value in the book and promise even more in the free course, there is a good chance they will join. And then you have direct access to your readers.
Pat has done this for both of his books Will It Fly? and Superfans, and in chapter 11, you'll read about how nearly 50 percent of people who have read Will It Fly? have joined the companion course.
Your course can be as simple or robust as you want it to be. Create a few videos where you share an extra story for each chapter. Or make worksheet downloads available. No matter what you do, give people a reason to take action beyond the book. All you have to do is make sure the course is ready to go on book launch day, that way as soon as the book is in the first person’s hands, the course is ready for them when they land on that course url.
One Final Tool: A Resource to Learn from Other Authors
The tools in this chapter are a handful of the top resources that Pat and the rest of us here at Team SPI recommend for getting the most success out of your book writing and publishing journey. But there is one thing we didn’t touch on in this chapter, which offers aspiring authors a more in-depth look at what a book can really do for you and your business. And that is learning from other experienced authors and book professionals for additional perspectives on how you can strategize and leverage your book as a true asset for your brand. We’ll dig in on our recommended resource for doing just that in chapter 12, but first we have two more chapters to cover: one on how to avoid some common book publishing mistakes and one on a final look at Pat’s book Will It Fly? as a case study of how it’s done since it was published in February 2016.