Resources: Round 2 – Software
A couple of months ago we published a blog post featuring resources for sapphic literature authors. We shared the list with our sister site, iReadIndies and got requests from the authors of the iReadIndies collective to add things like cover designers, writing software, marketing resources and more. We’ve since added cover designers to the list on that site. You can see the full list here.
We’re creating a separate blog post here and page on the iRI site for software for authors because there are a lot of software resources in multiple categories.
This list isn’t intended to be exhaustive. The writing and editing software brands listed here and the emailing platforms are known to many authors, both traditionally published and indie. Plotting software is a newer player on the scene but both types of authors use it as well. The publishing specific software will be of more interest to indie authors than to traditionally published ones.
Microsoft Word: The old standby. Mobile, PC, and Apple products versions. Most editing software add-ins work with it. Cloud storage with MS Office 365. Most Longtime users can make it do lots of tricks and Microsoft rolls out new features all the time. Decent voice to text capability built in. Can be pricy if you keep upgrading or if you use MS Office 365 and pay monthly/annually. No story boarding or built in plotting features.
Google Docs: Free and accessible from any device with your Google login (uses your Gmail account). Browser extensions are available for most editing software. Works similar to MS Word in many respects but without all the underlying code. Also has built in voice to text capability.
Scrivener: The gold standard for writers. Apple and PC versions but the Apple version is more developed. One time cost of about $49 US with updates and most major upgrades free. Good product support. Project management from start to finish with built in tracking capabilities. Store all your notes/research in your book file. See your chapter notes on screen as you work. Storyboarding capabilities. Can build boxed sets. Steep learning curve but there are lots of free materials and videos out there. Can use PC/Apple built in speech to text functions. Can create files for publishing, but the interface to do this with a PC is clunky.
Dragon Naturally Speaking and Dragon Anywhere: Works with MS Word (add-in), Google Docs (browser extension) and other programs for speech to text. Pricey compared to the free speech to text converters Microsoft and Google offer users, but it can be trained to your voice fairly quickly and work much more accurately. Dragon Anywhere is the newest offering, but it’s stilly easy to get Dragon Naturally Speaking and it’s still supported.
Plottr: There’s lots of plotting software out there. If you’re a visual planner and you don’t want to cover your wall space covered in boards with index cards or PostIt notes, Plottr is your best bet. Available for Mac, PC, and online. Highly customizable and has useful templates for plots in several genres/formats and for characters. Annual $25 US fee but if you like it, spring for the lifetime deal at $99 US.
Plot Factory: Robust but it’s online software only. No internet, no access. This is freemium software. The free version does a lot and doesn’t limit the volume of your content but feature rich versions cost from $9 to $19 a month/$90-190 a year, Import your own plot templates. US. Audio narrations available even at the free level downloadable as MP3 files.
Scrivener: See above (Writing Software). It’s not a robust plotter like the software Plottr, but if all you need is a storyboard where you can see plot points/scenes/chapters visually and move things around, and you already have this, it’s all you’ll probably need.
ProWritingAid: Free and premium versions. Works with MS Word (add in), Google Docs, and just about everywhere you can write online like on blog posts, comments, social media and more (Chrome extension). Checks grammar, spelling, punctuation, and clarity. Plagiarism checker. Run twenty different reports on your writing based on the software’s analysis. Premium is the robust standard for professional writers both traditionally published and indie. Give your editor the cleanest copy possible. Pricing for premium is $10 a month/$120 a year US.
Grammerly: You’ve likely used the free version of this. It’s always been a great grammar, spelling, and punctuation checker and it has a Chrome extension to allow it to work for you across the internet as with ProWritingAid. The paid version has improved over the years to be nearly as robust as ProWritingAid, but there are far less reports available and it’s more expensive, especially if you can only afford to pay monthly ($30 a month, US).
Hemmingway: Online and desktop for Mac or PC. Not as robust as ProWritingAid or Grammarly but very user friendly and inexpensive at a onetime fee of $19.99 US. Allows the user to format articles and export directly to WordPress and to Medium.
Fictionary Storyteller: Online only. 14 day free trial. After that there are three levels of paid plans from $19 a month/$169 a year US to $49 a month/$399 a year, US. At the lowest level you can work with three active files/stories. Popular with editors especially at the ‘Storyteller Coach’ level.
Vellum: Mac only. Built in editor. The longtime standard for self publishers who wanted to format books that looked good while being able to edit on the fly. Creates individual books and boxed sets. Easy to use. Updated frequently. Good support. One time cost of $199.00 US (eBook only)/$249.00 US (eBooks and paperbacks). The biggest con is that it only runs on Mac OS systems and only the past couple of MAC OS upgrades. Once Apple stops supporting an OS, new Vellum software updates won’t work. You have to get a newer Mac.
Atticus: Online only. The newish kid on the block trying to unseat Vellum. Aims to unseat Scrivener too, as it too is an editor so you can make changes on the fly. The developers are pushing it as writing software. It’s getting there, but it’s not quite there yet. A cool feature is the ability to store templates for your back matter. You change the template then switch it out with all your stored books and upload the updated version to the retailers. New features are added often. Boxed set creation is now available. User friendly and good support. Cheaper than Vellum at $147 US with lifetime free updates.
D2D: Online only. free. In the days before Atticus, if you didn’t have Vellum or Scrivener, you either learned how to format your MS Word or Google Docs document for conversion to a .mobi or .epub file or you paid someone to format your eBooks. You could also use Draft2Digital (D2D). You still can. It’s still out there and it’s still free. The owners of D2D improve it all the time. It’s user friendly and that’s a good thing because support can be slow. The biggest con with D2D’s compiler is that it’s not an editor. What you see is what you get. Catch a typo? Spacing off? You have to go back to your source file and fix it then upload your file again.
Scrivener: You can create files to publish directly in Scrivener. If you’ve mastered the learning curve to write in it and use many of it’s cool features, you can probably master it’s publishing learning curve too. Scrivener took years to do a PC update beyond what they took to do an update to the Mac version of their software. Anne gave up on publishing with the PC version well before they finally updated it. The old way of creating .mobi and .epub files with the PC version was a slog. Hopefully it’s improved. Anne used Vellum for a few years, then bought Atticus. She prefers either of those to using Scrivener to do the conversions.
Adobe InDesign: The best software for book layout. Used by professional graphic artists everywhere, often in conjunction with Adobe Illustrator. Monthly and annual plans starting at $21.00 a month US for use out of the Adobe Creative Cloud. Does not include stock photos. You must do your own illustrations (with Illustrator or other such software), provide your own photos, or purchase licensed stock photos from Adobe Stock or another provider like DepositPhotos.
Note: There are dozens of viable platforms out there to use to maintain your email list. Additionally, many webhosts offer this service and can integrate it with your website. These three are the most common standalone platforms. They all have limited free plans and multitudes of features. All have experienced significant price increases in the past two years as they’ve added features to compete with each other.
MailerLite: Free up to 1,000 subscribers. Tends to be the least expensive overall, especially under 2,500 users. It’s also the most basic. There are templates and you can create and store your own, but they’re limited. Integration with websites is also limited but importing addresses is simple. Has automations.
MailChimp: Free up to 500 subscribers. More expensive than MailerLite, but also more feature rich. You can customize to your heart’s content. Lot’s of customizable templates. Integrates with most hosting platforms/software. Automations. Social media scheduling.
ConvertKit: Free up to 1,000 subscribers but limited features. Popular with sales professionals, it’s making inroads with authors. Includes everything MailerLite and MailChimp have, plus ecommerce at paid levels. You can sell digital products and subscriptions. It’s the most expensive of the three.
BookBrush: Online only. Free and paid versions. Great for making graphics that include your book cover, book related images, pull quotes and more. This is not all around marketing software. The free version will let you do a lot to produce marketing graphics that include your cover. Paid versions, starting at $99 a year US, are more robust but they are still based around book covers.
Canva: Online and offline. Mobile versions as well. Robust graphics creation software. The free version does as much as most beginning authors will ever need. If you publish a lot, blog, market on social media, do stuff for other organizations, etc. you’re going to want to spring for Pro at $99 a year US. It will be money well spent because you’ll use this a lot. With pro you have access to far more graphics, thousands more templates, the ability to upload fonts, and tons of special features.
Adobe: Adobe is an entire suite of products you can buy as downloadable software or use via Adobe Creative Cloud. You’ll need a combination of products and stock photos to make quality graphics with Adobe, but they will be high quality. Your best bet if you go the Adobe route is to buy the all apps package for $54.99 a month. It’s pricy, but you can do everything you’d ever need with it for yourself and all your author friends.