I started my author career as a father of three and military man deployed overseas. As you can imagine, I didn’t have a ton of spare cash to invest in apps and writing tools, so I had to make every penny count.
Fast forward several years. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a certain level of success as an author and book marketer, I’m still as frugal as possible. I hate to see new authors spending too much money on tools they don’t really need, especially when the cost of self-publishing is a roadblock for many.
Today, I’d like to share my selection of the finest author tools and apps that won’t cost you a penny. To make the list, they had to fulfill the following three criteria –
1. Useful for authors of all types
2. Free or offers a useful free version which isn’t just a trial
3. Personally used by me or other writers I know
I’ve included tools to help you out before, during, and after you write your book.
Book Planning & Research
The entire book production process is a lengthy one, often involving many different stages, and often various collaborators. Keeping track of the tasks that need to be completed is essential. Similarly, your book requires thorough research in order to feature the level of quality that will result in positive reviews. Here are my favorite tools for the planning and research stage of the book process.
Trello is an attractive and intuitive organization app. I love it because of its ease of use, clean and clear design, and its ability to simplify and ease even the most complicated projects. Trello works well as a project planner for authors, whether you are working on your own, or collaborating with others.
Anyone who knows me will be quick to tell you I’m a huge fan of Apple (I even used to work there!) and also of Evernote, at least back in its free days. If you can look past the fact it’s from Microsoft, OneNote is a functional, free alternative to Evernote, with almost all the same capabilities.
If you’re looking for a free, minimalist alternative to Evernote, then Simplenote could be just what you need. It allows you to quickly and simply store text research for your next book project whenever inspiration strikes.
Nothing ruins the suspension of disbelief and destroys a reader’s trust quicker than a glaring factual error. Wolfram Alpha will help you enrich your book with an amazing level of credible detail.
When it comes to the time to actually write your book, you’ll probably find that standard tools such as MS Word aren’t suited to full length projects. You’ll also find that standard spell checkers don’t offer the level of improvement needed for professional quality writing. Here are my best free tools to help with writing and self-editing your book.
Google’s cloud storage and app suite is a great option for both the research and creation phases of your next book. Although Docs is a little lightweight as a word processor compared to options such as Scrivener, Drive makes it easy to share and collaborate with team members such as proofreaders and editors, and fully integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar.
Ywriter is a powerful, free specialist book writing app available for Windows users. It was created by a novelist in response to his frustration with existing software, and is packed with useful features just for authors, such as the ability to create and rearrange scenes and chapters, to store character info, and to visually storyboard your book.
FocusWriter is the opposite of powerhouse writing apps like Scrivener. It is intentionally stripped back and minimalist to allow you to focus exclusively on getting your word count achieved.
There’s no substitute for a talented and experienced book editor, but Hemingway comes closer than most. It doesn’t just suggest improvements to your writing style, but also explains them, so your mastery of English increases over time.
Grammarly is somewhat similar to Hemingway as it also aims to improve your writing. However, Grammarly isn’t so much focused on improving your style as it is on helping you avoid errors. Great for shorter texts such as blog posts or author mailing list communications.
Reedsy Book Editor
One of the most frustrating parts of self-publishing is formatting the layout of your book before exporting it into the correct format. Reedsy’s tool makes this process a lot easier than using standard tools such as MS Word.
As any seasoned indie author knows only too well, releasing a book is only the first battle in a very long war. Marketing yourself as an author, as well as your work, and building a long-term author platform are crucial for lasting success. These free tools will help you save time and get better results from your book and author marketing efforts.
Canva makes it quick and easy to make great looking graphical content without any specialist design knowledge whatsoever. For authors, this is great for making things like social media graphics or author blog featured images. The canva blog is also an excellent source of information about the principles of design so you can learn over time.
When done well, social media is one of the most effective forms of promotion for authors. After all, almost everyone is on Facebook, and you can potentially reach them for free. However, managing multiple social network profiles can eat into your writing time and also the time for the many other things you need to do as an author. HootSuite makes it easy to schedule a batch of content across multiple social platforms in one go. This means you can dedicate a single block of time each month to your social scheduling, then set and forget.
Building a solid network of fellow authors and other influencers within your genre or niche should be a key aspect of your marketing strategy. As your efforts increase in this area, it will become more and more difficult to track your outreach and stay on top of it. A specialist tool such as Ninja Outreach makes it easy to find contact details for almost anyone online, check out their platform’s stats, and find their contact details. It has a very useful, totally free browser plugin which I highly recommend.
Free Tools For Authors Conclusion
So there you have it, my personal pick for the best free tools out there for authors.
Have you had any experience with any of the tools on this list, and have you picked up any tips to share with your fellow writers?
Do you know of any other useful free tools for authors?
If so, please feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll be sure to take the time to respond.