Are you new to self-publishing and need a few pointers? Here are some resources I use, like, and trust.
E-Book Retailers, Distributors, and Delivery Services:
Draft2Digital (D2D): These guys are fantastic. They only make money if you make money. They help you distribute your books to various retailers and they keep a small cut in exchange for their services. They also offer LOTS of free services (even for authors who don’t go through their distribution services). Seriously. Free book formatting and lots more. There’s nothing to lose when you check them out. I HIGHLY recommend their Books2Read.com service. It’s an amazing way to share just one link and include all the retailers where your books are available. I use D2D for Apple Books and various retailers (but not Kobo and Amazon where I go direct). My D2D affiliate link: https://www.draft2digital.com/gocreate
Amazon: I go direct with these guys but I got out of their Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. Going “wide” or doing “KU” is a personal decision that is yours to make, based on your situation. Learn more at kdp.amazon.com
Kobo: I go direct with Kobo because I like their interface and having direct access to their “Promotions” tab. Learn more here: http://writinglife.kobobooks.com
StreetLib: I use them to publish books on Google Play. The interface is a bit tricky and takes some getting used to, but their customer service is great. I don’t sell many individual books on Google Play but my bundles do okay. Learn more here: http://streetlib.com
BookFunnel: Technically, they’re not an e-book retailer, but they take care of quite a few things that are incredibly valuable to authors. They deliver e-books directly to your readers (and take care of any technical support). No more complex instructions on how to side-load files onto whatever device. Depending on the pricing plan you choose, they also connect to your newsletter service(s), Patreon, and other things. They offer great promotion opportunities as well (great way to join other authors in your genre, offer a freebie, and then collect new email subscribers in exchange). I highly recommend their service. I pay for the mid-list author plan because I have two pen names. WELL WORTH THE PRICE! Learn more here: http://bookfunnel.com/pricing/
NameCheap: I used to buy my domains through my old hosting company (GoDaddy), but they got greedy with their domain name renewal prices (among other things – I don’t recommend GoDaddy). I’ve since transferred all my domain names but one to NameCheap. It’s one of the cheapest places I’ve found to buy and renew domain names. I have several domain names registered through them for various personal projects and they include free privacy protection. My affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/domains
SiteGround: I am currently hosting several sites on SiteGround, and I think SiteGround is one of the better ones when it comes to shared hosting. If your budget is limited and your traffic doesn’t warrant more expensive hosting, I recommend SiteGround (hands down over Bluehost and GoDaddy). Please note that Siteground increased their pricing in June 2020, but in terms of quality of service/price ratio, they still win. Their excellent support will be worth the price of that extra cup of coffee you may have to skip per month when you compare to cheaper alternatives. My affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/hosting
Bluehost: Word of caution: their support is horrible most of the time. The only reason I’m including bluehost in this list is because they haven’t increased their prices like SiteGround has, so their hosting plans are still affordable. You CAN get free email addresses associated with your domain names, but that option is really well hidden (they push external services like Microsoft/GSuite paid email instead, but you can go through the “advanced” menu and set up a free email address using cPanel). They include free SSL certificates, so that’s a plus. Again, you’re trading savings for crappy support, so only use bluehost you really can’t afford anything else. My affiliate link: https://www.bluehost.com/track/gocreate/
WordPress.com: I personally prefer to self-host (WordPress.org), but WordPress.com can be a great option, especially when you’re getting started and don’t want to deal with technical things. They offer several levels of service. In order to upload custom themes and plugins (what I need to do to install my premium themes), you must use their business or ecommerce plan (ecommerce is not required, but would work). Their monthly prices are comparable to reliable hosting services for plans with high-traffic but are overpriced if you are not getting a lot of traffic. See below for a more affordable option. My affiliate link for WordPress.com: https://wordpress.com/pricing/?aff=4019
Legalese and Fine Print:
Having an author website involves having to deal with some legalese and fine print. Privacy laws exist in several states and countries, and we must adhere to them. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t provide the wording for such documents, but I found a great service that will create those documents for you. The links below are affiliate links that will take you directly to the correct page on their website:
Terms & Conditions Agreement You can choose between “website” terms and conditions or “ecommerce store” terms and conditions (where you sell your books DIRECTLY to your readers, collect payments and issue refunds, etc.). Create your terms and conditions here.
Once those documents are generated, you can download them, create a new page on your website, and copy and paste the information generated by TermsFeed.
Website Speed Optimization:
NitroPack: With Google now factoring website speed in their algorithms, it’s more important than ever to have a website that loads fast. I’ve tried dozens of free and paid plugins to help speed sites, and let me tell you that trying to get the settings just right isn’t an easy task. That was true until I discovered this wonderful truly plug-and-play plugin called NitroPack. They offer a free trial plan so you can test out the results, then paid plans are offered to remove the NitroPack badge and the costs vary based on page impressions. Affiliate link that will get you 5% off: https://gocreate.me/nitro
Mailchimp: I no longer recommend them as of May 2019.
MailerLite: It’s the cheapest, non-DIY option since Mailchimp is no longer worth recommending. You can use it for free until you reach 1,000 subscribers. It includes automations (auto-responders/onboarding sequences) and landing pages. If you don’t require any fancy tagging and complex automations that send readers down various complex paths, then MailerLite should work great for you and your wallet. Learn more through my affiliate link: http://www.mailerlite.com/a/mmogzvorin
SendFox: This is a very basic newsletter service, but I’ve been using it for over a year. I had a few hiccups at the beginning, but things appear to be working nicely now for my four SendFox accounts. It’s not great for onboarding people (especially if you need complicated automations; SendFox’s automations exist but are very limited.). SendFox shines with its pricing model, so it’s a very affordable newsletter service for larger lists that don’t require fancy automations. So you could combine MailerLite for onboarding and then transfer your onboarded people to SendFox later. That’s the kind of set up I have with SendFox. Here’s my affiliate link: SendFox.
ActiveCampaign: See for yourself here: ActiveCampaign has the best deliverability in the business. I’ve been using it for over a year (two pen names under one account) and I LOVE it. Its automations are fantastic and very powerful. I ONLY pay for the “Lite” plan. I know ActiveCampaign is a bit pricier than other services, but well worth the price (especially if you trim your list regularly and avoid paying for subscribers who aren’t opening your emails anyway). I’ve even set up an automation where subscribers who don’t open anything for three months are automatically sent a last-chance email (in case they DO open but their email provider doesn’t report the opens) and anyone who ignores my request to take action on that last-chance email gets deleted a week after that. My affiliate link: https://www.activecampaign.com/?_r=8R475Y1F
Newsletter Know-How: Do you need help with your newsletter? I highly recommend Tammi Labrecque’s course and book called Newsletter Ninja. Full disclosure: I am friends with Tammi, but I wouldn’t recommend her course or her book if I didn’t think they were both awesome. She knows her 💩. “A real ninja,” one might say…
Selling Direct to Your Readers:
If you have a way to contact your readers directly, then you can bypass the retailers and keep more money in your pocket! I recommend WooCommerce, which is a free WordPress plugin. In addition to it, you’ll need other services:
BookFunnel: To deliver e-books and audiobooks to your readers. As of April 2021, the audiobook service was still in beta, but you can email BookFunnel and request it if it’s not fully available yet. More info here: https://blog.bookfunnel.com/2020/the-bookfunnel-of-audiobooks/
Printful: To create and drop-ship custom merchandise/swag like T-shirts, mugs, and lots more. It integrates fully with WooCommerce, so you don’t handle the orders yourself, all the work is done by Printful (print/ship). They even “complete” the WooCommerce orders for you once the product gets shipped and send a note to the customer with tracking info. Here’s my affiliate link: https://www.printful.com/custom-products/a/gocreate
Premium WordPress Plugins:
If you like the slideshows I create on my custom author websites, I use this plugin here: https://gocreate.me/soliloquy (affiliate link)
If you need a powerful visual builder that creates pop-ups, contact forms with reCAPTCHA, cookie bars, and more, consider using this plugin: https://gocreate.me/elementor (affiliate link). This is the best plugin I’ve seen in well over a decade. It even removes the need to buy an expensive theme. You can turn free themes into powerful one by adding Elementor Pro.
I’ve taken quite a few, but the only one I will vouch for is Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course. You have to be patient and wait until they open a new course, but it’s well worth the (expensive) price tag. It’s definitely an investment in your author business. I’ve met Mark Dawson, James Blatch, and John Dyer in person, and they are stellar individuals. Their courses are top-notch. They truly care about the quality and reliability of the information they provide. They constantly update their courses whenever platforms change their interfaces, and you can rely on them to tell you the truth about what’s what. Learn more about their courses here: https://selfpublishingformula.com/courses/
If you have an eye for design, I also recommend the Cover Design for Authors course (also offered by Mark Dawson and co.). Stuart Bache is a fantastic teacher, and I learned lots by taking his course. Very few authors should consider designing their own book covers, but if you want to learn more, see here for more information.
Writers need business cards every now and then. For those, I use and recommend Moo.com. Learn more about their high-quality cards by visiting MOO’s homepage.
I recently discovered Plottr, and I’m REALLY excited about it. I’ve been struggling with trying to keep my convoluted story arcs straight in my head, and this software is exactly what I was looking for. Give it a try: https://gocreate.me/plottr (affiliate link).