Are you new to self-publishing and need a few pointers?
Here are some recommended services and resources I use, like, and trust. This page includes affiliate links.
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
SiteGroundIf you have fairly low traffic, want an easy interface, and have deep(er) pockets, SiteGround is your best option. Siteground is one of the better ones when it comes to shared hosting that is easy to set up. They still win over GoDaddy, BlueHost, and other shared hosting. Their first year of hosting is super affordable, but their renewal costs are significantly higher! Make sure to factor this in your decision. Their support is excellent and they keep improving the performance of their hosting, but is it worth the renewal price? Up to you and your budget to decide. My affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/hosting
NameCheapIf Siteground is too pricey for you, NameCheap offers great customer service and affordable renewal rates. But don’t go for their lowest package as it’s not powerful enough. I recommend their SHARED HOSTING Stellar Business plan, which supports multiple WordPress sites on one hosting plan. They also offer WPEasy hosting/WordPress hosting, which is optimized for WordPress, but the price tag is significantly higher, the interface isn’t easy to use, and it only supports one website. With the more affordable shared hosting Stellar Business plan, you can host multiple websites and you get a free domain name, free SSL certificate, free email accounts, free CDN (to speed up your site), and free backups. At the end of the day, it’s shared hosting, not a performance option, but it’s affordable and usable, especially when you’re getting started and have a small budget. Affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/namecheap-shared-hosting
Bonus: They also offer free migrations if you can no longer afford Siteground’s expensive renewal rates. See here: https://gocreate.me/namecheap-free-migration
Cloudways HostingThe performance/speed/scalability option for technically-inclined authors. If you need a faster website and/or host multiple websites and your traffic has gone beyond the “shared hosting” limitations, I recommend cloud hosting with Cloudways. With Siteground’s GoGeek plan renewal costs being quite steep, established authors with multiple or high-traffic websites may want to switch to cloud hosting to get better speed and the ability to scale. I recently made the switch. It’s more technical to set up, but doable. They offer a free trial (very short) and migrating WordPress sites from your previous hosting company to Cloudways is effortless with their free plugin. They also include one free migration with paid hosting. Email is not included with cloud hosting, but you can get it from several companies, including add-ons offered by Cloudways and others listed below. I personally selected the Vultr, high frequency server option. If you want to test out Cloudways, here’s my affiliate link: https://www.cloudways.com/en/?id=1246613
Elementor Cloud HostingI recommend Elementor Cloud Hosting for new authors who want to use Elementor Pro (fantastic premium plugin that replaces the need to get the Divi theme). The SSL security certificate is included, along with daily backups, tons of bandwidth, loads of storage, and Cloudflare CDN to speed up your site. WordPress is pre-installed and you’ll have access to the powerful drag-and-drop Elementor Pro plugin, along with its multiple templates, designed by professionals. Elementor Pro is my go-to plugin for all the custom author websites I build. Note that this hosting package doesn’t include email address hosting, but your website will be able to send up to 100 emails per day (“transactional emails”). You will need to sign up for email hosting, see section below. My affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/elementor
HostGatorIt’s an affordable shared hosting company that will work fine if your website isn’t getting much traffic. While they promote paid email services as an extra cost, you can still create your free email addresses associated with your domain name if you go through their cPanel. Their free inboxes are much larger than Bluehost’s free email inboxes. Use coupon code gocreate65 for 65% off your hosting package. Affiliate link: https://gocreate.me/hostgator
BluehostWord 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 the inboxes are really small (100MB), and 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 if you can’t afford anything else. My affiliate link: https://www.bluehost.com/track/gocreate/
WordPress.comI 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. In order to upload custom themes and plugins (what I need to do to install my premium themes), you must use their Business (or E-Commerce) plan, which is quite pricey! You also have to get separate hosting plans for each domain, which adds up. Visit https://wordpress.com/hosting/ to learn more.
I no longer recommend them as of May 2019.
It’s one of the most affordable, non-DIY option. 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: https://gocreate.me/mailerlite
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.
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
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…
Mailing Address for your Newsletter
Under the CAN-SPAM Act, you must include a mailing address at the bottom of your emails. That said, I fully understand if you don’t want to use your home address. I’m in the same boat, so I use a service that provides me with a physical mailing address that is registered to my company name. The service notifies me right away if anything comes in (without me having to drive to a location to see if anything came in). If I need it scanned, forwarded to me, shredded, and/or set aside for pick-up, they take care of it as well. The service I’ve been using for years is called AnytimeMailbox.com.* I highly recommend it and they have lots of locations to choose from all over the world.
*Referral link: Earn a $10 Amazon gift card if you sign up through my referral link.
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).
If you’re into gamifying the process of writing, I really enjoy 4thewords.com. You can test it out for free for 30 days, and if you use my referral code, we both get cool bonuses if you choose to pay for their fun service once your free trial is over. Here’s my referral code: PGCSJ36918
I tested out a cool new Artificial Intelligence (AI) writing tool recently and absolutely love it! If you’re stuck in a scene or if you feel like more description is needed but can’t come up with anything that sounds good, a few clicks of their AI generated text may just be the trick to get you unstuck. There are many ways to use it and they recently changed their pricing/plans so you get even more AI words for your money. Give it a try for free! https://www.sudowrite.com/
Affiliate link: https://www.sudowrite.com/?via=gocreate
CookieYes is the best WordPress plugin I’ve found that handles disclosing which cookies your site uses. The wonderful news is that they offer a free plan and it’s GDPR compliant. The plugin has an automated cookie scan, which works wonderfully, but they also offer instructions on how to manual check to see if some cookies were missed. Once you reach more than 25,000 page views per month, you’ll have to upgrade to their paid plan, but it’s well worth it for your peace of mind.
Affiliate link for free plan for scanning up to 100 pages and displaying 25,000 page views per month: https://app.cookieyes.com/trial?ref=gocreate
Affiliate link for 14-day free trial of their basic paid plan, which is for sites with more traffic and more pages: https://www.cookieyes.com/welcome/?ref=gocreate
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.
Return & Refund Policy
Needed for e-commerce sites (where you sell your books DIRECTLY to your readers, collect payments and issue refunds, etc.). Create your return & refund policy 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.
I’m talking about getting an email address that has your domain name in it, like firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you signed up for Elementor Cloud hosting, you will need Email Hosting (but NO need to purchase separate server/transactional emails unless your site sends out more than 100 emails per day).
If you signed up for Siteground hosting, you have access to free email addresses. You can skip this section.
If your web hosting doesn’t include webmail (or if you’re not happy with the email services they provide), there are lots of options to choose from.
If you’re a PC person who already uses Outlook, you can sign up for a custom Microsoft email address that matches your domain name. You could get it at no additional costs if you already pay for Microsoft 365.
I use Google Suite for one of my email accounts. At around USD$6/mailbox, it can get pricey, though.
A more affordable option is offered by NameCheap. NameCheap email is easy to set up and affordable. Affiliate link: https://shrsl.com/3szxb
Zoho mail also offers an affordable email service but it may be a little tricky if you’re not tech savvy. Zoho offers a workspace service, so email is just a part of it and it’s easy to get lost on their website while setting things up. https://www.zoho.com/workplace/pricing.html
If your server/hosting doesn’t send out emails (transactional emails when you reset your WordPress password, when WooCommerce orders occur, etc.), you need to pay for an extra service. Skip this paragraph if you’re on shared hosting like Siteground, Bluehost, GoDaddy, etc. Those servers should send out emails. If you have an issue with your shared hosting transactional emails, reach out to your hosting support.
On Cloudways hosting, I pay for Elastic EMail add-on. It’s easy to set up.
Please note that the server’s ability to send transactional emails has nothing to do with registering an email address associated with your domain name and checking that inbox and replying to those messages. You need to pay for “email hosting” in order to do these tasks. See email hosting above.
Images, Fonts, and More
AppSumoAppSumo offers great deals for all sorts of software and widgets that may appeal to you, including deals on DepositPhotos.com fairly regularly. Visit their site to see what’s currently offered: https://appsumo.8odi.net/gocreate (affiliate link).
CreativeMarketI’ve purchased several cool fonts and images from CreativeMarket. Affiliate link: https://creativemarket.com/?u=creativecaro
Retailers/Distributors + Ebook Delivery
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
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
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
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
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/
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:
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/
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.
My affiliate link: https://www.printful.com/custom-products/a/gocreate
You’ll find step-by-step videos on this page.
Premium WordPress Plugins
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.
Crocoblock offers Gutenberg-compatible as well as Elementor Pro-compatible plugins that work beautifully to enhance the functionality of your site. As of fall 2022, all of my custom-built sites are powered by Elementor Pro and Crocoblock. My affiliate link: https://crocoblock.com/?ref=6769
Book Marketing Course
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. I’ve met Mark Dawson, James Blatch, and John Dyer in person, and they are stellar individuals. Their courses are top-notch, and 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.
Course for Crime Writers
If you write any kind of mysteries that feature cops, detectives, or any sort of law enforcement and would like your stories to sound authentic, I highly recommend Detective Adam Richardson’s courses. I was part of Cohort 22-1 and really enjoyed his course and learned so much. Learn more through my affiliate link here: https://www.writersdetectiveschool.co/courses?affiliate=RUCO74
Website Speed Optimization
With Google 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