Five FREE Tools To Help Self-Published Authors Succeed.

It is hard being an author, whether self-published or traditionally, getting your manuscript/book looking good, free of grammatical/typo errors and noticed when it is published, is very difficult. So the more tools at your disposal that can help you do that is surely a good thing.

I have recently discovered a few neat little devices that can help to make those jobs easier.

1: Scrivener – The first and truly brilliant, especially if you are considering self-publishing, is this word processing and book formatting tool – You can download it for a Free trial to see if it is for you.

Don’t take my word for it, though – the self-publishing legend that is Joanna Penn (you can learn more about Joanna and her books to help self-published authors here: has a blog about the value of using Scrivener.


I’m sure most of you have heard about it, but until I actually used it, I didn’t realise how fabulous it actually is. Not just for formatting – which it is brilliant for – but for lots of other useful writing implements that help to make your manuscript the best it can be. You can store valuable research, photographs and lots more that can aid you with the planning and plotting of your writing project. Don’t forget that Scrivener allows you to format not only fiction manuscripts but non-fiction, screenplays and well, you’ll have to see for yourself just how useful it is.

2: Grammarly – On a similar note, Grammarly, is a free spelling and grammar checker that goes beyond the capabilities of your word processor. It also helps you to choose the right word by showing ‘context-optimised synonym suggestions’ and asking you if it is the correct word to use in context with the sentence. It also claims to, ‘Grammarly corrects over 250 grammatical mistakes while also catching contextual spelling errors and poor vocabulary usage. Works wherever you write online. Grammarly helps you write mistake-free in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and nearly anywhere else you write on the Web.’


Great stuff really. I use it regularly and find it very useful. It is totally Free. Of course you can subscribe to a paid version, but for me, the free version is all I need.

3: Canva – Creating your ebook cover can be a nightmare. You can pay for someone to do it for you, or you can try to design it yourself. This is what I chose to do with the help of my husband who understands how to use Photoshop. Photoshop is expensive and difficult to use if you are not familiar with the programme. I recently discovered a website – Canva – that offers Free design templates and many free stock images for you to choose from to design and format your ebook cover. I have a very poor quality screen shot of a couple of ideas I had for my middle-grade action adventure book, currently titled: Vengeance of the Mummy Thief. The cover in the middle is one of their stock templates.


Some of the better images you will have to pay for, but at $1 a time, it is very affordable. You can also download your own images and use their photo editor to create great-looking designs. Even if you only use it as an example, or to try out ideas, it can be done quickly and easily. It is very simple to use and has many other useful features, such as basic photo editing, Twitter, blog page, Facebook heading designs and much more. Well worth a go in my opinion.

4: – One little tool that I find  really useful is the URL shortening device that sends customers to your selling page for any country. So that if for example, I live in France and click on the link, It will go to the Amazon page for France and not America or the UK so that I can buy a book directly from my own country.  All you have to do is go to type in the URL for your book, click the button and you get a shortened URL that will direct any buyer to the right page for their particular country.

5: Yasiv – Lastly, something that I found very useful when deciding on Keywords to use for my books when uploading them onto Amazon.  Apologies for another poor quality screen shot here.


This neat little free device helps authors discover categories that do well in their niche. Also works with anything that is for sale on Amazon. You can find out the keywords successful authors use. It doesn’t tell you what the keywords are as such, you have to type in words as I did for my book Whisper Gatherers: YA Dystopian Action Adventure, and up came one hundred and twenty-nine books in that category. Meaning, it is fairly popular, but not so popular that my book will get lost. Then I typed in: Sci-Fi Action Adventure Series. Only seven came up. Clearly that is not a popular category, therefore, I won’t use it in my keywords. Therefore, it is quite useful in helping to decide what keywords to use when listing them on Amazon.

There is a more in-depth keyword tool that isn’t free called Kindlespy

This shows you lots of stats for the books in your chosen category in one click, thus saving you a lot of time and energy. You can then go to these books and look at word bubbles that show the keywords that are used to sell them, oh, and it does more, a lot more, go take a look.

I hope some of these suggestions will be of use to you in your writing ventures. If you know of any others, I would be glad to hear from you and so would many other authors too.

You can learn more about my YA Sci-Fi Action Adventure Dystopian series – The Song of Forgetfulness – here:


45 thoughts on “Five FREE Tools To Help Self-Published Authors Succeed.

  1. This is really useful information Nikki – I’m sure lots of people will be grateful for your suggestions and explanations. Thank you for taking the time to put it together in an interesting and practical way.

  2. Pingback: Five FREE Tools To Help Self-Published Authors Succeed. | Christopher L. Ryan

      • Its great to learn about free tools as there are, unfortunately many companies out there offering paid services to writers many of which are of limited (sometimes) no benefit. Writers just starting out are particularly vulnerable to paying for services which they could get for free. Obviously there are great paid services/tools out there, its all about separating the wheat from the chaff and your post is helpful in pointing to free tools. Kevin

        On 9/28/15, Nikki McDonagh – author and photographer

      • No problem! My favorite was definitely the link — I’ve been thinking how great it would be to have a global link like that for a while now, but never actually thought something like that could exist, lol. I also played around with that ebook creator — definitely has possibilities!

  3. You are right Kevin, there are so many companies after your money and often they are of no use. In these competitive days, authors are required to be Marketers as well as writers, so most of the paid services just don’t apply to selling books. Glad my post was of use.

  4. I did not find Grammarly useful. It was more of a pain than useful. It tried to correct multiple things that did NOT need correcting. The only thing it did well was comma placement. It often suggested rewriting sentences in ways that made no sense at all. Just IMO though. I definitely am interested in trying Schriver, especially if I try my luck in historical fiction as that takes a WHOLE LOT of research

  5. I used Scrivener for Mac for two years. (The Mac version has more bells and whistles than the Windows version). It was helpful for organizing, but the formatting function was quite complex and (IMHO) clunky. And each time I published a new book, updating the other books sales urls was a time-consuming, complex process. Amazon’s proprietary mobi-formats came out okay, but I spent countless hours with the Latte techs during that 2 years trying to make the B&N epubs look right. After lots and lots of hair-pulling I switched to Jutoh. No more hair-pulling and updating is soooo easy. The price of both are about the same. (paid versions). But I agree, Scrivener is great for organizing.

    HINT: The free version used to last only for a limited time (don’t know if they’ve changed that), but if you want the Scrivener paid version, then participate in NaNoWriMo. For the past few years, they’ve offered a deep discounts to writers who’ve hit the 50,000 word goal.

    Thanks for the great post.

  6. Utilizing software that will check and correct your grammar is an incredibly valuable tool, but it would still be wise to have a set of human eyes to look over your work. You can never be too careful when it comes to proofreading!

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