There are tons of tools available for authors! Too many, actually. So, what are some of the best author tools? Three that are undisputed in their utility, by those who have used them, are Scrivener, Auto Crit, and Photoshop Elements.
There are also an overwhelming array of social media groups and blogs that may, or may not, be helpful. For those, it is entirely dependent on you as a person. What works best varies for every person.
Authorgraph is another cool tool. Quite simply, it allows authors to “autograph” copies of their ebooks!
The first things a prospective reader sees are the title and your name, possibly on a cover but possibly written in text. How do you decide what these should be? This Title Generator is another way to go. It is a great resource for blog titles and to get your mental juices flowing in a new direction, but I definitely wouldn’t use it for choosing the final title of a book! It’s also just a fun time waster.
Many authors simply decide on a name they like, but I believe a more data-driven approach will lead to better long-term results. The A/B testing that blog post recommends is a great way to determine what will really grab readers.
Now that you have your title, what about your name? Are you using your real name or a pen name? This article from Kindlepreneur discusses the issue far more thoroughly than I will here, but it is worth taking the time to make a real decision, not a knee-jerk one. After all, you may be living with the name for many years to come.
Writing and Editing
Scrivener is used for the actual writing process. It lets you keep old bits of text, bibliography – really any kind of notes you want to keep handy but not include. It also provides the ability to tag, search, and re-order documents in a way word processors don’t. But it’s not the place to do final polishing and formatting. For that, you’ll need to export to a word processor and finish there.
AutoCrit is an automated critic. It will find common overused words and phrases, check how advanced your writing is (the grade level) based on established criteria, let you know if you use too much passive voice, and so much more. Like many things, there is a free version and a far more robust paid version.
Dragon Naturally Speaking allows writers to dictate their work. I have never used it, but some people love it.
Graphics and Design
Photoshop Elements is a graphics program that is sort of a Photoshop Lite. So why include a graphics program in tools for authors? Simple: Photoshop is one of the most likely programs for your cover art to be created in, and there’s a good chance you will need to go back and edit the back cover copy at some point. If you don’t request and buy the .psd and / or can’t edit it because you don’t have the software, then you are forced to rely on an artist to make all the changes and it will take more time and money. It is also entirely possible a new author will have to try to recreate it from scratch.
In addition, being able to play with the Photoshop images means that you can find several different images and try them all on the cover before sending them to an artist to be finalized. This gives you, as the author, more flexibility to find an image that really fits with your vision for the book.
Pixlr and PicMonkey are two free online tools you can use for graphics. Neither one is as powerful as Photoshop, but they provide a nice, fast, easy way to crop images, create blog post graphics, and do other simple graphics tasks.
There are also tools for research. The US Census is a great source for very accurate historical data for a specific era, place, or population.
Google Translate is the easiest, cheapest way to translate a few phrases or words. Of course, you’ll need to hire someone to translate anything lengthy.
BabyCenter is a great place to search for names, both modern and historical. BabyCenter lets you search for top names by year. Flowing Data is another source for names, but with a focus on what is popular in different regions of the US.
Floor planner can help you visualize and plan the layouts for a building, room, property, or possibly even neighborhood, if it’s important for your plot.
Evernote is popular tool for organizing and retaining information. It can be synched across multiple devices but isn’t specifically designed for writers. It may be perfect for writers who are trying to coordinate more areas of life than just their writing.
Gingko is designed to help writers organize their materials.
Tiddklywiki is an old favorite of mine. It is simplified notes and folders that can be saved on your desktop or accessed through your internet browser, although connectivity isn’t required. It’s not as connected or slick as the other options, but may work well for some applications. And it’s a free download.