September 2, 2012

6 FREE Online Tools for Indie Writers

You’ve written your book. You sent it to publishers, agents, reviewers, and no one’s interested. It’s hard to believe because it took you three years and about forty-seven rewrites to get it right, but no one’s biting.

writers tools

Online tools to help you publish your writing

What do you do? Stick it on a shelf and forget about it? Send it to more agents and publishers? The truth is, it’s not personal. Publishers aren’t clamoring for any titles.Here are some statistics I found interesting:

  • The United States published over 275,232 new titles 2010, 3.2% less books than in 2007
  • The biggest losers were travel (down 15%) and religion (down 14%) followed closely by history (down 13%) and–here’s the drumroll: fiction (down 11%).
  • The two most successful categories were education and business.

Here are a few general numbers about the population that might be interested in your book:

  • 57% of book buyers are women
  • Mystery books are the most popular genre for book club sales. 17% of all their sales come directly from book clubs
  • Generation X consumers buy more books online than any other demographic, with 30% of them buying their books through the Internet
  • 21% of book buyers say they became aware of a book through some sort of online promotion
  • Women make the majority of the purchases in the paperback, hardcover and audio-book segments, but men accounted for 55% of e-book purchases

So what can you distill from this information? For me, I see that people are still reading–avidly even, but their buying decisions have changed. They aren’t going to bookstores as often (that’s the end-user of the agents who turned you down). Readers are getting their intel about books online and then buying online.

Here’s how you can tap into these changes and let that successful writer who lives inside of you out. I’m going to share the eleven tools with you that turned my writing experience around and should be must-haves for all new writers after they’ve written their book:

Buy ISBN numbers direct

You need an ISBN number to publish on many online sites (like Amazon, Indie, B&N). They’re not expensive if you buy them individually, and even less if you buy them in bulk and share them with your writer’s club. I suggest the latter because it offers the additional benefit that you keep ownership of the ISBN log. You never worry that whoever you purchased the number from will go out of business and there goes your burgeoning business.

Bowker Link

Once you’ve purchased the ISBN numbers, you’ll get an account with Bowker Link where you can list your books in the largest international book registry in the world. Take advantage of this. Plus, they offer a lot of additional tools for marketing and selling your books.

Buy barcodes for your books

These are mandatory for most online booksellers, and must be arranged a certain way to satisfy the operations people at the other end of the pipeline. That means, the free bar codes you can download online probably won’t work, at least not the ones I was able to find when I started.

You can use any number of bar code providers. Amazon and B&N will provide lists when you set up accounts with them. You can also purchase digital barcodes. I went with a company called They have been fast, affordable, and solved several problems for me. I will probably never switch until they switch their proactive approach to satisfying their customers.’s vendor account

Set up an Advantage account with Amazon. It’s not difficult, but takes some time filling out forms, uploading documents, waiting for approvals. Once you’re a vendor (on consignment), they order books which you ship to their warehouse at your cost.

Their organization is impressive–far better than B& I can check sales daily on an online protected account that lists my books, sales, revenue. Once a month, Amazon pays me a percent of the sales price for sales from two months prior, directly into whatever account I gave them when I signed up. I use my business account.

Scribd is an ebook reseller. You have your book written, so that’s the biggest part. They’ll take it as a Word doc, but I recommend using a PDF format instead. It’ll transfer more cleanly to a variety of systems. Create an attractive cover, rewrite your query letter a book summary and you have an ebook. Bowker, the global leader in bibliographic information management solutions, reports that 285, 394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over the prior year’s 123,276 titles. Between 2002 and 2008, On Demand publishing increased a staggering 762% . You don’t want to miss this opportunity.

Sign up for a Scribd account, upload your books (no ISBN required, which means you can sell lesson plans, stories, etc.) to their Store, take some time to fill in the details that will allow customers to find your treasure, and wait. They have good accounting. I get notified everytime a book is sold, and the money shows up in my account two months later.

Barnes and

Barnes and Noble also has an online store. It’s requirements are more stringent than Amazon and it’s not as easy to get listed and sold, but once you’re through the hurdles, it should work. I say ‘should’ because I’m still struggling with their hoops. Orders come via snail mail. Books don’t show up online. Billing and payments are also sent USPS. Go ahead and search Building a Midshipman on B& and Amazon. Last time I looked, B& still hadn’t managed to list it despite a six-month effort on my part to satisfy their requirements. Oh well. Lots of books are listed, so I know it’s possible.

Tomorrow, I’ll cover how to market your books so you get people to the online stores. I’ll talk about:

  • book competitions
  • blogs
  • Google Books
  • PayPal
  • Twitter/Stumble On/Digg

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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