A list of online resources that authors, and other creative people, can use to help them build their brand. From website hosting, photo manipulation, and anything else I happen to come across, everything that appears on this page is useful in some way. This list is in no way comprehensive, and if you find anything not listed here, let me know. Everything here is either free, or has a free option.
I shall be restricting this list to those resources I have personally tried. Click the links below to go to each resource’s website.
THE BASICS OF WRITING
Grammar Monster – a fantastic resource for everything grammar based. If you don’t know how to recognise a dangling modifier, what to do with a colon, or what subordinating conjunctions are, this is the go-to place.
Online Thesaurus – I use this all the time when editing, for spellings, synonyms and antonyms. I am always trying to make my language more sophisticated and this tool helps me do that.
WordPress – well you’re looking at WordPress now. In my opinion, the best free website hosting I’ve tried. Easy to use and loads of options. There is a paid option, which gives you more stuff.
Blogger – run by Google, this is one of the most popular blog hosting/website platforms out there. Easy to use but in my opinion, not quite as professional looking as WordPress.
Webs.com – another free hosting site with a paid option. I have used this in the past, and I have friends who still use it. I found it awkward and glitchy.
Yola.com – another one I’ve used in the past, with both a free and paid option. Awkward to use.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
Facebook – needs no introduction. If you don’t have at least a personal profile, get one now. You can also have a business/fan page.
Twitter – also needs little introduction. Hard work and can be time consuming to build your brand using this, but with careful planning, some find it useful.
Pinterest – an online pin board type site. You pin interesting web pages to your pin boards, hopefully attracting others to follow your boards, which can drive traffic to your website. Some say this is an extremely useful tool in brand building. I am just starting to make use of this.
Google+ – a fairly new social network, similar in appearance and use, to facebook. Easy enough to use but somehow, it seems a bit like a poor man’s facebook, which is probably doing it a disservice.
Quora – not a very well known social network, and one I’m just beginning to explore. You can blog there, but the main point of it seems to be as a question and answer platform. In answering questions on any of a number of subjects, you can build your brand and get your name known. It’s free to sign up and use, and is another useful place to have an online presence.
Stumbleupon – I don’t know a huge amount about this site, but it seems to be a bit like Pinterest.
Tumblr – another one of the ‘pinterest/stumbleupon’ school.
Triberr – I do have an account here, and I did use it for a day, but not since. You have to ‘join a tribe’ or you can start one of your own. You can blog and link your twitter account to your Triberr account. People have told me that this can be a very useful tool in brand building, BUT, you must work it regularly as you can get kicked out for not using it enough.
Goodreads – one of the main places for authors and readers. You can link your blog/website and your twitter to your goodreads account, join groups and participate in discussions. It is one of the main places to find book reviews. I have heard others say that some of the discussions can prove a little aggressive, and I tend not to participate in the groups for this reason. Good free online presence though.
Kindleboards – an online discussion forum for Kindle owners and authors. There are strict rules for posting book promos, but if you follow them diligently, it’s another of the well known places for free online presence. Like Goodreads, I’ve heard from others that the discussions can get heated, so be careful.
Author’s Den – not really a social networking site as such, but a place where you can make your profile and make profiles for each of your books, with links to where they can be purchased online.
BOOK PUBLISHING PLATFORMS
Createspace – Amazon’s paperback publishing platform. You HAVE to use it if you want sales. Whatever you think of Amazon’s well known dodgy business practices, and their well known dodgy way of treating authors, everyone looks to your presence on Amazon when deciding how well you’re doing.
KDP – Amazon’s ebook publishing platform. Same as above, it’s Amazon so you have to be there.
Smashwords – another ebook publishing platform. Very easy to use and has the best distribution package of them all. They will distribute your ebooks to many other well known online publishings sites, such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, Diesel and many more. You can publish to Barnes & Noble yourself if you wish to, also Kobo, but my attitude is why, when Smashwords will distribute there for you.
Lulu – another paperback publishing platform, which has recently expanded into ebooks too. Much easier to use than Createspace.
Ganxy – not exactly a publishing platform as such, but a place to sell your ebooks and advertise where else they are available online. You upload the content files and cover photos, set the price and you can set them into bundles (useful for series).
Draft2Digital – this is new to me, and I first used it to publish A.W.O.L after having problems with Smashwords. I found the whole process extremely quick and easy, in fact probably the easiest process of them all. A great way to offer epub files if you can’t use Smashwords, or don’t want to.
Word – the best known word processing package. You have to pay for subscription each year (currently £80). Complicated and definitely a learning curve.
Kingsoft – a poor man’s version of Word. Free to download and so far in my experience, very similar in use to Word. It will use your currently saved Word.docs and will save in .doc which should make uploading to publishing platforms, trouble free. Since using this to help format my book A.W.O.L I found that Smashwords simply refused to accept the file. KDP accepted it without a problem though. Important facts to know if using this word processor.
PHOTO MANIPULATION – for creating book covers, memes, promo pics, infographics, photos for twitter and pinterest and all sorts of other uses.
Gimp – my favourite photo manipulation software. It’s free to download and is thought of as the next best thing to photoshop. You can save at 300 dpi, essential for book covers.
Picasa – another free download, and one I always use for adding text to photos. Very easy to use.
Pic Monkey – a website that lets you upload your pic, then manipulate it in all sorts of ways. It has many options that you can’t get on Gimp and Picasa, is very easy and fun to use.
Irfanview – another free download. I use this for resizing photos, as it’s easier with this than Gimp or Picasa.
Easel.ly – a website for creating infographics. Fairly easy and fun to use. With this, you can create all sorts of brand building stuff to post on your various social media/website/blog sites.
VIDEO CREATION for creating book promo videos
Stupeflix – fairly easy to use video creation website. Free and paid options. Large library of music to choose from.
Animoto – easy to use, with a huge library of music to choose from. If you take the free option, your video is limited to a max of 30 seconds. Paid options start from £5 per month or £30 per year. If you want to save to your own pc, you must pay more for a higher quality download. The same applies if you want to share directly to youtube/facebook etc, a fee is payable in order to share directly. Fun and easy to use and great selection of music, but the paid add on’s are a nuisance.
OTHER USEFUL STUFF
Hootsuite – an app that will manage your twitter, facebook, linkedIn and other social media pages in one handy place. Will shorten URL’s with one click, making best use of your limited tweet space.
It is the best, and only, twitter drip feeder that actually works. Using the paid version, you can do a bulk upload of tweets, max 350 at a time, which it will drip to your twitter feed according to your settings.
Bitly – another link shortening site. With Bitly, you can shorten your links, and store them. All your links are then trackable, so you can track which links get the most clicks.
Feed 140 – a Twitter drip feed app. You build a playlist of tweets, upload the list and it will supposedly drip feed your tweets to your twitter account throughout the day. You can set how many tweets per hour or per day, and you can set it to start at the beginning again when it reaches the end of your playlist. With the free option, you are limited to one playlist running at a time, but with the paid option, you can have multiple playlists playing.
This never works for me no matter what I try. After months of fighting with it, I dumped it in favour of the paid version of Hootsuite. I cannot recommend this.
Shelfari – a virtual ‘shelf’ of your books. Linked to your Amazon profile, you can showcase your books on your own online shelf.
iTunes Linkmaker – a useful little website that will find stuff on iTunes and give you a URL for it. For some reason, it’s almost impossible to find your book on iTunes, so this tool is useful.
Photobucket – a photo hosting site. Some online discussion forums, like Kindleboards, require you to host your photos and then provide a link, rather than upload the photo itself. Photobucket is the best known such hosting site. Will provide every link you could need for your photos.
Pixabay – public domain photos you can download for free, and use without worrying about copyright infringement. I use this all the time on this blog and use the ‘donate’ button from time to time.
Storytoolz – a place where you can create a ‘work in progress’ widget that you can update and place on your website. I have found during months of use, that their wordcount meters often don’t automatically update. Annoying.
Nielsen UK – the place where you buy your ISBN numbers in the UK.