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IWSG: Free (or really cheap) resources for writers

Last month’s IWSG post discussed five things writers don’t need to buy (and five worth investing in). The post definitely struck a nerve and made me realize there was a need for a follow-up about all the great free and inexpensive resources out there.

I’d love your suggestions too. If you know of some great free or cheap resources, please post them in a comment. Working together, we can come up with a fantastic list!

Free Resources

aboutYes and Yes’s Free Site Review: Sarah from Yes and Yes is a bit of a phenom, to put it mildly. She’s ghostwritten NYT bestsellers, been featured in national magazines like Forbes and Glamour, and gets over 12K visitors to her site every day. In short–she knows what she’s talking about. In exchange for your email address, she’ll review your website or blog for free and give you tons of helpful suggestions. Seriously, when I had her do this, the resulting list was daunting–but worth it! If you don’t care for her newsletter, you can opt out, but I always find her posts interesting, insightful, and helpful. She shares a ton of free career advice too.

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series: Dean Wesley Smith isn’t afraid to give it to you straight–and that’s what I love about him. He’s never been shy when revealing controversial truths about the writing industry, and he was doing it long before others made it popular. Think you need an agent to be traditionally published, or that an agent always knows what’s best for your career? Think writers can’t make money, or that only a few make a living at it? You need to check out Smith’s myth-busting Sacred Cows series. You can buy the books if you want your own copy, or read them for free on his website.

Toby Neal’s Building an Author Platform ebook: When Toby Neal decided to break into self-publishing,Toby-Neal-headshot-300x300 she did it in a big way–she spent $15,000 USD to launch her first book. She made her money back within a month or two (can’t recall the exact time frame), and has now sold well over a million copies of her mystery novels. Neal’s free ebook has lots of helpful advice about how to target your marketing, figure out who your ideal readers are, and launch a successful indie career. Most of her marketing tips would work for the traditionally published as well.

Lexa Cain’s Foxy’s Friday Freebies: Every Friday, writer Lexa Cain features a large and varied line-up of links to free stories, novels, novellas, and other goodies on her blog.

  • My own Hidden Library: when my new site debuts near the end of February, those who sign up for my Hidden Library will have access to free ebooks, along with other resources and perks.

Cheap Resources

footer-nanowrimoWinning NaNoWriMo: It’s only available once a year, but if you sign up for NaNoWriMo and manage to write 50,000 words in November, “winning” the challenge, you’ll receive lots of discount offers and some freebies, including free trials of Scrivener and other software. There’s always a lengthy list of prizes. I guess, if you were just in it for the freebies, you could enter a manuscript you’ve already written to snag them, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Jutoh Ebook Formatting Program: My writer friend swears by this program, and computers are not her thing. She even showed me how easy it is, and it’s true–within minutes, your ebook is ready to go. Jutoh can fill most, if not all of your formatting needs, and the program is a one-time cost of $39 USD (although there are more expensive options, of course). If you currently pay for formatting, this will save you a lot of money over time.

Lynda Online Courses and Classes: Another writer friend is a huge fan of Lynda, which offers courses and tutorials in just about everything, from software programs to design to marketing. After taking advantage of its ten-day free trial, you can subscribe starting at $19 USD per month, which I believe you can cancel at any time. There are free training videos offered for every course. However, if you opt for the free trial and decide it’s not for you, be sure to cancel Lynda or they’ll start billing you as a subscriber.

Focus: I gave a more in-depth description of this program in yesterday’s post, but it has greatly increased my productivity by blocking social media sites, Google, etc. during the hours I’m supposed to be working. It has a generous free trial, and a one-time purchase of the program is only $19 USD.

Fiverr: If you need something–a business card, photography, editing, voiceover work–chances are someone’s offering it on this site for $5 USD. Everyone wants you to opt for something more expensive, of course, but if you’re in need of a great deal, this site has tons of them.

Now it’s your turn to add to the list! What free or low-cost resources have you discovered? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned?

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52 Comments

  1. These are great resources! Lexa’s site is one that I regularly check out and I’m looking forward to checking out the Hidden Library when it launches.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Ellen. I’m SO excited to launch the new site. It’s going to be amazing.

      This space is looking a tad dated.

      Reply
  2. It’s meeee!! You mentioned my Friday Freebies and I’m ridiculously excited about it! Thanks so much! Thanks also for the many links to helpful writers’ resources on the net. “Yes and Yes” sounds especially great. I’m signing up for that one. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Lexa! It’s a great resource and I’m happy to feature it.

      The site analysis is amazing. I think you’ll really appreciate it. I know I did.

      Reply
  3. Wow! Great list. Thanks for sharing it. I wish I could add to it but I’m not coming up with anything at the moment.

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Hélène! Thankfully, this post doesn’t expire, so if you do think of anything, come on back!

      Reply
  4. I need Toby’s free book.
    I had someone analyze my sites before, but it couldn’t hurt to have it done again.
    Thanks for all the awesome stuff!

    Reply
    • JH

      Toby’s book is great. Apparently, over two dozen people contacted Sarah to get site analyses done the day this went live, which is great!

      Everyone I heard from was really happy with her insights.

      Reply
  5. I believe he also said that LYNDA may be available for free through your library, but I’d have to double check on that.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ah, thanks for the reminder! I seemed to recall he said it was free, so I was confused by the subscription fee.

      This explains it!

      Reply
  6. Great stuff! Several items in there I will have to check out.

    Another free tool that some folks swear by but I haven’t committed to myself is http://www.scribophile.com/. If you’re looking for critique partners and swappers it’s the place to go, built entirely around sharing your work so other writers can give you feedback. The only way to get feedback though is to give feedback to others first, so it’s a self-sustaining system.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for sharing the link, CD! That’s awesome. I know lots of folks are still looking for crit partners.

      Reply
  7. Don’t have anything to add, but enjoyed reading the list. Great ideas.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Tamara!

      Reply
  8. It’s very kewl to see Lexa mentioned on your list. Can’t agree more. She’s a treasure, and I visit her blog every chance I get. I’m going to check out Sarah’s next. Happy New Year!

    Reply
    • JH

      Happy New Year, Joylene! I’m glad to hear you support Lexa.

      Bloggers who support other bloggers are awesome.

      Reply
    • JH

      Hope it’s helpful for you!

      Reply
  9. Going to check out Yes and Yes! I’m struggling with social media and this might be a needed gentle nudge. Or a real hard kick in the pants. Either way. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Good luck, Madeline. Sarah is very gentle, and extremely helpful.

      She’s a master at helping people improve their sites without ever once making them feel bad.

      Reply
  10. Some good resources! Though I might be chicken to let anyone review my blog/website–I know it’s not what it should be.

    I’ll add one: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours at http://www.escapewithdollycass.com organizes free book tours for cozy mysteries. She does paid tours for books outside the genre, though she doesn’t have the bloggers to do all genres (I think mostly the bloggers cover mystery/thrillers; I asked about my middle-grade fantasy and she didn’t think she could cover it). It’s good exposure for the writers and also for the bloggers.

    —Rebecca
    My IWSG Post

    Reply
    • JH

      What a great resource! Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. I’m definitely going to check her out.

      As for being chicken, no need–Sarah is very gentle. I think you’d appreciate her insight. I know I have.

      Reply
  11. Fantastic list, J.H.! I hadn’t heard of half of these and got right on them. Thanks so much! As to Elle’s point, I know the Toronto Public Library offers free access to Lynda.com to patrons with library cards, so it’s possible some other libraries also do the same 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Anita. Glad they helped.

      Reply
  12. Always looking for great resources that are free or reasonably priced. Thanks so much for the list. Happy new year.

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Meka. I hope they help!

      Happy New Year, and all the best in 2017.

      Reply
  13. Those are excellent resources. Many of them are new to me.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Happy New Year!!!

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Chrys. I love your new avatar!

      Happy New Year to you as well–let’s hope 2017 is much, much better.

      Reply
  14. I really need to prod my husband to join Fiverr.

    I’ve told people in my seminars for years one doesn’t need an agent, but so many still believe that.

    Reply
    • JH

      A lot of those writing myths are deeply entrenched. I used to believe the agent one too. In fact, when I first met Dean Wesley Smith, he was speaking at a conference where the main thrust was pitching to agents. There he was, saying that not only did we not need an agent, that any agent willing to rep unpublished authors was not worth having. I thought he was cray-cray.

      Now many years older and wiser, and having had to fire an agent, I realize one can do just fine without them. I don’t understand using an agent for publishers you can pitch directly–especially smaller pubs–why would you willingly give up 15% of your income when you don’t have to?

      While I think they’re useful for bigger contracts and foreign rights sales, etc., they’re certainly not a necessity. More like a ‘could be nice if you get the right one.’

      Reply
  15. Quit trying to make my writing life easier. Sheesh.

    Reply
    • JH

      Sorry, Ryan. I’ll go back to writing about ghosts. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Well you’ve added to my reading list. *sigh* And thank you, I think? 😉

    Excellent resources. I’m definitely going to check out many of them. Oh, and cheese to you for sharing.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Crystal. You will thank me later.

      I’ll take my earnings in old cheddar, if that’s okay.

      Reply
  17. Looks like a great list, J.H. I’m bookmarking this page to check out some of the resources later. And, I will follow your advice when I get closer to publication as well. You know, I kept wondering why I was never getting your posts in my inbox… Apparently I have failed to sign up all this time! I sure thought I had. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, thanks for signing up! I hope these links help you. They’ve definitely helped me.

      Reply
  18. Thanks for the list. I’m checking out a few of the links.

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad you found it helpful, Patricia. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  19. These are some nice resources. Happy New Year and I’m your friendly co-host checker this month.

    QueendSheena
    2017 IWSG January Co-Host

    Reply
    • JH

      Happy New Year, Sheena-kay! Thanks for co-hosting. Good thing I posted–whew!

      Reply
  20. You have showcased some great places to check out and glad you have showcased some I always visit:)

    Reply
    • JH

      Awesome, Birgit. I hope you found some new treasures on this list.

      Reply
  21. Nice list, and almost all new to me. Definitely something to look into!

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad you found it helpful, Chris!

      Reply
  22. Nothing like free to make it adorable. My wallet thanks you for the great list.

    Reply
    • JH

      Tell your wallet it’s very welcome. 🙂 Happy New Year!

      Reply
  23. Great list of resources. Sorry I can’t add to it. Best wishes for 2017.

    Reply
    • JH

      Same to you, Diane!

      Reply
  24. I haven’t had the best of luck with Fiverr, but others seem to do well with it.
    I recently discovered Scribophile.com, which I see others have mentioned. I haven’t submitted any work yet, but I’ve been offering feedback and already feel like I’m getting a lot out of it.

    Reply
    • JH

      It’s good to hear that Fiverr doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, so far all I’ve ever gotten from it was a video tarot card reading, and that was okay.

      But it’s a good resource for people who are really strapped.

      Thanks for mentioning Scribophile.com. I have to check this out!

      Reply
  25. Hi, I like you blog. You should write about Lorenzo case from Puerto Rico. A sad history about a 5 years old boy who was murder in his home. The mother was there and know anything. Thanks

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Keishla, and thanks for the tip. I’ll see if I can find out anything about it. If you have more info, like a last name, that would be much appreciated.

      Reply

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