Book Marketing Mondays: Free Downloads For Authors

Guest Expert: Tony Eldridge

One of the popular resources I have on my Marketing Tips For Authors blog is my free toys and downloads for authors list. In these lists, I compile programs that I have found and enjoy using. Best of all, they’re free! I have decided to share the list with the BookBuzzr blog readers today. I hope you can find some cool toys that you can use.

I have rolled these out in three lists on my blog. Here they are in the order I rolled them out in:

List 1

If you think of MS Word, then you are on the right track. Only these tools are a lot more author friendly than Word.

1. Open Office: OK, this is not geared for writers, but it is a great open source (just think free) software suite that has the great people of Sun Microsystems behind it. This suite compares directly with Office Suite. Here is what you get for free when you download Open Office:

  • Writer (Word Processor- Think Word)
  • Calc (Spreadsheet- Think Excel)
  • Impress (Presentations- Think PowerPoint)
  • Draw (Vector Drawing Tool- Not in Office)
  • Base (Database- Think Access)

The downside– sort of– you have to download the whole suite. You can not download just the programs you want. The Upside– It’s free, fully functional, and powerful.

2. Rough Draft: Now we get into toys specially made for authors. Rough Draft is a fully functioning free word processor made with the author in mind. In addition to the normal word processing features, look at these writer friendly ones:

  • Novel, Screenplay and Play mode for easy formatting
  • Built in note pad to keep notes while writing your book
  • Order and print multiple files (ie, chapters in separate files)
  • Find/Replace feature that can work over multiple files
  • Automatically creates a manuscript cover page with title and word and page count

I used this program while working on my first novel and really loved it. It was simple, clean and intuitive for writers. It’s definitely worth checking out.

3. yWriter 5.0: OK, this is my personal favorite. I love it because it’s an author’s dream tool, and it’s free. It’s more than a word processor, though it does that well. It’s a story building tool. Check out these features:

  • Character creation tool
  • Scene creation tool
  • Track progress of your writing with auto logs that tells you how much you have written per day
  • Track conflict, goals and outcomes per scene
  • Reorder scenes with the click of the mouse
  • Storyboard view for a visual layout of your book
  • Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations
  • Automatic chapter renumbering
  • Text to Speech- Listen to your work being read to you
  • Many more feature- y0u have to take a look for yourself

Did I mention that this is FREE? yWriter is updated often so keep checking back to see if you have the latest version with the new bells and whistles. It is also created by an author, so you know the features built into this word processor will have what you need as an author. Gone are the days when you said, “Why can’t Word or Word Perfect do this????” And yWriter even has its own Google Group so you can chat with other users/authors with any questions and tips you want to share.

4. StorYBook: I have to admit that I have not used this tool before, bit it’s free and it looks really cool. It’s another word processor designed for authors. This one lets you look at your story in three different ways:

  • Chronological View- Sorts scenes by dates
  • Manage Chapters and Scenes- This lets you see your chapters and their scenes. You can drag and drop scenes for easy rearrangement
  • Book View- This shows you all chapters and scenes on the order you would see it in a book

You can also add, edit and delete characters and locations. One cool feature about this program is that you can run plots and subplots along their own “Strands” and see how they connect and intersect. You can also graphically chart your story in these ways:

  • Appearance of characters by date
  • Appearance of characters by scenes
  • See strand time lines
  • Chart the life cycle of characters
  • Occurrences of characters
  • Occurrences of locations

All in all, a very interesting story creation tool that looks like it has a lot of promise. I would greatly welcome comments from users who have used StorYBook, whether you like it or not.

Here are a couple of tools that will help you find that perfect word for your story.

5. McGill English Dictionary of Rhyme: Whether you are a poet, song writer or wordsmith of any kind, this is a great reference piece to have at your disposal. It also includes Verse Perfect for Poets and Writers, free, which is a $149 value by itself. You need to visit the site to see everything this program can do for you.

6. Word Web: This is a great little tool that works offline on just about any program. Just choose a word in your document and you have access to definitions, synonyms, related word groups and a lot more. Just a word of caution. You are granted a free license as long as you take no more than 2 airline flights per year. I kid you not. Apparently, the owner of this program is an environmentalist and rewards those who either do their part to cut down on the emissions of greenhouse gases by not flying or by rewarding those who have a fear of flying. After 1 year of use, I had to answer the question of how many flights I took last year. Because of my honesty (and truth be told–my forgetfulness), I now have to buy this little gem if I want to continue using it.

Here are a couple of nice, and of course, free tools for you and your presence on the world wide web.

7. Joomla: This is a great tool with a funny name. Need a website? This is a fully functioning web authoring tool that is gaining in popularity and becoming more and more widely used. It contains a wide library of extensions to choose from in order to deepen your web site’s functionality. Joomla’s web site will also give you links of sites built with Joomla so you can see the possibilities for your own site.

8. KompoZer: This is another tool that I have used. I am not very technically inclined, compared to many on the web, nor do I want to be. My philosophy: find the easiest way to get the job done well. I don’t want to be a web developer. I want to be an author who can put his stuff on the web. Period. KompoZer does that for me. WYSIWYG interface allows me to do what I need to do. Anything more complicated than that and I will contact a professional to get what I need done. That said, KompoZer is powerful enough to do a lot more than I want to know how to do, and it is being actively supported and upgraded. If you need an easy, free web editor, this is my favorite, hands down.

The last two of the toys and tool on my list fall under a catch-all category but don’t let that lull you into thinking that they are not worth looking at. These are two nice tools that every author can use.

9. Sonar: Brought to you by the same guy that created yWriter, Sonar is a manuscript submission tool that allows you to track all those manuscripts you send to agents and publishers. It’s a simple tool that actually does a nice job at what it is designed to do. And here’s a free tip for you. Check out all of this author’s free tools on his site. Many are not designed specifically for authors, but they are cool and best of all, they are all free.

10. CutePDF: You don’t have to be on the web long to know what a PDF document is. Many recipients prefer being send PDFs over Word documents or many other formats. CutePDF is a tool that add a function to your print menu that allows you to convert nearly any windows document into PDF format with the click of a button. This is a tool that is definately worth checking out.

List 2

1. Cam Studio– If you want to produce screen cast videos, then Cam Studio is a tool worth looking at. It’s open source and it’s free. The main commercial product in this category is Camtasia Studio, but at $300 a pop, it’s a major investment.

Screencasts allow you to record everything on your desktop (or a portion of your desktop) as you narrate. It’s great for video tutorials to show people how to do something on the computer. My free videos are all screen casts and you can view a sample by visiting my video sign-up page to see how screen casts work.

Cam Studio will even convert the huge AVI video it records into bandwidth friendly SWF file. However, there is no editing feature which really what makes Camtasia worth the $300. There are a few good programs between this free one and the $300 one, but for the price, Cam Studio is a great tool for simple screen casts.

2. Thunderbird– Do you have free e-mail service through G-Mail, Yahoo Mail, or others. While they are great, you may at times wish you had an e-mail program that resides on your computer, but Outlook is out of the question. If so, then Thunderbird is an alternative worth looking at.

Thunderbird has the security and junk filters you want but it stays stays lean. It allows you to choose add-ons to help you pick the features you want rather than bloat the program by stuffing it with all the features you don’t want. It also integrates with your online e-mail services, so you can feed them all into Thunderbird helping you to centralize your accounts for greater productivity. With a robust support and user forum, it’s really worth checking out.

3. Gimp– Wish you had $700 or more to spend on Photoshop? If you’re looking for a less costly solution, Gimp offers one for free. It’s another open source program that is gaining in popularity and growing more savvy with each release. The user community is large enough to have you-tube videos showing you how to do just about anything you want to do with Gimp. If you’re new to this type of program, the learning curve may still be steep, but it will be with Photoshop as well.

4. FreeMind– Here’s one that I have not used, but was recommended highly by more than one person. It’s a visual and graphic way to organize and and classify ideas. It’s supposed to be a great way to create and organize a project or conduct brainstorming opportunities. I would love to hear from more people who have used this java based software. It sounds intriguing to me.

5. Google Desktop– Here’s one I absolutely love. Imagine being able to find any e-mail, file, document, picture or anything stored on your computer by simply doing a Google search. Now you can. Google has taken it’s web crawling technology and made it available for your computer. The program “crawls” your computer just like Google crawls the internet. Then, you enter your search terms and Google Desktop brings up the most likely results of files stored on your computer. You can filter your search by e-mails, file type, or even web history. You literally may never loose another file again, no matter how old it it or in what obscure folder you placed it in.

6. The Literary Machine– Here’s a concept mapping program aimed at authors (particularity novelists or anyone doing research). It’s a way to organize your thoughts and seems to run along the same line as the Free Mind program listed above. If you really get into organizing, exploring and manipulating creative data, then this may be the download for you.

7. Jer’s Novel Writer– Here’s one for the Mac users. This program is a simple word processor for authors that contain the following features:

Margin Notes, Automatic Outline, Database, Full Screen Mode, Bookmarks Separate formatting options for print and screen, A panel for general notes lets you keep track of story issues and ideas, Word count, More accurate page count estimates

(Above taken from website)

From what I read on other sites, this looks like something that Mac Authors may want to look into.

8. Coffee Cup Free Zip Wizard– Has your WinZip expired? Want a free alternative that does a great job at zipping and unzipping files? Then check out Coffee Cup’s Free Zip Wizard. As they say, “Zipping and Un-Zipping has never been easier!” While on the site, check out their other free tools.

List 3

1. Tiny Spell– Have you been typing in a program like Notepad and later found a spelling error? Well, now there’s a nifty little program that checks all your spelling in any window environment. You can customized the dictionary, turn it on and off, and change up the settings. So, if you always wished your application had a spell-check built into it, now it can!

* Security Note: 5/28/2010- After using Tiny Spell for a while, I noticed this potential risk: When you misspell a word, the spelling you use appears in a box above the misspelled word. This includes password fields. So, if people are looking over your shoulders, they will see your password if it’s not a word recognized in the dictionary. One thing you can do to minimize this risk is to add the password to your custom dictionary to limit the opportunity Tiny Spell has to display it on your screen.

2. Capture Fox– If you are a FireFox user, here is a nice add-on. Capture fox allows you to record a video screencast of your computer screen for free while also capturing your narrated audio. While you may not have all the bells and whistles found in a program like Camtasia, you can still put out a decent video with this tool. {Note: for other free screencast options, check out my other lists at the top of this post}

3. Jaycut– The bad thing with most free video screencapture programs is the lack of editing ability. Well, now you can edit your videos online for free at JayCut. It doesn’t have all the features of a premium editing program, but you will be surprised at what you will be able to do with it. Once your done with the edit, you can share, embed or download the final product.

4. Writeboard– This nifty free online application allows you to collaborate with people all over the world with your documents. Every edit is saved so you have a history from the first draft to the final project.

5. Basecamp– The creators of Whiteboard also make Basecamp, an online project management tool. I have used this in the past and really love it. You can set milestones, tasks, and just about everything you need to manage a project. You can also assign roles for others and limit their access to only the areas of the project they need access to. There is a free version of this tool, but you have to look hard for it. In the pricing area, look at the small print directly under the paid options.

6. FaxZero– Ever need to send a fax from your computer? Well, now you can for free at FaxZero. The free version does send ads on the cover page, but if that’s no big deal, the this tool can get the job done for you.
User Submitted in comments (James): Got Free Fax– “…send free fax online to the US and Canada. Plus, it does NOT add ads to user’s fax.” Thanks, James!

7. Meetup– is a great place to go to find local meetings in your area on just about any interest. Many of these local groups would love to have an expert visit their group, so it’s a great resource to check into to help increase your exposure..

8. GOOG-411– At $2 a pop, directory assistance can really add up. If you are looking for a local business, Google has rolled out GOOG-411. Just call 1-800-466-4411 (1-800-GOOG-411) and in a few seconds you’ll be connected for free to your local business.

9. Evernote– Evernote is an application with a free option that allows you to gather all your notes into one place. Whether you type them, slice a piece of a web page, choose photos or videos, you can do it all through Evernote and collect them into one place. You can even take a picture of your post-it notes and upload them! But what makes Evernote really powerful is that after you upload them, Evernote will automatically categorize them and make them searchable for easy access by you later. Of course, you can also categorize your notes yourself.

10. Dropbox– Do you ever wish that you could access all your important files from any computer you have? With Dropbox, you can. Even if you work on a Mac today and a PC tonight, you will still have access to everything whenever you need it. And the free version starts you out with 2 gigs of storage.

11. ReQall– This is a cool new tool that allows you to call a phone number and record a voice note. ReQall will then transcribe it and even e-mail it back too you. This can be great for grocery lists if you don’t have a pen and paper handy, but the applications can be far reaching as I’m sure you can see. And the pro versions even expand the capabilities of the free version. In fact, when you sign up, you will be given the pro account to try for free. After 15 days, your account will automatically revert to the free account unless you take action.

Well, this is the list I shared with my readers. I hope you can find something that can help you. If you have any other free toys, let me know. I am always compiling a new list!

Tony Eldridge is the author of the action-adventure novel, The Samson Effect, and author of the video e-book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests. On his Marketing Tips for Authors Blog you can find practical advice on low cost and no-cost methods for marketing your book. Sign up for his free newsletter to get video tips to help you with some of the more technical aspects of marketing your book online.

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3 thoughts on “Book Marketing Mondays: Free Downloads For Authors

  1. Hi Tony .. great list – really interesting round up .. loved them – will need to come back and look through properly – thank you ..

    Excellent ideas for people who haven’t got much money – more and more now-a-days .. Hilary

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