Tools for self-publishing writers

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There are a number of tools for self-publishing that indie authors will need during the process of publishing their book. Listed below you will find a some key online self-publishing tools to help you turn your writing into a published book.

Commonly used tools for self-publishing

International Standard Book Numbers, or ISBNs, are used in all published books that are available for sale. ISBNs are free in Canada via the Library and Archives Canada. In addition, another detail to know about ISBNs: the same book, if published in a different format, will have a different ISBN. For example, a book published in hardcover, paperback, and ebooks editions will use different ISBNs for each format. Booklets do not need ISBNs. For a full look at ISBNs check out this comprehensive guide. If you want to know how to register your ISBN with Bowker in order to access a listing with Global Books in Print check here.

If you want to sell your book, you will also need a barcode. And to make a barcode, you will first need your ISBN. Graphic designers can create a barcode for you. Or you can easily get your own with Terry Berton’s barcode generator. It is a free service, however, a small donation is encouraged. Just enter your ISBN information and download the image after it is generated so you can use it on your cover design.

QR Codes are a tool for self-publishing that may be useful when it comes to marketing your book and engaging with your readers. They are those small black and white pixellated squares sometimes seen on posters, signs and products. Scanning the code with a mobile phone will bring up the website for that code. QR codes are encouraged for effective book marketing and to give your readers extra content. Check this review of the various QR Code Generators.

BISAC Codes & Categories
BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications. When you upload a book for sale online, you may be asked to enter subject categories for your books. Learn about these in order to help readers find your book.

Domain Names

It is possible to have a blog without having your own custom domain name. Website services such as Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace and Tumblr will let you to set up a blog with, or without, a custom domain name. For example However, a custom domain name looks much more professional and will make marketing much easier.

Now before you rush to buy a domain name, there are a few things you should do first. Importantly, make sure to check that your prospective domain name is not also used in another country but with a different domain suffix (or what is called the “top level domain”). For example, you might get a “.ca” domain, but then see a similar  domain that ends with “.uk”. To see if a domain is being used, you can always just type it into the URL bar in your browser.

And here is another good author blog full of tips on how to buy your domain name.

Most important: don’t let your domain name accidentally expire! If this happens, it can be almost impossible to get it back. Set it to auto-renew when you buy it. However, keep in mind that some companies may auto-renew for the same number of years as when you first purchased it. For example, if you bought it for 5 years, it might renew again for another 5 years. This means a big unexpected charge on your credit card.

Some recommended companies include: DreamHost, NameCheap,,, SquareSpace, and IslandHosting . There are many more, just check reviews first (some top popular domain companies are not that great on closer inspection).

IslandHosting is a Victoria, BC, company with excellent services and customer service. Note: IslandHosting is an affiliate link. logo

Ebook tools (see ebook section)
AudioBook – tools for self-publishing

Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. And it is not just famous people producing audio content, regular authors can also create their own audiobook. However, you might want to consider whether you have the skills to narrate your own book or not. Get feedback first and read “Should you narrate your own audiobook?” If you still want to get started, here are resources for self-publishing your own audiobook.

Best introduction to audiobook creation (youtube video)
How to publish an Audiobook – CreativePenn
Make your own Audiobooks guide for beginners
How to narrate your own audiobook – Rob Dircks

Changes to Audible royalty policy (Nov.2020)

Iambik – converts books to audiobooks
ACX – turn your book into an audiobook
Soundwise – for self-publishing an audiobook
FindAwayVoices – create & distribute audiobooks

Reading Tools

GoodReads (reviews and author pages)
LibraryThing (Catalogue your home library)

Editing Tools for self-publishing

Top editing tips and tools list
PerfectIt (editing software)
AutoCrit (manuscript editing)
Smart Edit (for novels and stories) and a review
Grammarly (grammar checking app)

Technical book Marketing Tools

(See also Book Marketing Section)

If you are not familiar with search engine optimization, aka, SEO, you may find some of the information below challenging. However, it is well worth your time to learn some if it because this is how people are going to be able to find your book.  Unless you already have developed an audience for your book, for example, your hundreds of friends on Facebook, you will have to invest time into learning about tags, key words, analytics, and SEO.

Using links to promote your book
Link shortening tools
Do a website meta-data audit
Guide to what is SEO (SearchEngineLand)
SEO news (SearchEngineWatch)
Free SEO Tools at
Check who links to your website (free at OpenLink)
Link checker tool (checks for broken links)

Graphics Tools

Before you dive in and start trying to do all your own graphics, it is important to learn about potential copyright problems. This is especially true if you are tempted to use “free” photos offered by some photo websites. This is because there are scams where free photos are offered, but later they send emails demanding a high fee.

In addition, if you just grab something off the internet, you could well be in copyright violation. Even if your graphic designer paid for the image, but you can’t prove it, then you could also face hassles. Check out the gruesome details here. This is why when working with a graphic designer, be sure to purchase the licence for the photo or image, then send the designer the image to work with. In this way you will have proof that you purchased commercial rights to use an image. For more on copyright, check that section on Writing as a Business.

Here are three good sources of about using images:

Commercial & royalty-free photo sites (Always Check Terms!):
PixelBuddha graphics for personal and commercial use
Pixabay photo bank (Check Terms)
Unsplash photo bank (Check Terms)
21 sites to find high quality free photos
12 sites for royalty-free photos (MakeUseOf blog)
Morguefile free stock images for commercial use

Tools to create graphics online:
Canva (check terms for commercial use)
Canva vs Visma vs Piktochart
PicMonkey for photo-editing, collage and more (see prices)
Krita free image editor
GIMP free image editor

Find more resources – Find an illustrator for your book

Find graphic designers – Professional help for your book

Formatting Tools

Book Design Templates for covers and interiors
Vellum book design software
Tools for publishing photo books & zines (PDN blog)
Scrivener (for writing & creating ebooks) review
MS Word and Alternatives
LibreOffice (review)

2018 EU privacy laws explained in plain language (for anyone with a website).

Changes to CIP in Canada (affects books going into libraries).

If you are looking for more resources, check under the Self-Publishing Resources tab.

Did you find any of the tools for self-publishing especially helpful? Do you have an idea for a resource that should be listed? Are you still looking for specific information? Feel free to send an email.

Note: Links and information are for research purposes and do not replace professional advice. Accuracy of third-party websites cannot be verified and links do not indicate endorsement. All affiliate links are indicated. All other links are for information only. 

Updated January 2021