Tools for self-publishing writers

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Below is a collection of key technical tools for self-publishing to assist indie authors to publish their books.

Anatomy of a book
ISBNs, Barcodes, QR Codes, BISAC & CIP

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), are used in all books available for sale. ISBNs are free in Canada via Library and Archives Canada. The same book, if published in a different format (hardcover, paperback, or ebook) needs a different ISBN. Booklets do not need ISBNs. Check out this comprehensive guide. To learn how to register your ISBN with Bowker to list with Global Books in Print, check here.

Before you make a barcode, you need an ISBN (see above). Graphic designers can create a barcode for you, or you can make your own with this free barcode generator (donations encouraged). Enter ISBN information then download the barcode image.

QR Codes are those little black and white squares often seen on posters, signs and products. Scanning the code with a mobile phone brings up the website for that code. They can be effective book marketing or give your readers extra content. Check reviews of QR Code Generators here.

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 categories in order to help readers find your book.

BISAC Amazon KDP Book Category Finder Tool from BookBird:

CIP (Cataloguing in Publication) Data
Librarians use CIP data to catalogue your book. However, CIP is no longer available for self-published authors from Libary and Archives Canada. You do not need CIP to market your self-published book unless one of your main markets is to libraries. If this is the case, read guidelines here. If you want to purchase CIP data you can do this via this CIP block service for indie authors.

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

Domain Names

It’s possible to have a blog without having your own custom domain name. Website and blogging services will let you to set up a site with, or without, a custom domain name. However, a custom domain name is more professional and makes marketing easier. Before you buy a domain name, do these things first:

  • Check that your prospective domain name is not also used in another country but with a different domain suffix. For example, you might buy a “.ca” domain, but then find 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.
  • Read these tips for authors on how to buy your domain name.
  • Don’t let your domain name expire or it may be almost impossible to get it back. Set it to auto-renew. Also keep in mind that some companies may auto-renew for the same number of years as when you first purchased it. E.g. if you first bought it for 5 years, when it auto-renews it might be for another 5 years. This could be a surprisingly large charge if you didn’t plan for it. Check your renewal settings.

Some recommended domain name companies include: DreamHost, NameCheap, SquareSpace, and IslandHosting . There are many, many companies; make sure to check reviews.

IslandHosting is a Victoria, BC, company with excellent services and customer help. Disclaimer: This is an IslandHosting affiliate link. logo

For Ebook tools go to ebook section
AudioBook – tools for self-publishing

Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Many authors are creating their own audiobooks. However, maybe you don’t have the right voice or reading style. Get feedback first. Here are some helpful 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
Learn how to create an audiobook series – Leanpub

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

Reading Tools
Editing Tools for self-publishing
Technical book Marketing Tools

(See also Book Marketing)

You may find some of the information below about search engine optimization (SEO) challenging. However, it is worth your time to learn.  Unless you already have developed an network of readers for your book, you will have to learn about tags, keywords, 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)

Free book sales tracking tools from BookBird:

Amazon KDP Royalty Calculator:

Amazon KDP Sales Calculator:

Image use and Copyright

Before using images for your cover or interior of your book, it is important to learn about potential copyright problems:

  • Don’t just grab something off the internet (this will likely violate copyright).
  • Occasionally, sites offering “free” photos might not be legit. There are scams where free photos are offered, but they later send emails demanding a fee. For all free photo sites, check reviews, terms of use, and if you need commercial rights to use in your book.
  • When working with a graphic designer, you, not the designer, should purchase any licence to commercially use a photo or image, then send it to the designer. In this way you will have proof of commercial rights to use the image. Check out these problems here. For more on copyright, check the Writing as a Business section.

Three good sources of information regarding image use:

Commercial & royalty-free photo sites

Note: Always check terms for commercial use.
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 online graphics (check terms for commercial use)
Canva (check commercial use – more info here)
Canva vs Visma vs Piktochart
PicMonkey for photo-editing, collage and more (see prices)
Krita free image editor
GIMP free image editor

 Find an illustrator for your book

See also Professional help for your book if you are looking for a graphic designer

Book Formatting Tools

Book Design Templates for covers and interiors
Vellum book design software
LibreOffice (review)

Recently the Apple program called Pages can now create and format ebooks.

More resources under the Self-Publishing Resources tab.

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 October 2023 by 3PennyPublishing – Victoria, BC, Canada; researching and sharing self-publishing resources with writers since 2010.