15 Best Blogs for Indie Authors to Follow

Blogs Just for Indie Authors

Blogging can be so important to an indie author’s brand.

Should you blog? That depends. Many fiction authors do well even though they don’t blog. Instead of blogging, though, they have an active presence on Facebook and perhaps two other sites where they engage with their readers.

But if you write nonfiction, well, you just can’t get around the need to blog regularly. How else would you expose your writing, thoughts, education, and expertise to potential clients as well as readers?

I read a lot of blogs, and from the ones I read regularly, I’ve selected my list of the top 15 blogs for indie authors. If any are new to you, expand your world and check them out.

Here’s the list:


TheBookDesigner is Joel Friedlander’s blog. He started this blog out of thin air several years ago and has grown it into a mainstay in the independent publishing arena. If you’re self-published, you have to read this blog.

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10 Great Resources Writers [You] Need to Know About

XMAS presentMy gift to you this holiday season is this list of resources for writers that I love and that I believe will make your lives easier. Some will save you money and others will help you to polish your books. So let’s get’s started with my holiday list of ten great resources writers need to know about and in some cases start using today.

Applications to Create Professional-Looking Banners and Images for Pinterest


Have you ever experienced Facebook banner envy? You know, those beautiful Timeline banners that some people pay a great deal of money to graphic designers to create? Guess what? Canva, presently a free application (it’s still in Beta so request your invitation), is a tool you can use to create Facebook banners, Twitter headers, cards, biographics, business cards, photo cards, and other image-based messaging. It’s an easy, intuitive tool to use.

Here are a few samples of items I recently created with Canva. First, here are some two Facebook banner images. The blue one is for my Facebook profile, and the second one is a banner I used on my Facebook author page.

Happy Holidays


SMJ4W with URL

 I created this image when I ran a promotion on my blog recently.


  The next image is one I created when my Facebook likes reached a certain number.

 Thank you 744 Likes

Canva features some images that you can purchase for $1 or you can upload your own. The majority of images and features are free of charge.


I’ve used PicMonkey for months to resize and crop photos for free. But recently I wanted to create some images for Pinterest so I upgraded to the paid plan, about $30/year. Here are a couple of examples of my creations. I created the first one for Nina Amir’s Author of Change program and then uploaded it to Pinterest and Twitter.

Write a Book That Inspires You

And here’s a holiday collage for Pinterest I created just for fun.

Holiday Collage

Once you create and save the images, you can share them directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, or Tumblr as well as send them via email to a colleague. You can also use this tool to create Facebook covers or perhaps a collage of some of the books you’ve written.


Use this application to create a variety of images. For example, you can type quotes onto a sticky note, create a pin of your website or your Twitter bio, or create images to pin text, quotes, locations and dates. You can even create a pin of your favorite song and its album artwork. When I typed in Someone Like You by Adele, Pinstamatic provided several options, then created an image to pin based on my selection.

 Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 2.28.03 PM

 In this example, I typed a favorite quote, included the author’s name, and when I pressed “Pin,” the image uploaded seamlessly to my Pinterest account.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 10.53.28 AM

You can also use Pinstamatic to upload your own images (book covers), quotes by your favorite authors, and great lines from books that you’ve written. Don’t forget to include your book title when quoting from your novel or memoir.

DIY Tools for Designing Your Next Book’s Interior and Cover

DIY Book Covers

DerekMurphyAfter writing your book you need a great cover. You can hire a designer (I use the best cover designer, Kit Foster) or you can try to create a cover yourself.

Self-published authors on a tight budget might want to try a new DIY tool. Cover designer Derek Murphy of CreativIndie Covers has put together a package of book cover design templates made in Microsoft Word.

Although it sounds like an unlikely pairing, the templates look clean and professional, not only for simple non-fiction covers, but also for all types of fiction. If you’re familiar with using MS Word, customizing the templates to make them unique shouldn’t be difficult.

Also included in the DIY Covers Package are templates and instructions to make full print covers, business cards, and blog headers, giving writers more control over the graphical elements of their author platform. If you’d like to see the samples and read more about the project, you can visit www.diybookcovers.com.

To use the tool, you’ll need to install the fonts and templates, and then find an image you like. Derek recommends these sources:

The website includes a QuickStart guide, a Cheat Sheet, training videos, 80 fiction cover templates and 70 non-fiction cover templates. Here’s an example of a DIY book cover.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 2.45.41 PM

The developer will be adding more features including gradients and color washes and templates for business cards, blog banners, and Facebook covers.

Book Design Templates

Joel FriedlanderAre you tired of paying the high cost of a graphic designer for the layout of your book? Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates let Indie authors quickly and easily create the interior layout of their books. There are templates for fiction, memoir, narrative non-fiction, reference, and technical and non-fiction books. In addition, there are now templates for children’s books

Joel is a book designer so self-published authors can trust that the templates carefully balance typographic beauty with ease of reading. Although I haven’t yet used the template I purchased, a colleague has and she said the process was easy. If you need help, Joel’s team will upload your book into your purchased template. Finally, each template comes with five kinds of interior pages, section breaks, running heads, and page numbers.

These templates will save writers money and help them to produce books that appear professionally designed.

By the way, self-published authors should all become acquainted with Joel’s blog, The Book Designer. You will learn everything you need to know about self-publishing, book covers, and book marketing by reading his posts.

Resources to Help Writers Focus on Their Writing and Publishing Careers in 2014

There are numerous editors and bloggers who can help you to make your narratives shine and here I recommend some of the best in the field.

Nina Amir

Nina Amir 6-2012 (3)If you’re a nonfiction writer, you’ll want to check out Nina’s Become an Author of Change program.

How do you know whether you are a candidate for the Author of Change program? You are if you feel called to:

  • Change on a personal level or to become a successful and inspiring author.
  • Help others change because of things you have learned.
  • Write about how to create change personally, organizationally or globally.
  • Express a sense of purpose or mission to inspire others to take positive action.

Through the course work and homework, you’ll be asked to look at:

  • Who you are as a writer.
  • Who you are as a businessperson.
  • How you need to change to become a successful published author.
  • How you need to alter your message to make it effective.

The course has three study options that start at $147 (early bird special is $127 until December 31, 2013).

Presently, Nina is hosting a Twitter contest. The two people who send the most retweets about her Author of Change program will either win a free seat in her program or a free one-hour consultation. Here’s the tweet to get you into the contest: “Become an Author of Change with @NinaAmir #AuthorofChange Pls Retweet http://bit.ly/1gzRVMH

Martha Alderson

Martha AldersonWho wouldn’t want to consult with the author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories, and the Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts? Easy Exercises to Get Your Writing? This is the woman who really understands plot (confession: this is my weakness in fiction writing).

In Martha’s four-week Plot Workshop, you will receive a competitive analysis of your plot from Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and plotting help and guidance from Martha.

She also offers Deep Plotting Writing Retreats where you can plan, polish and test your plot both at the overall story level and at the scene level. 

In addition, she offers a 27-step free tutorial designed to help you plot your novel, memoir or screenplay as well as fee-based one-on-one consultations. If you have difficulty with plot in your stories, Martha is the expert on this topic.

Susanne Lakin aka C.S. Lakin

C.S.-Lakin-150x150Are you concerned with how you are telling your story, and about elements such as pacing, character development, structuring chapters and scenes, building tension, epiphanies, and denouements? Could you use someone to delve deep into the heart of your story and come back out with encouraging, constructive feedback? If so, then Susanne Lakin and her team of editors can help you. Members of her editing team are professional copyeditors and published novelists in a variety of genres, and Susanne brings to her editing and critiquing nearly thirty years of experience in writing novels.

In addition to being a respected fiction copyeditor, Susanne is the author of fourteen novels and numerous nonfiction books. Her instructional blog Live Write Thrive was named one of the top ten blogs for writers in 2012. If you’re looking for support as a writer, you’ll find lots of it there.

If all you want is a critique, head on over to her www.critiquemymanuscript.com web page where writers can upload documents and pay for either a partial or complete manuscript critique. She does 200+ critiques a year in nearly every genre for clients all over the world.

If you’re attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February, you’ll be able to meet Susanne and Martha in person.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

JordanJordan says that she has a simple philosophy in her editing, coaching and teaching: “Practice. Polish. Persist.” She advises, “Make your writing life into an ongoing, deep writing practice that can survive the test of time, discouragement and change. Never stop trying to become better and polish your work, learn new things, take classes and feed both your muse and your craft. But what will set you apart is your persistence. Don’t give up. If you need help with any of these things, I’m here to help you.”

Jordan brings an editor’s attention to both the micro and macro aspects of your fiction project, but she also brings a writer’s ear—having been writing and publishing for two decades (author of the novel Forged in Grace, and the writing guides Make a Scene & Write Free). She likes to work with fiction writers at all stages—from the seed of an idea, to the final product—and at all levels, whether the writer needs coaching or a final copyedit. She is especially fond of developmental edits and critiques. 

Story in Literary Fiction

WHC 2-2013Story in Literary Fiction is a wonderful website filled with interviews of top editors and writing teachers, essays on how to improve one’s writing, a writing blog, and award-winning short stories that the creator of Story in Literary Fiction, William H. Coles, offers for free.

In addition, William offers an online, eight-week free literary fiction workshop and a fee-based tutorial.

William has written numerous short stories, three novels, and Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers. William holds the distinction of having placed in the William-Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition many times and was the 2006 Winner of the Sandhills Writers Competition for his tory “Reddog.”

I hope you enjoyed reviewing my list of resources for writers. I’d love to hear about your favorite resources too!


“wrapped gift” photo credit: CS_McMahon via photopin cc

socialmediaforwritersAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapterthe San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

Share a Little Piece of Freedom

12-16-13 freedom

How would you feel if you lived in a country that arrested a young woman for wearing a skirt that showed her knees? That’s what happened recently to a young writer client of mine. Not only was she arrested, she was humiliated, thrown into a dirty jail, interrogated, and had her clothing stripped and taken from her. Here is a bit of what she wrote:

Guys, imagine yourselves in my shoes. You’re walking on the street with your friend and your cousin, going home from work after a long busy day, exhausted, when suddenly some guy stops you. You turn around, you see him and three other guys plus two ladies in chador running toward you, and you just freeze. 

They force me into the van with eight other ladies, ranging from the age 13 to 45 or so, all looking decent but somehow defeated. They sit sad, angry, unable to do anything but sigh, cry, or talk loudly with the . . . I won’t call them cops. Cops are supposed to make you feel safe. These creatures only make you feel insecure.

I see the guy who stopped me and he’s laughing with the woman who’s apparently in charge. “Good job, I didn’t see that one, nice catch.”

Yeah, you think, you caught the savage murderer, right?

Now, I’m 24, and I’m not scared but angry, and I control myself, but I feel so darn horrible for that little girl, or that mom, or that other girl who’s about my age and says she just arrived to Tehran to buy something and leave.

We ask to contact our families, but they refuse to let us use our phones, threaten us when we try, but we hide your phones and texts our families to let them know where we are. We try to sound relaxed. “Mom, don’t panic please, all right? I’m totally okay. Just grab your ID card and a some of your own clothes and head for the police station down at . . .” and so on.

The girl on the left is thirteen. She’s crying. She’s scared. She’s not allowed to contact anyone, but I encourage her to send a text while I try to draw the attention to myself by speaking loudly. “Where the hell are you taking us? I should contact my family. This is kidnapping. Literally.”

They keep us in the hot van for an hour to watch other ladies cry, yell at the creatures, and ask to go to their families. One of them could be my mom. “I have two children, and my father’s in the hospital . . . This is outrageous; look at me!”

They finally take us to the station after two hours. We are allowed to make one phone call. “And you must tell a family member to bring you clothes with ‘better hijab.’”

There are maybe fifty ladies there, so very different from one another. Different ages, different looks. Some are laughing as if this isn’t their first time, and I join them, but this is the first time someone’s insulted me in this . . . special sort of way. I try to comfort the younger ones, the ones who are shaking with tears, and calm the older ones, who are shaking with rage.

The police then take pictures of me. Not the professional regular mugshot but pictures of my body and uniform from all angles. I feel subjected to some indecent act. But I smile. I smile so wide in the pictures that the girl who’s taking the picture with that old completely unprofessional camera is completely bemused or even annoyed. I’m supposed to be crying and begging them to let me go, you see. I should be scared.

And I smile. I try to see it as a story in which I’m the hero who’s been arrested for . . . nothing.

They file my information, and then I sit there waiting for my new outfit for an hour or two, watching the faces of those who have forced me here. There’s that thirteen-year-old girl, who is forced to open the buttons of her uniform just because the one who arrested her realizes it’s ridiculous to bring her here and there’s nothing wrong with her her outfit. And that woman doesn’t want to get into trouble, so instead of letting the girl go and admitting her mistake, she’s creating trouble for the girl, who’s crying.

After two hours of being  judged and humiliated, I change into the clothes they give me and they take my own clothes by force. They keep the “bad, indecent” clothes for themselves.

No, I’m not gonna call them cops. Thieves, maybe? A girl says her jeans are worth a lot to her, and when they refuse to give them back, she tears the jeans into pieces so they can’t have them either.

With a lot of trouble, they finally let us go. And now I have a record.

If you can walk on the streets in the country you live in and not worry about getting arrested for your clothes, then be happy about it. You have something a lot of people don’t.

Would You Help Share a Piece of Freedom?

It’s been in my heart from the moment I connected with this amazing young Iranian woman, who taught herself to read and write English just so she could write novels to share with the outside world, to bring her to America to attend the San Francisco Writers’ Conference in February. She has never been out of her country, and has watched those she loved die from brutality. Her dream is to become a writer who is free to write what is in her heart.

If you have it in your heart to share a piece of freedom this holiday season, please take one minute to do so. What will it cost you? About the price of a latte and scone at Starbuck’s. Are you willing to miss one quick coffee break to make a dream come true for a writer who dreams? Here is what she says:

“Iran is a complicated place. So complicated, that if I lived outside of my country even for a few years, I would slowly stop understanding it. From outside it’s a dark place. You walk inside, and you’re surprised it doesn’t seem so bad. Then you stay here for a few months, and you start understanding why people can’t dream here.”

She concludes: “It isn’t only because dreams are forbidden. It’s more because you slowly forget how to dream at all.”

How You Can Help

I’ve never solicited funds for anyone, or tried to push or promote my own books on my blog. But I feel sometimes we just need to stop and remember our blessings. To borrow from my client’s words above: “If you write what you want and do not fear for your life, then be happy about it.” Maybe helping just one writer won’t make a huge dent in the world or stop the injustices and oppression in other countries. But helping one person is helping light one candle to dispel the darkness.

So can you afford $10?

  • If so, please go to PayPal here and copy and paste this e-mail into the window when you click on Send Money: [email protected].
  • In the box asking the purpose, put “freedom.” Be sure to choose “I’m sending money to family and friends.”

If you’d like to donate more or less, any amount is greatly appreciated. I am responsible for coming up with funds for her transportation here in the states, as well as all her food, lodging, hotel, and travel (she has no money for any of this). She plans to stay two weeks and meet many people in the SF Iranian community.

Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, the literary agents who put on this spectacular conference every year, have graciously offered to give her a scholarship to the conference and have invited her to speak. Let’s all help make this a great experience for her, sharing some hope and a piece of freedom so she can go back and write and be a light to this world!

Have a heart. Share a piece of yours. Appreciate your freedom this holiday season. Pray for peace and for world leaders to get a heart for their people.

God bless.

C.S.-Lakin-150x150About the author of this post: C. S. Lakin (from Live Write Thrive) is a novelist, copyeditor and writing coach. She teaches workshops on the writing craft at writers’ conferences and retreats. If your writers’ group would like to have her visit your group, drop her a line. You can find her here: www.LiveWriteThrive.com and at www.CritiqueMyManuscript.com Here are links to two other articles by her: Questions and FAQs about editing and Why you need a critique




photo credit: SonOfJordan via photopin cc