Each month, the Nonfiction Authors Association asks a burning publishing question of the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative experts. Here’s what they have to say for April!
NFAA: What are your favorite software or apps for writing or for author-businesses?
KURT VON AHNEN
In times when I need to find direction for my words, I rely on third-party tools. Answerthepublic.com is a great online tool that helps me identify questions my readers may be looking for answers to. This tool helped me have a virtual conversation with my readers, as the tool tells me in real-time what internet users are searching for. From the questions I gather on my subject matter, I begin outlining the topic, then narrating the outline.
Once you receive the query in the system, you can output the report in different formats. The excellent part of this is being able to extract the information in a .csv format, then prioritize the pieces of your project to match your readers’ real-time interests.
If it is a larger work, I find that breaking the topics or chapters into a tool like Trello helps keep the content organized and separated, making it easier to format properly in the end for print.
TikTok has so much potential for authors looking for a new marketing channel. Their algorithm is generous — compared to the “pay to play” models of Instagram and Facebook, TikTok allows you to go viral based on the quality of your content, not your number of followers.
While people think TikTok is just for dancing teens, there are over 600 million active users monthly. That means that no matter your niche, your audience is on there! I recommend that authors share informational, informative, or inspirational content to garner the most shares and engagement. After 1,000 followers, you can include a link in bio to your books or website.
HANNAH DELA CRUZ
Google Suite and Asana were essential to my writing process when I was drafting my first cookbook.
Google Suite made it so easy for me to access important files from anywhere. I used Google Spreadsheets while I was formulating my recipes and Google Docs to write every word of my book. Google Docs also has a great interface for version control and keeping track of changes and suggestions from my copy editors. It was easy to convert the files to any format my publisher requested and I was able to keep organized thanks to the folder feature on Google Drive.
Asana, a project management system, allowed me to keep on top of all my tasks and helped me break down my book into manageable goals. Writing a book is incredibly overwhelming. Asana made it easier by allowing me to create an overall project file, with multiple sections and tasks that I could check off one by one so I could focus on one thing at a time.
I recommend two pieces of software. First, use Grammarly App. Grammarly is a free browser extension. Not only will your mechanics be flawless but you’ll learn about grammar rules by using the tool. If you use the paid version, the tool will recognize words in context in the event of multiple spellings.
I also recommend using a tool that tells you your reading score. You can use Flesch-Kinkaid, for instance. The reason you need a readability score is to ensure you don’t write over the heads of your potential readers. You want to make your writing appeal to all levels. Experts advise not making your reading level above sixth or seventh grade. Yet, many writers have a stellar vocabulary. By using words that are too difficult to understand, you eliminate potential readers and a chance to grow your audience.
Our eyes can see things that aren’t there, or miss things that are — like typos, missing words, or words out of sequence. As writers, we often overlook the power of our hearing. Many word-processing programs have a Read Aloud feature, which allows you to hear your written word as spoken word (you can even choose the accent!). Our ears can pick up mistakes or missing words in a fresh and different way because the auditory nerves bring information to a slightly different place in our brains than our optic nerves do through our vision. It is convenient to listen during
chores or mindless tasks, and free in your software. Plus, for those who are auditory learners, or auditory processors, it is a natural way to hear content and make sure it makes sense for the reader. Before I send my manuscripts out, I listen to them and make any last changes so my work is clean and ready to go.
DAVID J. WALDRON
I use IngramSpark’s new tool to format print (hardcover and softcover) and eBook (EPUB) interiors. I am in the process of upgrading all four of my books from MS Word/PDF formats to IngramSpark Book Building Tool interiors. The IS Tool is a new roll-out with inherent issues, and the templates are somewhat limited, but the support team at IngramSpark has been excellent.
Using a professional book designer is arguably the best choice, but for nonfiction author/publishers that are comfortable designing their interiors, the IS Tool delivers. I use the same template for all my books for creative consistency and am delighted with the look. (As a reminder, unlike Amazon, IngramSpark charges from $25-$49 to design and upload a book, and NFAA offers a promo discount at certain membership levels.)
My favourite software for writing is HemingwayApp. HemingwayApp is a free-to-use browser tool that highlights hard-to-read areas of your content. This is helpful because you can edit each sentence until the highlight disappears. That indicates that your writing is now easy to read. If you’re ever unsure, HemingwayApp also provides your readability grade level—ideally, grade 6 is best.
The tool also tells you when your content has an excess of adverbs or too much passive voice. Both can take the wind out of your sails when you’re trying to write impactfully. If you’d prefer to use the software outside of your browser, you can also download HemingwayApp to your device. That comes in handy if you’re in an area without an internet connection.
Head of Marketing at Kintell