Self-Publishing Tools. Part 1 Pre-Publishing

My two basic rules for my approach on my self-publishing journey are 1.) Learn to do it myself; 2.) Use appropriate tools for those things that are too time-consuming for me to learn or perform myself.

Every journey starts somewhere, and my publishing journey started with the willing heart of a complete novice. I’m sharing the tools I use and how I use them. Note that while I am an Amazon Affiliate I am NOT an affiliate of any of the tools mentioned below. A fan, yes! An Affiliate, no. ~ Judith


Grammarly Premium

ProWritingAid Premium

I started with Microsoft Word to correct any of my very few spelling errors that were basically typos. Novice. I added Grammarly Free and realized my spelling errors were more prevalent than I thought. I purchased a year’s subscription of Grammarly Premium then a year later purchased ProWritingAid Premium because it wasn’t a subscription. That was a personal decision; however, a premium editing tool is a must-have.

I learned my major grammar problem is passive verbs. I speak in passive verbs and write in passive verbs. Finding and correcting passive verbs is not how I want my editor to spend her time. I’m the Super Hero Author who saves my editor for the more daunting tasks of cleaning up commas and finding plot holes.

Why didn’t the Premium editing tool find the commas? Because when I correct one thing I have the audacious skill of breaking one or two others, and commas are my second grammar problem. Every Super Hero has a flaw.


Publisher Rocket

My number one, go-to pre-publishing tool is Publisher Rocket. I first purchased Publisher Rocket for Amazon KDP keywords for my first published book in 2018. Being literal, I found seven keywords to complete the seven spots that KDP allowed. I was grateful for the help because I could think of only two or three. Novice.


I later learned through ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which I’m a member, that a keyword did not need to be a single word, after all; each keyword “spot” on KDP allowed up to 50 characters and could be a list of words. My seven keywords suddenly expanded to 44-48 words, depending on the length of the word, and I had published my second novel! Publisher Rocket to the rescue!


Amazon KDP prompts for two categories for a book. My novice self dutifully picked two of the categories from the KDP selections provided. Once again, I learned through ALLi that I could list up to ten categories, and the ten categories could drill down much deeper than the suggested KDP selections. So for example, I went from Fiction>Mystery>Cozy to Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Cozy > Culinary. Publisher Rocket helped me with ten categories for each format – ebook and paperback – and for each of my books which had grown to three.


When I first started using Publisher Rocket, keywords and categories were my focus. I peeked at the competition once without any concept of what to look for or why I would care. Novice. When I discovered my competition was not the six million books on Amazon as I had originally thought, I delved into competition with the help of Publisher Rocket.  I learned my competition was books similar to mine that were actually selling, and that number was not six million. Publisher Rocket helped me to scope out my competition. I scoured book covers for ideas. I examined fonts and colors to determine the pattern for my genre. I read book descriptions for ideas. I checked the pricing of ebooks and paperbacks.

What About You?

What pre-publishing tools do you use?


Judith A. Barrett Books on Amazon


Judith A. Barrett website

Best Strategy for a Self-Published Author

The best strategy might be magic, but in case that isn’t your strong suit, start with understanding your motivation as an author. Family, Fame, or Fortune?

The basics for any author, traditional or self-published, are to self-market via personal appearances, social media, website, and newsletter and to create a quality product. The self-published author has the advantage of a community of other experienced self-published authors who are willing to share what they have learned.

The biggest mistake a self-publisher can make is to emulate the traditional publisher’s strategy. Traditional publishers may have the advantage of years of experience, but they can’t match the nimble responsiveness of the self-publisher.

The goals of Family, Fame, or Fortune have different strategies for the Author-Publisher.


If your author goal is to write and publish a single book or two for Family and Friends, then your overall marketing strategy is to focus on self-marketing through personal contacts. The self-published author has access to the publisher reports but reviewing and tracking sales and performance is optional.


If your author goal is Fame then your first step is to become famous as a politician or actor then become an author. As a celebrity, however, it’s unlikely you will be interested in self-publishing. But if you do become famous, would you please review one of my books? Thanks.

If you want to skip the first step and become a not-quite-that-famous author, define what you mean by famous. New York Times Best Selling Author? USA Today Best Selling Author?

The New York Times requires a book to be traditionally published, which releases the self-published author from the stress and angst of striving for the New York Times Best Seller list.

Hitting the USA Today Best Seller list is doable for a self-published author. It takes planning and money. Your book needs to be wide, and you need to understand promo stacking, PPC, CPC, and other marketing measurements. There are a number of well-written articles to guide you in your planning. As far as how much money, it depends on your planning. The advantage of being on the USA Today Best Seller list is that you can tout it always. You can splash USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR on all your books, social media, and website. Forever. There you go. Famous.


If your author goal is Fortune, you are in a marathon, not a sprint, and a long-term strategy is your key. Think of yourself as not only a self-published author but also as an independent business. Establish a formal business and learn acceptable accounting practices. In addition to your author self-marketing, create a website for your publishing business. Map out a five-year plan and develop a method to measure your ROI.

The strategy for your first and second year is to plan a series and publish quality books. Know who your target reader is. After you have an established series, write and publish at least three quality books a year. Consider a second series to expand your target readers.

The second and third years, try different marketing methods and track the ROI. Drop those that are not net-profitable and repeat those that are. Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

The goal for your third year is to have a positive net income. Write and publish. Your books don’t necessarily have to be wide at first but begin going wide before the end of the third year with at least one series and adjust your marketing methods to accommodate being wide. Study best practices for going wide and develop your strategy. Develop and implement a plan for paperbacks.

The fourth year, write, publish, and follow your strategy. Continue testing different marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Your goal is an increase in net income in comparison to year three.

The goal for your fifth year is a higher net income than year four. Write and Publish. Revise your strategy for the next five years. Test marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat.


Which goal is mine? I started off with Family then two years ago I shifted to Fortune, which means I am in Year Three with the goal of a positive net income. What about Fame? I’m a farmer. Outstanding in my field.

Which goal is yours?