Indie writing: The open source way


I have been a writer of technical documentation for many, many years. Because I have such a close connection to software, and the communities that create the tools, I thought I would write and article, for all of my indie writer friends, on the tools I use to publish my books, from start to finish. Why would you be interested in these tools? Because they are all free! And, as we all know, free is good.

Although I use the Linux operating system, I will focus only on cross-platform tools (that means they will work on Linux, Windows, and sometimes Mac). Let’s start with the writing process and end with keeping track of finances.

Writing: I use LibreOffice for all of my writing needs.┬áThis is an office suite on parallel with MS Office. But even better, LibreOffice doesn’t bother with that horrific Ribbon Interface introduced in Office 2007. This office suite should be fairly straight-forward and anyone that has used MS Office will be able to figure this out with little to no effort. The only thing I will mention is this: When you go to save your documents, LibreOffice will default to the Open Document format. If you need to save as a .doc or an .rtf make sure you click File > Save As and select the file type you need to use. You can also use the outstanding spreadsheet tool to keep track of your numbers.

Art: For all of my cover artwork I have used The GIMP. The GIMP is, for all intent and purpose, a free, open source equivalent of Photoshop. It is a very powerful tool that can handle just about any raster graphic need you have. With this tool, you might have to spend a bit of time getting used to the interface, but once you understand how it works, you will be creating some incredible covers for your books.

Video: OpenShot Video Editor is only available for Linux, but I thought it deserved mention. I use this tool to create all of my promo videos (of which images are created in The GIMP.) It’s a fairly easy to use tool, but it is in early development (so you might find a few bugs.) In my opinion, it’s feature-set and ease of use is worth putting up with a few minor issues as it is developed.

Calibre: If you like to convert your books to .MOBI, .EPUB, or .PDF formats (instead of relying on Smashwords or the like) you should give Calibre a try. This tool will not only help you manage your ebooks (even allowing you to add/edit metadata for your books) it will convert your books from one format to another.

Gnucash: And last, but not least, I give you one of the finest accounting tools you will find (outside of an accountant). GnuCash is a double-entry accounting software that will help you keep track of those millions you are making off your ebook sales! With this tool you can track multiple accounts, track stocks/bonds/mutual fund accounts, do small business accounting, and manage customers/vendors/jobs/invoices.

There ya go. Every tool you need to get your books written and published without paying a single penny for software! If you have any questions about any of these, feel free to hit me up at jlwallen[at]monkeypantz[dot]net.