Online resources for the aspiring novelist

If you're looking to get your novel published, or you just need some moral support as you write it, these resources will help you out.

Are you the next Stephen King? There's no way to tell, unless you write a page-turner. But writing that book can be difficult. So, you might be looking for some help publishing it, or you just might want some advice. In either case, the Web is a great place to find some help.

Write that book

DoXtop DoXtop allows you to upload documents (including books) that can be embedded into sites across the Web.

Uploading content to DoXtop is quick and easy. Simply pick the file you want to upload, choose your desired format, and you're all set. What I like most about DoXtop is its many community features. You can discuss your content with readers, ask them to rate your book, or respond to surveys. It builds a readership around your content. It also helps you determine what readers are looking for. If you're trying to deliver your manuscript to readers without printing a book, DoXtop is a fine solution.

doXtop
doXtop lets you publish your content for all to see. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

iUniverse iUniverse is a self-publishing platform that goes one step further than simply allowing you to see your book in print. Unlike some competitors, it's a supported self-publishing service, which means that you can have your manuscript edited, ask iUniverse to acquire an ISBN for you, and more.

iUniverse offers a variety of plans for you to pick. You can get the basic plan, which costs $599. That gives you access to the service's one-on-one author support. You'll also get a custom cover, but you won't be able to receive all the extras you'll find in its Premier package ($2,099).

That plan includes the ability to choose a hardcover and the option to have your book previewed by buyers. It's a hefty price to pay, but it might be worth it, if you're serious about selling your book. iUniverse even gives you the option of publishing your book in Amazon.com Kindle or Sony Reader versions. It's a neat service.

iUniverse
iUniverse boasts several options for you. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Lulu Lulu is a self-publishing platform for aspiring authors.

After uploading a manuscript to Lulu, you can immediately start creating your book. You can decide what it should look like, get involved in the design process, and determine how it will be marketed.

Lulu currently sells books through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and social networks. Whenever you sell a book, you receive 80 percent of the net revenue from the title. Lulu takes the remaining 20 percent. It's not a bad deal. And since it's so easy to create a book, it's a fine option, if you don't want to work with traditional publishers.

Lulu
Lulu is a great self-publishing platform. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

National Novel Writing Month National Novel Writing Month is a really neat service. For 11 months out of the year, it's a place where aspiring writers can congregate, discuss books they love, and talk about what kinds of books they plan to write. But in November, it's home to a flurry of activity.

During National Novel Writing Month, users write 50,000-word novels. As they hit different milestones, they update their profiles with information on how far along they are. When the story is complete, each qualifying manuscript idea will be added to the site's Winner's page.

Winning authors receive a certificate and a Web badge. If they're lucky, an agent or publisher might like their idea, request to read the manuscript, and publish the book in hardcover.

Novel
The National Novel Writing Month even shows you where the most people have written. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Scribd Scribd is a fine place for you to publish your original content. The site's document reader enables you to easily upload your book for users to check out.

Scribd is optimized for search engines, so all the content you upload to the site will be indexed by Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It could improve your chances of having your novel found. And since it's extremely easy to upload a manuscript, you won't have much trouble getting your story read by others. Even better, if you want to sell it, you can share the revenue with Scribd (you keep 80 percent of net sales) when you sell it through its store. Not bad.

Scribd
Scribd lists several books that are offered for sale on the site. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

WeRead Being part of the social community is extremely important for authors. WeRead, which has an extremely active community, is a place for book lovers to congregate, share the books they've read, and discuss books they might have liked. And for authors, it's also a place to connect with readers and discuss what they want in a book.

The site enables you to connect with readers to find out what they like and don't like in a book. You shouldn't have any shortage of users with whom to discuss literature.

WeRead
WeRead will let you discuss books on a number of topics. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Writerface Writerface is a social network for writers, editors, and authors. It's a good place to share your work and get career advice.

Writerface is a great site to join for any aspiring author. The site is designed to help you connect with other writers around the world. It's a great idea, but unfortunately, the site has a relatively small number of users, which will limit those connections a bit. That said, the community is quite active. Overall, Writerface has some potential. It just needs a bigger community.

Writerface
Writerface will let you add events worth checking out. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Xlibris Xlibris is another self-publishing service that helps you get your book published without going through traditional avenues.

Since the site was designed by authors, Xlibris is a little different than its competitors. When you sign up, you need to decide if you want to publish a black-and-white, color, or specialty book. From there, you can get down to the business of having it published.

Xlibris plans range from $299 for a basic, softcover book to up to $12,999 for a Platinum package, which includes marketing services, advanced image options, and copy-editing services. It's the full package. But since there are several plans that provide ideal services for any budget, Xlibris is a fine option, if you're looking to publish a book.

Xlibris
Xlibris provides a nice bookstore to sell your titles when they're ready. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. Lulu: If you're looking to get published, Lulu is the best way to go about it.

2. Scribd: If you just want to get your manuscript out there without worrying about book fees, Scribd is the way to go.

3. National Novel Writing Month: A supportive group of authors combined with a challenge makes it a great service to try out.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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