Free Online Resources for Self-Publishers

free pixabay pay-706798_640
FREE courtesy of Pixabay!

Just over a year ago I wrote a post highlighting some free online resources for writers. Since that time, I’ve discovered even more wonderful free resources for photos, music, backgrounds, fonts, and more, so it’s definitely time for an update.

Each site has a section regarding licensing, which needs to be read prior to downloading and using content. Some sites don’t require any attribution, but some do, so make sure to read the fine print.

Links to all the various sites won’t be included in this post, because minions can get into trouble with Google for posting too many scammy-looking links. But at the bottom of this post will be a link to one of Indies Unlimited’s fabulous resource pages, where you can find links to all the sites mentioned.

First up, Photos:

Pixabay. This site has a huge variety of public domain photos available for free. While they don’t require attribution, they do state that a mention of the site would be nice, so I always try to do that.

Morguefile. This site is a little trickier, because what it seems to do is to crawl around the web and find free photos. Many (probably most) of the photos they display come from Flickr, where photos can be licensed under an assortment of Creative Commons Licenses. If you find a photo you want to use on Morguefile, be sure to follow the photo back to the original site to see how it might be licensed for use.

Next, Photo Editing Sites and Animation:

Just recently, an author asked if I could help her figure out how to add her website to the bottom of a bookmark. This sounds like such a simple request, but if you don’t have the right tools, it’s virtually impossible. Luckily, there are plenty of free photo editing sites available that are so easy to use even I can figure them out.

GIMP is one of the most popular photo editing options. While free, it does require a download to your own computer. If you missed it, Lynne Cantwell did an article on using GIMP to make a box cover for your book here.

For those not comfortable downloading, Ipiccy is one of my favorites that is used completely online. It works very much like a free online version of PhotoShop (albeit a much simpler version). Just upload your photo and edit to your heart’s content.

Lunapic. Shares some of the same features as Ipiccy, but also has a really cool feature that will let you add animation to a photo. Working on a trailer and need snow? Upload a picture of a snowy landscape and add snowfall animation to bring the photo to life.

MotionBackgroundsForFree. This site offers a free download of animated photos. For example, the trickling stream in my Shadow Days trailer came from this site. Be careful, though. Only the first few gifs are free. After that, there’s a fee.

Fonts:

Looking for just the right font for your book cover? Try 1001FreeFonts. If you don’t find what you need there, check out Fontspace. Still can’t find what you need? Take a look at FontSquirrel. We’ve got articles on how to download and install fonts on our Book Cover Resource page here.

Very often, font downloads require attribution under either a Creative Commons License or a Commercial Use Freeward License, so be sure to check their licensing requirements before download, and make sure to give appropriate attribution.

Banners:

If you have your own YouTube channel, you know that YouTube allows you to create a banner for that channel. BannerFans has the correct (and very odd) measurements for creating and customizing your YouTube banner.

Speaking of banners, TimeLineCoverBanner offers the same option for creating banners for Facebook pages and accounts.

Music:

Need music for a book trailer? Incompetech offers a wide variety of music licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0. Make sure to read the licensing information before downloading in order to give proper attribution.

Can’t find what you need at Incompetech? Try FreeMusicArchive. Again, make sure to read the licensing agreement in order to give proper credit.

Still can’t find it? Try MediaCollege. Not only do they offer a limited number of free music loops, but they also offer free sound effects:  gunshots, traffic, animals, crowds, machinery, etc.

eBook Covers:

Canva offers free templates to use for creating eBook covers, greeting cards, Facebook covers, etc. They also have a wealth of photos available, some for free, others for $1.00. I recently did a tutorial on Canva to show you how to make your own covers for free.

And finally, just for fun, create your own 3-D cover photo at 3d-pack. Be aware that the default setting for their page color seems to be green, so unless you want green pages, you’ll need to tilt your graphic until the page color can’t be seen.

Remember, you can find the links to all these sites on this Resources for Authors page, and we have lots of other great Resource pages listed on our KnowledgeBase page. And if anyone else has any other cool free sites, please post them in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for a good deal.

Author: Melinda Clayton

Melinda Clayton is the author of the Cedar Hollow series, as well as a self-publishing guide. Clayton has published numerous articles and short stories in various print and online magazines. She has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. Lear more about Melinda at her Amazon author page

34 thoughts on “Free Online Resources for Self-Publishers”

  1. Thanks Melinda. I’m getting ready to publish again soon and I know I will come back to your article and the resources you gave us again and again. It’s now in my “hot bookmark” list.

    1. Thank you, Ester, and good luck with Canva. I keep getting emails that they’ve added even more photos and templates, but I haven’t yet had a chance to go check it out.

      1. I watched a webinar yesterday showing how to use Canva to set up lined journals for daily entries. Impressive! It had a few pointers to free sites. If I can access it again (I still have it, hopefully) I’ll check which ones I thought were worthwhile and post it here. I also screenshot (I do that frequently) some and will check my desktop.

  2. The two that I have are, photopin.com and brainyquote.com, used as headings for each page. The rest of the webinar is unfortunately no longer available. There is so much one can watch in a day! All valuable, of course.

  3. For fonts, I’d also strongly recommend Google Fonts! All of their fonts are free, open source, and can be used on websites or downloaded for personal and commercial projects. They also have a pretty nice preview option where you can add your own text and change sizes, a pretty decent filtering system, and you can look at a font’s details and see common pairings that work well together 🙂

  4. Mahalo for all your generosity and hard work. I may have missed a post in the past when you offered a free editor. Since the cost of editing is right up there with the price for good cover design and video trailers, it would be good if there were some brave souls that would offer free editing—perhaps for just a half dozen (first come, first served) authors. Maybe some others would volunteer after seeing what a great service it would be.
    Some not too lazy agents might find some great material this way.

    1. You’re very welcome! 🙂 Yes, editing is definitely one of the biggest costs to self-publishing, but also the most necessary. It’s also extremely time-consuming, and unfortunately, often a thankless job (criticism, even constructive, isn’t always easy for folks to handle gracefully). So while my bank account would love to find a pool of free editors, it probably isn’t going to happen. I’ve found beta-readers to be incredibly helpful, though – not a substitute for a good editor, but definitely helpful (and free). 😉

  5. Great roundup but I’m wondering how these free websites make their money.
    Thanks!
    Connie

    1. I’ve wondered that, too. I know some of them have a “free” option and also a “paid” option, and clearly use the free option to draw people in and get them to pay for things (smart marketing idea). Pixabay accepts donations. When you download a picture a screen will pop up asking if you’d like to buy them a cup of coffee. I’ve donated several times. But others, I don’t know.

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