Numbers Are For More Than Pages

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Being a writer, on the side or professionally, requires a lot of skills. A self-publisher wears many hats, but even authors with agents and support have to take on tasks other than writing. Of those many skills, one stands out as very important and easy to miss – Math.

People have widely differing reactions to hearing “we’re going to talk about math.” Trust me, it’s worth it whatever your response is – because math is used everywhere in an author’s work.

A writer’s growth requires math to be measured – and improved. Comparing word counts lets you determine if your typing speed is improving. Time taken to edit a document helps you determine if your grammar is improving. Becoming a better writer may mean being better at math.

But once you’re writing, math comes in again as you plot a schedule. How long will it take you to write this chapter for your pre-readers? How long until you need to get a cover from your artist? Scheduling is all math – often made more challenging with timezones, calculating dates, and the like.

As a book progresses, math once again comes to the fore. How fast are you working? What’s the percentage of a book done? Do you have to change your schedule or speed up your pace? Scheduling is math – but so is seeing how you’re doing.

When a book is done, there comes more math. How many pages is a book, and how does that affect cover size? What’s the ideal formatting with font sizes and margins? If you do self-publishing and don’t outsource formatting and the like, get out your calculator.

Finally, a book launches. It’s out and . . . here comes more math. You have to calculate if your ad spends are paying off. Evaluating book sales requires math, often with complex date-time calculations. Your newsletter opens and clicks need to be compared to past events – which means math.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? When I first realized I had to write this column, I was overwhelmed with the realization of just how much math my own publishing involved. I was so used to it I didn’t see it – until I wrote this.

If you like math like me, or don’t, this should be a helpful realization. Math is a skill you need to use in writing, and if your math skills are lacking you have a new motivation to improve them. Math makes a better author.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Creative Resources 1/30/2020

I realized I hadn’t published one of these roundups in ages, so here you go – creative resources I’ve found, heard of, and often use!

Art Sources

  • Free
    • Pixabay – A source for art that is free as well as royalty-free. There’s a lot here, and much of it is professional.
    • Unsplash – A source for photos that are free as well as royalty-free. The quality is very high.
  • Royalty Free
    • Canstockphoto – A great source for royalty-free art, photos, and more. Has a subscription system and a pay-more-get-more credit system.
    • Shutterstock – The classic source for royalty-free art, photos, and more. Has both monthly and specific purchases available.
    • The Noun Project – A fee or membership-based site for downloading a huge selection of royalty free icons! Once you pay for it or download it, it’s royalty-free! Useful for all sorts of projects

Book Covers

  • Premade
    • Go On Write – Premade covers for books – pick one that looks right and the artist will change the title and author appropriately. A great bargain, and even has series of covers at discount! Will do custom work to.
  • Services
    • Paper and Sage – A reliable source of both premade and custom book covers.
  • Tools
    • 3D Book Cover Design – Makes 3D Mockups of book covers.
    • Canva – Book cover creator, though you will want to provide your own art if you don’t want to pay for rights to their stock photo. Also has other services.

Book Reviewers

  • Review Sources
    • Midwest book review – Will review books for free, but it’s a matter of choice.
    • Self Publishing Review – A classic paid review service (where a pool of reviewers is available) for books. Not always a guarantee of the best reviews of course, so you take your risks . .
    • The Indie Review – A large, constantly-updated list of indie book reviewers.

Color Tools

  • Collections
    • Color Tools – Plenty of useful online color tools.
    • HTML Color Codes – Useful color tools, with a focus on web-focused colors.
    • Material Palette – Useful tools for desginging palettes, finding icons, and locating specific colors
  • Color Schemes
    • Color At Adobe – A color theme creator that lets you create schemes, or even get one from a picture, and has a powerful interface.
    • Color Calculator – A color scheme creator that also has useful advice and guides.
    • Colormind – A color theme creator that creates schemes with simple clicking, or get one from a photo.
    • Colors at Halfpixel – A simple palette creator (with a mobile option) with intuitive controls.
    • Coolors – A useful and powerful color palette creator that’s easy to use and powerful.
    • Huesnap – A palette repository and creation tool

Contact Management

  • Mailing Lists
    • Mailchimp – Mailchimp may have some restrictions, but it’s the go-to for easy mailing list management, which is perfect for authors and artists. It also integrates well with other tools.
  • Professional
    • LinkedIn – The classic business networking site, and pretty unavoidable for most professionals.

Game Creation

  • General
    • Game Maker Studio – A powerful game creation tool, with free and paid options
    • Unity – A popular, well-supported game creation tool, not only popular, but one with many tutorials available.
  • Interactive Fiction – Graphics
    • Ren’py – A powerful game creation tool with an inclination to visual novels and life-sim, and capable of powerful customization.
  • Interactive Fiction – Text
    • Choicescript – A choice-based game system, both for fun and used commercially.
    • Twine – A web-based Interactive Fiction development tool with multiple options.
  • RPGs
    • RPG Maker – Game creation tools – the original was RPG focused, but the company has also expanded into Visual Novels.


  • Generator Sites
    • Chaotic Shiniy – A diverse source of generators in a variety of styles.
    • Darkest of Nights – Fantasy-oriented generators.
    • Donjon – Generators for a variety of genres and game systems, some of which provide graphics as well!
    • Dropping-the-form – Generators for various settings.
    • DunGen – A powerful dungeon generation tool!
    • Eposic – Generators – among other imaginative efforts.
    • Fantasy Name Generators – And there are a LOT of them here. About anything you could want, and a few you didn’t know you needed.
    • Feath – Generators of various types, conveniently categorized.
    • Generator Blog – Links out to many other generators.
    • Generatorland – Lots of generators and generator tools.
    • Mithril and mages – Generators for a variety of genres.
    • Name Pistol – Band name generators.
    • RanGen – Random generators, from fantasy to helpful writing tools.
    • Serendipity – A generator site with some setting and name generators.
    • Seventh Sanctum – A gigantic collection of generators founded in 1999, with a focus on writing and RPGs.
    • – A site of generators and other creative tools.
    • – Home of a complex name generator with many, many options.
    • The Force – A powerful name generator with multiple options.


  • Graphic Tools
    • Art Rage – A painting-oriented digital art program supporting many operating systems, tools, and formats.
    • Clip Studio – A comics, painting, and illustration tool with many options and features
    • Mediabang – A comic and painting application that’s free and multiplatform!
    • Paintstorm – A low-cost digital painting program with many advanced features.
  • Graphic Tools – Free
    • Gimp – Aka The GNU Image Manipulation Program. A free, open source graphic tool that will take care of almost all of your graphic needs (barring a few limits like CYMK conversion and the like).
    • Krita – A free graphic tool focused on professional workflows.
    • Made With Mischief – A quick, free sketching and brainstorming tool.
    • Sketchbook – A free sketching program.
  • Graphic Tools – Painting
    • BlackInk – A painting program, focusing on stylistic work as opposed to realistic
  • Mac
    • Pixemlator – A low-cost alternative to Photoshop for Mac, with lots of compatibility options

Helpful Tools

  • Relaxing Backgrounds
    • 4 Ever Transit Authority – Ride the bus through randomly generated art deco cities. A great program to run in the background or on your TV or monitor to relax you while you create.
    • Anomolies – A relaxing background display/artgame that creates surreal spacescapes, often with strange nebulas and sites that resembe anything from devices to lights to disturbing lifeforms.
    • Becalm – A relaxing journey via sailboat through surreal worlds with a relaxing soundtrack and audio. Can be run for a few minutes or in a loop and you can switch between multiple settings.
    • Panoramical – Available on And Steam. Panoramical is an audio/visual remixer where you can tweak settings in multiple environments, turning them into audio/visual displays. Find your favorite setting, leave it on, and relax.
    • Station To Station – A simulated train ride through imaginary environments. Run it in the background or through your television while you create to help relax you


  • Services
    • Adobe Portfolio – The popular porftolio site – that comes with many Adobe subscriptions.
    • Artstation – Multimedia-focused portfolio and blog platform
    • Format – A portfolio site with store services as well.

RPG Resources

  • Random Charts
    • Chartopia – A site with a huge and expanding amount of charts for RPGs, easily sortable and classified.


  • Audiobooks
    • ACX – Amazon’s self-publishing audio platform
    • Audible – Another amazon audiobook publishing platform
    • Findaway – A wide-ranging audiobook distribution service.
  • Cards
    • Drive Thru Cards – Self-publishing for card games, both physical and downloads.
  • eBook
    • – doesn’t just do games – it also allows for people to publish books, and is very open-minded.
    • Kobo Writing Life – Distribute your eBook via Kobo
    • Nook Press – Distribute your eBook via Nook
  • eBook-Multiple
    • Draft2Digital – A service that distributes to multiple eBook platforms.
    • Smashwords – A wide-ranging ebook distribution service.
  • Physical And Ebook
    • Ingram Spark – Ingram’s eBook and physical book publishing platform. Wide reach, but may require some setup fees and has some limitations.
    • KDP – Amazon’s full-service print and Kindle publishing service. Warning, the eBook distribution is only through Amazon.
    • – A print and eBook creation and distribution service.
  • RPGs
    • Drive Thru RPG – Self-publishing for RPGs, both downloadable and in print. Also supports related merch like calendars.
  • Video Games
    • – is a supportive, indie-oriented game store site. It also has a lot of self-published resources for game development, as well as supporting books of all kind.

Website Creation

  • Services
    • Squarespace – The popular website creator with many options.
    • Weebly – Easy and simple to use website, blogs, and stores.
    • Wix – A simple And effective website source, though paid options are reccomended.
    • – The classic site, with free and paid options. Obviously blog-focused.

Writing Research

  • Maps
    • Old Maps Online – A way to find and view old maps of the world. Great for research and imagining.

Writing Tools

  • Ebook Creation
    • Calibre – A free ebook creation tool.
    • Jutoh – Not only converts your book to various ebook formats, it’s a powerful enough tool that you could even write books in it.
  • Word Processing
    • LibreOffice – A full, free, open source office suite. Beyond the free price, it’s fantastic ad using ODT format and creating PDFs.
  • Word Tools
    • Describing Words – Ideas for how to describe a given word.
    • – The classic online dictionary.
    • Related Words – Helps find words similar to or related to one you’re using.
    • Rhyme Zone – A tool to help you find rhyming words.
    • Thesaurus.Com – The classic online thesaurus, with plenty of useful options and displays
    • Wordsworth – A tool to see if words you’re using fit the time period you’re writing
  • Writing
    • Scriviner – A writing tool that combines note taking, tracking, and writing into one application.
  • Writing Checking
    • Grammarly – A pricey but powerful service and software for checking grammar, spelling, and even plagarism if you need. There are free, limited options.
    • Hemmingway – A grammar checking tool with both web and desktop versions.
    • Pro Writing Aid – A subscription-based writing checker service/tool.

Geek As Citizen / Make It So: Banned Book Giveaway

Book Shelf And More

Awhile ago, I heard about how the Merdian, Idaho School district removed the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian” from its curriculum.  So a student helped give away the books as part of an event called World Book Night.

So some parent called the cops on them.  Really.

Now this got me thinking. Not just that some people really need to get boundaries, or that it seem son one realizes that banning something makes teenagers want it more.  It made me think about banned books and geekdom.

Geeks in general don’t like censorship and we’ll regularly read things that will melt people’s brains.  We’re also pro-literacy in many cases, and we’re organized.

Also, frankly, I’m anti-censorship.  Good citizenship is about the intelligent handling of ideas.

So I’m thinking we geeks ought to get in on this Making Banned Books available thing.


So my basic idea is this.

Appropriate conventions (those with a heavy literary element and that are large enough) should host a banned book giveaway.  Have a room, open with donated copies of various banned books that would be available to all comers.  Perhaps there would be donation boxes (or purchased donation slips allowing entrances) that would fund worthy causes – or you just give the books away.

Now this would have to be done carefully as some books may, say, be age-inappropriate and there may be local legal issues.  But careful checking and thought would make this relatively easy to handle.

Such an event would:

  • Promote literacy.  Always good.
  • Promote awareness of banned books and censorship.  Also important – and indeed something I feel we geeks should pay more attention to as awareness fits our “cultural portfolio.”
  • Get people to read books – some banned or controversial books are often damned good (it seems that makes them more controversial).
  • Would act as good publicity – properly handled.  Poorly handled it could be a mess, of course, but I trust you.

I wouldn’t be surprised if other conventions have done this, but I haven’t heard of it before.  So I promote this as an idea.

But I’m not done yet . . .


See, this is just the basic idea.  The more I think of it, the more I think there’s other things we could try.

  • Many conventions, such as anime cons, draw on media from other countries.  There could also be a focus on controversial literature from source countries. That’d be extra educational.  Speaking of . .
  •  . . . an event like this could be paired with discussion of the relevant literature or literature relevant to the convention theme.  That would be educational.
  • Discussions or panels about censorship and laws, especially in history and perhaps other counties would be interesting.  This could also be useful in areas, like video games.
  • This could easily go beyond books with things like games, movies, films, and so on.  Even banned nonfiction is relevant.
  • Some conventions, those focused heavily on media producers, could also pair this with panels on dealing with laws and censorship, becoming very educational.
  • Entire sub-conventions or conventions could spring up around the idea of dealing with censored and controversial works.  Just noting.
  • Conventions doing this could partner with existing organizations as appropriate.
  • Go crazy with cosplay of infamous characters, etc.  That might be too silly – or pretty neat.

There’s many ways to take this.


So, just an idea that struck me for we geek citizens to consider.  It fits what we do, our love of media, and we’ve got a social structure to do it within.

Any thoughts?

– Steven Savage