The essential tools for me have more to do with writing than with marketing/promotion at this point, since I’ve got nothing book-length worth marketing. Here’s my list (your results may vary):
1. midrange computer (high end has bells & whistles I may not need and will soon be outstripped anyway, so why spend $$$$$$, low end is like giving a student a box of crayons and wondering why all his/her drawings look like kindergartener’s – crappy tool = crappy results or hours of frustration) — for me, this is a MacBook Pro with all the RAM I could shoehorn into it.
2. fastest Internet I can afford and I’ll scrimp elsewhere to bump it up — I don’t have time or patience to wait for a slow connection when I’m researching; I want to get back to writing
3. the right software. For me, Scrivener, hands down. (Windows users do not get all the features the Mac version has. Yet, but they’re working on it as well as an iPad version, but it’s still a danged versatile program.) I love the flexibility, the robustness, the ability to choose research papers as well as screenplays, novels, short stories. It comes with character and setting sketch templates, a research folder in every project, so your notes aren’t part of your document, a huge capacity — my 7-book million and a half word epic fantasy saga is a single project (Scrivener has preprogrammed ‘novel with parts’ for series) — and so much more I can’t even begin to catalogue it all. The learning curve is steepish, and it can be completely overwhelming at first since it will do SO much, but for $45 (and it’s half that if you complete NaNo, when the ‘prizes’ go up), it can’t be beat. It will compile pdf, plain text, rich text, Word (both doc & docx), Open Office, Final Draft, Fountain Screenplay, mobi, ebook, iBook, html, and multi-markdown, and you have complete control over what’s included and how it’s formatted. Reviews for the Windows version aren’t as glowing as for the Mac OS X version, but those I’ve seen were for older Windows versions. What I’ve seen for the current version is mostly positive, with wistful sighs for some of the things us Macs get that Windows users don’t. Without Scrivener, I’d have stopped after the first NaNo. Word simply doesn’t fit the way I work. What it doesn’t have that I wish it did: full-featured revision. It will mark new text – and you can set it to show multiple revisions in different colors – but doesn’t do the strikethrough for deleted text or the arrows for moved text that Word does. Add that, a personalized coach at the beginning, a bottle of Scotch — it’d be absolutely perfect. They have another product, Scapple, that I haven’t tried but am about to — mind-mapping stuff. It’s a whopping $15. (How do these guys pay their bills?) Both Scrivener and Scapple have free trial versions. Scrivener’s is good for a clocked 30 days OF USE, which means if you open it tomorrow and next week Great Aunt Maude from New Zealand emails you that if you join her on a 6-week anthropology field trip to the rainforest, she’ll buy you that Lambo you’ve always wanted, you’re not SOL. I likes it. A bit. On days that end with ‘y’.
You can download Scrivener here: http://www.literatureandlatte.com
4. paper and pen and perhaps colored pencils depending on the project. (I draw maps, create calendars, construct a language or modify an existing one, if I’m writing fantasy. Yeah, kinda OD-ed on Tolkien back in the day. I even calculated the orbit for a planet in a binary system, orbiting one star with the other distant enough not to cause perturbations, but with a sufficiently high spectral class so that both suns would be visible simultaneously for a number of hours each day during certain seasons and then calculated the number of hours and sunrise/sunset times for each day of the year, allowing for axial tilt and other variables. Before the invention of ‘create-a-world’ software. Ah, the things I’ll do to not-write.) (That one, is, BTW, the most complete of the unfinished and only hard-copy novels I’ve not-written, with 20-25 chapters and more notes than you want to think about.)