University Offers Free Tools for Authors

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In June during the 2010 Future of Reading Symposium at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), attendees received a hands-on demonstration of a powerful free Open_Pushing_Guide_logo copy_300tool for authors and self-publishers. The Open Publishing Guide, relaunched in April of this year, offers rich resources ranging from marketing, copyright and references, to public domain sources, free software tools and instructional booklets to forums, author communities and the latest news.

I was fortunate enough to attend this interactive breakout session, hosted by Rachael Gootnick, Content Manager of the Open Publishing Guide (OPG). Rachael explained the OPG’s three goals include: 1) Extending existing publishing platforms; 2) enabling new publishing products and business models; and, 3) Empowering individuals and communities to easily tell their stories as never before. As part of RIT’s commitment to an Open Source approach, she added, when solutions are developed, the university releases them to the public free of charge through the OPG lab’s web-site

The Resource tab alone provides a treasure trove of tasty tidbits. First and foremost, authors can better understand their rights (and potential liabilities) by reading through the Copyright Resources page. The page features links directly to instructive sites such as Creative Commons, Princeton University’s Permissions FAQ for Authors, The Publishing Law Center and the US Copyright Office. This tool might be of particular interest to newer authors, bloggers and just about anyone using the internet as a creative resource.

Once you understand what you can and cannot do with the work owned by others, next go to the Public Domain Resources page. Here you can find more than a dozen separate links to sites offering photos, text and clip art you can freely use as well as two search engine sites you can use to find additional free photos.

Tired of trying to keep track of all your on-line reference guides in your Favorites folder? (This represents a particularly acute problem for those of us using multiple computers with multiple browsers.) OPG has a page for that. Its Reference page helps you find acronyms, almanacs, biographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, government data, information on grammar and writing style, quotations and a couple of thesauri.

OPG really excels in providing very practical tools and guides for self-published or part-time authors. Corporate communications officers and graphics design professionals might like them, too. Its Free Software Tools page contains links to 18 free internet-based applications including office suites, word processors, text editors, PDF creators and image editors. The site currently has five instructional booklets for those interested in solving technical issues. Folks with an eye towards marketing will enjoy the fact OPG features no fewer than ten separate links to great sites.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of OPG resides in its “Self-Publishing Advisor” tool. This on-line application helps an author narrow the list of print-on-demand (POD) service providers to the most appropriate ones. Tomorrow I’ll post an actual example based on my book Due Diligence: The Individual Trustees Guide to Selecting and Monitoring a Professional Investment Adviser. (Here it is: “RIT’s Self-Publishing Advisor Tool”)

After her presentation, Rachael demonstrated the site and allowed the attendees to freely explore the resource on RIT’s computers. Overall, she was very pleased, not only with her sessions, but also about the symposium as a whole. RIT has already announced plans for the next Future of Reading conference in 2012. If you’d like to read more about the conference, visit To view Rachael’s presentation, go to


  1. Thank you very much for posting this information. I know it is going to be invaluable.

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