Writers are tough to buy for. Your literary shot glasses, each featuring the portrait of a long-dead author, are well-intentioned and thoughtful. Well, not thoughtful, more creepy. But you tried.
Most writers don’t need another notebook, or a glow-in-the-dark pen either. In fact, if you’ve got a working Chromebook or even a library card, you pretty much have everything you need.
Nonetheless, here are a few gift ideas that are actually helpful for writers. Prices range from $5 to $500.
If you’re shopping on Amazon, don’t forget to use Smile.Amazon.com and set the “School of Kingdom Writers” as your charity, so that a portion of your sale will be donated to a qualified non-profit.
(Note: Some of these are referral links, but that did not influence my recommendations.)
1. Scrivener (under $50)
It might not be the easiest thing to wrap, but this piece of software is hands-down the most helpful writing aid you can give an author. Scrivener helps an author to organize and write large projects, like a novel. The user interface doesn’t look like much, but it helps. The full license is less than $50. It’s not a subscription, so they can use it forever.
When your writer friend is looking to sell short stories to magazines and anthologies, this website will save them hours of research.
Duotrope collects short story and poetry submission opportunities from around the globe, and aggregates them in one place, so it’s easy to find the right opportunities for your work, without visiting 1,000 different websites.
A membership costs $5 per month or $50 per year, but you can buy a gift certificate for any amount. A writer doesn’t necessarily need a year long subscription, even a month or two could be enough time for them to do some research and find the right opportunities.
2. Pomodoro Timer ($10)
Pomodoro is a productivity technique that is the perfect fit for creatives like writers, artists, and designers.
You can use a free app on your phone to track your Pomodoro work sessions. But there’s just something about the original tomato timer that makes it even better, and it looks cool on a desk too. It’ll run you about $10.
On Amazon: Firiodr Pomodoro Timer
3. Webcam ($40-$150)
Built-in webcams have gotten better and better on off-the-shelf laptops. However, there are still some advantages to a stand-alone webcam, including a better picture, a much better microphone, and the ability to place the camera right where you want it.
I’m not an expert on webcams, but there are models that will be a serious upgrade from your built-in camera ranging from $40-$150.
I have a version of the Logitech C920 series, which I’ve been very happy with. The newest model is the C922. Find it on Amazon here.
Now your writer friend is ready to upgrade their live videos, or appear as a guest on someone else’s video or podcast.
4. Microphone ($100-$150)
Laptop microphones are usually no good. This isn’t the cheapest item on the list, but you can seriously upgrade your writer’s audio for $100-$150.
This is going to come in handy if they’d like to record a podcast, audiobook, or promotional audio. Using professional level equipment will automatically bump them into the top 5% of people trying to accomplish the same things.
Even if they’re not doing their own podcast, chances are high that as they promote their book, short stories, blog, or other work, they’ll want to join another podcast as a guest at some point.
For a long time, the “Blue Snowball” has been the golden standard for entry-level professional microphones. It sells today for about $50. Find it on Amazon here.
5. Headphones ($20-$300)
Most aspiring writers don’t have a dedicated writing space, so they end up working wherever they can—the coffee shop, the living room, the kitchen table. A good pair of headphones can be a lifesaver.
Even a decent pair of Bluetooth earbuds can make a big difference, and are more portable than big noise cancelling headphones if your writer does like to go out to write. At $25-$50, this is a great gift. Even if they don’t end up using them to write, they’re still really nice to have.
6. Magazine Subscription ($20-$200)
Books don’t always make great gifts. It feels like getting homework as a present. Most writers I know already have a stack of books taller than they are that they’d like to read, and just don’t have the time.
A magazine subscription is different though. It shows up periodically, looks beautiful, and there’s a freedom to read what you want, as you’re able.
One of the best ways to improve as a reader is to constantly be exposed to great work. A magazine subscription is a thoughtful, helpful gift, that doesn’t carry the workload and guilt of a book.
It might take a little research to make sure you’re picking a journal that will match your writer’s taste, but here’s a list of journals to get you started: https://thejohnfox.com/ranking-of-literary-journals/ Prices vary, from less than $20 per year to $200 or more.
7. Whiteboard or Chalkboard ($30-$500+)
Whiteboards or chalkboards are super useful for staying organized, keeping lists, and noodling on new ideas. As helpful as they are, it’s typically a non-essential that a writer won’t buy for themselves. That makes it a great gift.
It’s important that you don’t buy junk, especially in the case of a chalkboard. Buy it big enough that it’s actually useful, no smaller than 2’x3’, but the bigger the better (assuming they have a space for it).
Decent dry erase boards can be purchased for $30-$60. There are stands and accessories available if you want a grander gift. Here’s a great 48″ x 36″ option on Amazon for less than $60.
Don’t buy a cheap chalkboard. They don’t write well, and they’re uncomfortable to use. If you’re going to buy a chalkboard, invest in a real chalkboard and take the time to install it correctly. I purchased a large chalkboard from SchoolOutfitters.com and I’ve been very happy with the results, but it cost a little over $500.
If that’s more than you’re looking to spend but you like the aesthetic of chalk, tape off a square on the wall and use chalkboard paint to create your own chalk board. This will be better and more useful than buying a cheap chalkboard. Most cheap chalkboards are just 1/4” or 1/2″ plywood that’s been painted with chalkboard paint. These boards flex when you write on them, they feel light and cheap, and they don’t erase well. You can DIY a chalkboard wall, which will be cooler, more functional, and as large as you want it to be.
Most writer gear is hokey and lame. As surprising as it may be, most writers are not that into dead writers.
Here are a couple of options that I think are really cool, and they support a great cause.
8. PRAY, WRITE, READ, REPEAT – Because that’s just good advice, and a daily morning reminder won’t hurt.
9. WRITERS CHANGE THE WORLD – Because it’s true, and you believe in what your writer is doing. Show them that you know this isn’t an idle hobby, and you know that the work they’re doing can change the world.
The School of Kingdom Writers has a bunch of other cool SWAG for writers too. Check it all out here. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these shirts, mugs, and tote bags goes to SOKW’s nonprofit work.
There you have it. Skip the novelty items. Delete the socks with Edgar Allen Poe’s face on them from your Amazon cart.
These nine ideas are genuinely helpful, and will show that you’re a thoughtful and considerate giver.
I help authors write better books and find the right publishing opportunities.
Sign up for my free e-newsletter.