Bess Auer

Author of the Holiday Shakespeare Trilogy

Archive for the category “Writer Tools”

Publishing on the Kindle and Becoming Agentless

My newest novel Beware the Ex-Varto (Holiday Shakespeare Trilogy, Book 1) is only available on the Kindle. This was a deliberate decision made by me and my now-former agent. (No names! I’ll tell you why later.) Many people have asked why I am not making this book available in print as my first novel is, so I thought my reasons might make a good blog post.

A variety of Kindles are now available.

At first my agent was pursuing the normal avenue of trying to sell my book to a traditional publisher when she came across the Kindle Direct Publishing Program.  The KDP program means any author (or publisher) can format their book into an e-book and upload to begin selling almost immediately. Basically, it’s cutting out the middle-man of the traditional publisher. And with a royalty payment of 70%, that beats the heck out of what I would have been offered by going with a traditional publishing company anyway.

Pros of KDP:

  • 70% royalty domestic, 35% on international sales
  • A percentage pay out on any books “borrowed” through the Amazon Prime Program (think library)
  • Easy uploading of book with minimal ebook formatting
  • Get your book out there and selling quickly
  • People can read it using any Kindle device, including their computer, iPhone, and iPad
  • Promotional days are available

Cons of KDP:

  • It’s exclusive – your book can only be viewed on Kindle devices
  • You do all the marketing yourself (But I would be doing that anyway, because I’m not a best-selling author!)
  • ISBN must be acquired separately as the KDP only provides an ASIN, which is specific to
  • You have to know something about converting a Word document to html and then formatting for Kindle

As we all know is revolutionizing the publishing world. For better or for worse, ebooks are quickly replacing traditional paper books, and it appears KDP is just another way is looking to bury the competition. They are going after big names, like James Franco and other celebrities, to publish books in this program and be available only on the Kindle. Pretty smart, eh?

Now, as to my former agent and why I have now chosen to become agentless. For a percentage of my royalties, my lit agency (again will remain unnamed) promised a proofreading service for my manuscript, formatting into a ebook, enrolling in KDP, uploading to, as well as some minor marketing services.

Well, as it turns out–400 downloads later!–the unedited/unproofread version was the one formatted and then uploaded. Lovely! And while mistakes are certainly made by everyone (Lord knows I make my fair share!) I didn’t like going round and round with my agent to convince her the unedited version was the one being downloaded by readers! Over 400 times! Arrrggghhh!

So, wrongs have been righted (supposedly) and I have learned a few lessons:

  • Cut out the agent and the publisher
  • Get some willing friends to proofread in exchange for a sneak peek at the latest chapters
  • Google and learn for myself how to convert document to epubs for the Kindle
  • Jump on’s author community forums to see what is working well for others
  • Keep all 70% for myself! Yes!

So, there you have my reasons for publishing exclusively on the Kindle. I’ll see how it goes and perhaps this time next year I’ll be back begging for an agent! But, who knows? Maybe I won’t!

And just so you know that agentless authors can self-publish to success, check out Amanda Hocking’s story on NPR.


iPads, Writing and Bruce Lee

So, many of you know I teach in addition to writing. For years I taught English to middle school students, which allowed me a unique insight into the types of books they love and which authors they like to read. However, this year I’ve switched to teaching a “Smart Tech” class where my students all have iPads. Basically, I scour the app store finding cool, educational apps to use with my students and then create projects around them.

Some of My Favorite iPad Apps

  • Book Creator – my students created a picture book about a sea creature after they went to Sea World for a field trip.
  • Words with Friends – my students challenge a classmate to this classic game.
  • Welder – an individual word game – fun!
  • Isaac Newton’s Gravity – a challenging game where students use simple tools to propel a ball through an obstacle course.
  • Dark Tales: Murders of the Rue Morgue – my students try to solve the classic Edgar Allan Poe mystery.  Fun Fact: Did you know Poe actually created the detective mystery genre? Yep, he was the first writer to use a detective, named  C. Auguste Dupin, as the main character to solve a mystery. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his Sherlock Holmes on Dupin. And later, Agatha Christie based her legendary detective Hercule Poirot on Holmes!)
  • Daily Monster – an app that allows students to create an “ink monster” that goes along with artist Stefan G. Bucher’s blog The Daily Monster. Art lovers have got to check it out his blog!
  • Blogsy – where my middle school students have created and maintain a school blog.

The very first app, Book Creator, is simply fantastic for creating picture or photo books. The control you have over the lay out and graphic design is simply amazing!  The options allow you to create a truly professional design. And then the book can be exporting and made for sale on iBooks. Fun!

The last app, Blogsy, probably applies to writers/bloggers the most. My students have a blog, and simply put, the WordPress app wasn’t cutting it. So after some research I switched them to using Blogsy, which does have a bit of a learning curve. However, the app comes with several built-in tutorial videos. It allows for greater text formatting, inputting of media like photos and video, and is far more effective than any other blogging app I’ve seen, but it is still far from perfect!

Roll Up Keyboard

Writing on the iPad

As a writer, I am not thrilled with writing directly on the iPad. I even have a roll-up portable Bluetooth keyboard but I still don’t like it as much as as my good old laptop. I find it as portable as my iPad, but far easier to type. And there is something about the tapping of my keyboard keys that is reassuring. I don’t get near the same feeling on the soft, rubbery keys of the portable keyboard.

I recently met writer Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle, winner of nine Benjamin Franklin Awards! (And a close friend of the late Bruce Lee… yes, that Bruce Lee!) New to the iPad, he was very keen on using his to write but was worried about the lack of a decent keyboard. I agree it takes quite a bit of getting used to.

For those of you with iPads, what about you? Where do you do most of your writing? And have you tried any of the publishing tool apps yet?

I’d love to hear what is working for you as well as any great apps you’ve come across!

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