What is Kindle Vella (dumpster fire or publishing opportunity?)

There are some rumblings this week as Kindle announced a new program for authors called Kindle Vella; basically a short, serialized place for content that’s separate from the main Kindle store and runs more like a smartphone app. Several companies have tried to pull this off, (“Radish” is the most successful one) but Amazon has the clout and audience to do it right.

It’s smart of them to launch this now, as other platforms are also introducing new “paid content” schemes for writers: Medium is the big one which has never really monetized well (but gets something like 10% of all traffic right now); Wattpad is an older one but is mostly free (even still, the company has a huge valuation). Facebook recently introduced it will start a new feature for content creators to publish long-form articles.

Serialized, shorter content in episodic form behind a paywall is just the way things are moving, as content consumers are inundated with free content but willing to pay to continue a quality experience. There’s a fight to keep and hold attention, in a world of skipping and scrolling.

I love the introduction of “tokens” and “crowns” which gamifies the platform, and gives a nod towards the cryptocurrency space, where people buy and redeem tokens to exchange for the value they want on that particular platform. Apple and several other big players have talked about introducing their own unique “coin” for platform transactions.

How’s it work?

The payscale is roughly 1 token for 100 words, or 50 tokens for the max length of 5000 words per episode. Readers can buy a pack and authors earn 50% of sale price plus some extra bonuses if they also (I assume) get upvoted by earning “crowns” which readers can earn 1/week and give to their favorite story.

To publish, just start a “story” and then upload or copy+paste an “episode.” You’ll also need cover art, but this can be any 1600px square picture. I’m using cover image without the title text. There’s just one piece of art for the whole story (all episodes) so you only need one “cover” – and it can just be something simple like a stock image.

I think they buy through the app, which looks like it will be a separate app from Kindle on the app store… which I don’t think has launched yet (from what I hear, they’ll launch to readers in July 2021). It’s still early but I made a video showing you how to upload short serialized fiction content to Vella and why it might be a good idea, especially for self-published authors. I’ll extend this article as I get more details and experience with the platform.

So far from authors, I’ve heard that this will work better with PN romance or YA – younger readers are more used to consuming serialized fiction. But like all things, those who launch first and hard, will probably reap the most rewards, before it becomes saturated.

US ONLY – for now. I imagine by July, they’d have their ducks in a row and start expanding to other countries this year, unless it flops. I imagine they’ll keep at it – even if it’s costing them money – just to cannibalize sales from Radish or other competitors.

My goals: I hope to have 10 completed episodes, or the first “book” available by July, and probably just keep writing book 2 within the same “story” – until it eventually gets to roughly 50 episodes (one big projects, with all the crowns, reviews and traction, rather than 5 separate, shorter projects. With any luck, I’ll have it all done this year and ride the wave of first adopters. I think, rather than trying to finish one big book, this might feel less threatening to me, if I just focus on a new episode a week or something like that.

Update: I’m planning (ambitiously/foolishly) 3 main series:
1. epic fantasy
2. hardcore thriller
3. serial-killer suspense
All three lend well to serials and cliffhangers, and I have some great premades to use.

What you think about this new program – what questions or concerns do you have? Do you think you’ll try it out? Comment below or join the conversation in the Guerrilla Publishing Facebook group to share your thoughts.

PS – if you’re in the US, you should already see an option to publish a story on THIS page: https://kdp.amazon.com/kindle-vella

I’m adding more links from their help resources below.

UPDATE: I’m giving away 33 POC vella covers to promote diversity in publishing. Check them out and write a first chapter to win!

https://www.theyashelf.com/free-poc-book-covers-for-vella/


QUICK LINKS:

Kindle Vella

Sorry for the rough screenshot but here are some extra details: I was thinking about unpublishing something and republishing it with Vella… but you can’t do that (must be fresh content):

UPDATE: someone was asking about differences to competitors or pointed out this was a cash grab, which basically, YES. Other services have had just enough success that Amazon feels the model has been vetted, and could potentially become a source of competition. So they’re doing this, not necessarily to make money, but to make sure people don’t use other platforms. Some people have said they doubt or mistrust Amazon to pull this off. Also YES: Amazon won’t give a damn about what authors want or what readers want – they’ll focus on ruthless efficiency, and try to make it as successful and profitable as possible.

  • Radish – similar service, with some social features, that has aggressively become a big player, but never really hit core competency (still a *fringe* publishing service for most authors). Vella will pay more and have a bigger audience.
  • Patreon – people pay authors a monthly subscription in exchange for early access to content; some authors release chapters this way. Pretty different support model, so I don’t see these as direct competitors.
  • Wattpad – huge audience but mostly freebieseekers, most traffic outside of the US. Similar concept but no payment structure and too much social engagement dominance.

Basically, this is a potentially interesting move that’s been brewing for awhile, but nobody has crushed it yet: Amazon is making a play to step in and become the dominant player, now that the audience has been introduced to similar services and are more comfortable with the model.

My guess is, Amazon will incentivize early adopters by letting them *earn* tokens through engagement, or offering signup bonuses like “get 1000 tokens for free” when you join. They’ll be OK losing money for awhile to lure people into the newer model. I’m not sure yet IF we’ll be able to buy and gift tokens… but if so I plan to run a big giveaway.

“Why would readers pay MORE?” – some people are saying a model like this won’t work… but consider Starbucks. People laughed at expensive coffee. It works, because people will pay for a streamlined, easy to use, nice looking replicable process. They’ll pay for convenience. And good serials are by nature addictive. They may not *love* to spend more money, but it will become a guilty pleasure; binge reading episodes, buying short episodes at a time rather than investing in one new book, sight unseen. Authors will have to work harder to keep them engaged, to create intrigue, suspense and drama, and end on sharp hooks (this is hugely important anyway, but authors rarely figure out *why* readers quit reading. Here, authors can see exactly which episode fails to convert, and they can go back and FIX it.

UPDATES!

A friend of mine just posted about some game-changing new rules, as Vella is closer to launch:

You can now bundle 10 or more of your serial episodes into a book and publish it after all ten episodes have been available for 30 days on Vella. This is a big deal, and it means that on Day 31 post Kindle Vella launch, the people who had ten episodes posted from the beginning will be able to bundle their initial episodes as a book. The race is on.

And it’s live!!! You can claim 200 tokens immediately if you want to check it out. If you do, I curated some great fantasy stories on Kindle Vella here.

Or you can check out my epic fantasy story by clicking the image below.

Here’s a more recent video now that the program is launched:

If you’d like to see what kind of fiction I’m publishing on Kindle, grab your 200 free tokens and start reading. 🙂

About Derek Murphy

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.