In an age where smartphones ensure every minute has the potential to matter, serial publishing is making a comeback. For constant readers, devouring digestible installments in their latest cerebral adventure is the perfect way to pass the time spent in carpool lines or waiting for a child to finish up on the field. For authors, this means that if you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a digital Dickens—of keeping readers glued to the edges of their screens—never has there been a better time to pursue that dream than right now. Kindle Vella is Amazon’s response to rising serial platforms Wattpad and Radish.
Although it’s a Kindle product, it actually has nothing to do with the e-readers and, in fact, can’t even be read on them at this time. Rather, Kindle Vella is simply a platform for readers to access bite-size installments of fresh stories, primarily on their phones. This article will explain what exactly the Kindle Vella platform is and how to get started both reading and submitting on it.
*Note: Until the end of 2021, Kindle Vella will be running its beta version, which means it is only accepting stories from U.S. authors in English.
Kindle Vella: The Specifics
To begin, readers access the Vella platform through either Amazon’s desktop site or the Kindle mobile app (iOS users click “Discover”; Android users should point their browsers to the desktop site). Once there, readers can choose from a variety of genres, including non-fiction, fantasy, children’s fiction, teen/YA, LGBTQ+ fiction, humor, paranormal, erotica, and mystery, among others. However, one should note that despite the variety of genres and micro-genres, literary fiction is not included as a specific category.
On the Kindle Vella platform, one large story consists of multiple episodes. To see if a story catches their interest, readers receive the first three episodes for free. Each episode itself is a 600-5,000 word installment. Should the reader want to continue on their journey, they must purchase each additional episode via tokens. The number of episodes per story is highly variable, from as low as 5 to greater than 40. The most popular stories currently have about 20-40 episodes. New users are given 200 free tokens, which buys about eight episodes.
Readers are encouraged to give episodes a thumbs up if they like an episode and once a week, crown a favorite. The Kindle Vella homepage consistently displays a leaderboard of crowned favorites, which can also be broken down by genre and/or month.
How to Submit
Now that you have hopefully hopped on over and examined the Kindle Vella experience for yourself, let’s talk about how authors submit their work.
First of all, the big thing with Kindle Vella is that they want exclusive content. If your content is available in the public domain or freely available on the web (i.e., your blog or Medium account), it is ineligible. Additionally, you cannot break down a previously published book into episodes and submit it as a Kindle Vella work, even if that work is currently unavailable or available in a different language.
However, you can compile 10 or more Kindle Vella episodes into one book or long-form work. Please refer to the fine print here for more information.
If you do not already have one, create an account with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). You may link your primary Amazon account to KDP or choose to create a new one, should you wish to keep business and pleasure separate.
Once signed in to KDP, access the Kindle Vella Library. Currently, this is on the first page that comes up once you sign in. If that changes, look for Kindle Vella as a subcategory of KDP Bookshelf.
The next part is pretty much following KDP’s step-by-step rules on the Kindle Vella Page. You are asked for a title, 500 character description, and may use up to 7 tags (a.k.a. keywords) to associate with your work.
A very important part of this process is choosing the accompanying image. Unlike a book cover, the image chosen should not have any words; rather, the image should be an eye-catching representation that gives the reader a feel for your story.
From there on out, you essentially click “publish” and your story is out in the wild. It is up to you how frequently you would like to publish episodes. Of course, regularity will be a key to success on this platform. Weekly installments are suggested and readers have the option of being notified when a new installment comes out.
Getting Paid: The Token System
As previously mentioned, readers buy episodes with tokens. Again, to try out the program, Amazon gives readers 200 free tokens. Thereafter, tokens are bought in bulk. $1.99 will get you 200 tokens, which averages out to about 8 episodes. This is the smallest order of tokens, with the largest being 1,700 for $14.99, giving the reader a purchasing power estimate of 34+ episodes.
Generally, episodes sell for 1 token per 100 words. An episode consisting of 721 words would cost 7 tokens.
Royalties are calculated using this formula:
(Number of Tokens to unlock episode) x (Tokens bundle price/# Tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) x (50% revenue share) = Earnings per episode
Examples and launch bonus opportunities are given on the Kindle Vella Royalties, Reports and Payments page
As such, you will earn (negligibly) more if a reader keeps buying 200 tokens at a time to unlock your episodes rather than a larger package.
Moreover, one should also note that you will not earn royalties if your episodes are unlocked using the free 200 tokens given to new readers.
Serial publishing via digital devices is on the rise and a great way for new authors to get their stories in front of the people who matter: readers. If you are a writer who dreams of keeping readers in suspense about what your characters will do next, serial publishing is for you. Kindle Vella is specifically focused on a smartphone-based experience and represents a wide variety of genres, which notably includes non-fiction.
Finally, both the reading experience and publishing experience are simple, quick start processes on Kindle Vella, so whether you are a reader or a writer, I encourage you to go check out Amazon’s latest attempt to cultivate wild minds.
Tell us in the comments below: Have you ever used Kindle Vella as a reader or writer?
Melissa Haas is the author and illustrator of Catula: The Misadventures of Dracula’s Cat and The Night Before Christmas (NOW WITH CATS), among other books. Follow Catula’s whereabouts on Instagram @CatulaTheCat or download a free coloring page at www.catulathebook.com.