If you’re an indie author, I know you’ve heard of Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s self-publishing platform. Love it or hate it, Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world, which means we as authors have to understand how it works.
Amazon recently launched a brand new service for authors and readers–Kindle Vella. Let’s learn what it is and how to use it.
What is Kindle Vella?
Kindle Vella is an Amazon service that allows users to read serialized stories specifically created for the platform. Think of it as a more structured, professional, pay-to-read version of Wattpad.
A serialization is when a story is broken into smaller, episodic chunks. Think of a TV show or a fanfiction. The idea is that readers will pay small amounts to read each episode. The developers are encouraging authors to make the episodes more than just “chapters,” but real mini-stories within a larger story. The Kindle Vella episodes themselves range from 500 to 6,000 words to make up a longer work of fiction.
Authors familiar with fanfiction should be excited about this new opportunity, but non-fanfic authors could also majorly benefit from exploring Kindle Vella as a publishing option. This might be another venue for building a wider audience, but I could also see this being an author’s sole writing gig. It’s still in early rollout, but there’s a relatively untapped market for monetizing online serial fiction. If anyone can make it a roaring success and pull online serials into mainstream content consumption, it would be Amazon.
Kindle Vella allows authors to publish mini-stories at a regular schedule to grow an audience, make money, and build hype for their future projects.
Readers can find stories they think are interesting through the story’s description in the Kindle Vella store, read the first few episodes for free to test it out, then interact and engage with the story through thumbs up and fav features. They can also follow authors and stories to keep up with new episode releases.
Readers access further stories (after the first few free episodes) by purchasing them with Kindle Vella Tokens. Tokens are obtained through monetary purchase. According to Amazon, these are the prices readers can expect to pay for Tokens:
The number of tokens required to unlock another episode depends on the length of each episode, and these prices are likely to change as the platform grows. Authors do NOT earn all of the money that readers spend on their stories.
Currently, authors allegedly earn 50% of their book sales through Kindle Vella.
How do I access Kindle Vella?
As of August 2021, Kindle Vella is only available for iOS users in the United States, but it’s presumed to spread relatively quickly. This limited availability applies to both authors and readers.
If you’re an iOS user in the United States, here’s how you can access Kindle Vella.
Accessing Kindle Vella as a reader:
- Hop over to amazon.com/kindle-vella
- Sign into your amazon account
- Browse the Kindle Vella library, sort by genre, search for certain terms
- Read the first few installments of any story that catches your interest
- When you find a story that you’d like to finish reading, it’s time to load up on Tokens!
- Use Kindle Vella Tokens to purchase stories
- Follow authors and stories you want publish updates on
- Thumbs up and fav stories you love to curate your own suggested reads and to push your favorite authors in front of new readers!
Accessing Kindle Vella as an author:
The process for getting set up as an author on Kindle Vella is obviously going to be a little more complex, as you’ll be, y’know, writing and publishing the stories.
- Create a KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account. If you’re already an Amazon author, you’re ahead of the game! If not, no worries–getting started on KDP is pretty straightforward.
- Hop over to kdp.amazon.com/kindle-vella. You should see the following screen:
From there, click “Start a story”
- Then KDP will guide you through filling out your story’s information, like the story completion status, title, author name, description, a story image, categories, and tags.
- Post episode one.
That’s it for the technical side of getting your story posted, but the real work comes in for writing your story and strategizing publishing, which we’ll get into details on in a minute, so keep reading!
What is different about Kindle Vella than regular Kindle books?
The biggest difference between Kindle Vella and regular Kindle ebooks is the format. Not every story is at its best–or even understandable at all–in a serialized format. That means this service is really only suitable for certain kinds of writing styles and stories.
Consider your genre, format, and style–does it make sense to be consumed in episodes? Again, authors who are familiar with reading or writing fanfiction are probably going to be the ones who really thrive with the one-shot story format.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re determining if the serialized episodic format in Kindle Vella is for you and your story:
- Is your story a suitable genre to be episodic? Typically, high genre stories work better–like scifi, fantasy, dystopian–these genres provide a rich world in which to follow multiple characters and bite-sized storylines. Genres like literary fiction that are more character-driven are typically harder to make episodic. Imagine turning The Notebook into a series, for example.
- Are you interested in publishing short pieces regularly? Is the format exciting to you, or does it sound like a major chore? To find success in this genre, consistency is a must.
- Have you consumed enough episodic fiction? Whether it’s fanfic or TV mini-series, knowing how longer stories can be broken into smaller ones is incredibly helpful. Random recommendation for my horror fans: I loved Netflix’s Fear Street, and it’s a great example of an episodic story. It’s a three-part film series that follows one character, but takes place in three different timelines, each with its own story. If you’re interested in publishing with Kindle Vella, I definitely recommend upping your intake of serialized episodic fiction and taking note of what they’ve done well and what you can apply to your own stories.
With the episodic format, it’s important to keep your readers interested. If you have a flop episode, you might lose a lot of potential sales. Because of this, a good strategy is to fully write your story before you post your first episode. Let’s jump into some other strategies you might employ to up your chances of success.
The Best Strategies for Publishing with Kindle Vella
Like I mentioned, publishing serials on Kindle Vella is similar to publishing fanfiction. Kindle Vella utilizes categories and tags in a similar way to most fanfiction sites–you can even include author’s notes.
These are just a few of the tools available for us to utilize in building a publishing strategy. Let’s look at some ideas for getting the most out of Kindle Vella.
1. Recycle stories
This would be a quick and easy way to make some extra cash, grow your audience, and get content you’ve already tested on this platform to start building your reputation there.
2. Thumbs up and fav system
The rating system can give you insight to exactly which parts of a story your readers are responding well to. Since Kindle Vella also allows you to publish your story elsewhere after you’ve removed the episodes from their platform, this could be a built-in way to beta your stories. After you gauge the reaction to different bits, it could be helpful to take that response into account, then pull the story from Kindle Vella to edit and publish as a book.
Encouraging your readers to interact with the story with thumbs up and faves can push your story to other people, so consider utilizing the author’s notes to remind them to do it!
As a reader and writer of fanfiction, I keep pulling comparisons between fanfiction platforms and Kindle Vella. I think a future weakness with the platform will be the lack of comments. Serialized fiction, including non-fanfic platforms, thrive on online communities, largely due to community interaction.
While Kindle Vella allows interaction via likes and favs, as well as the one-sided communication of author notes, I think the lack of a comment section could be one the likeliest reasons Kindle Vella could flop.
3. Grow your author platform
Through publishing on a new platform, you’re attracting readers different to ones you may have already had. Any new platform you utilize as an author will put your writing in front of new users, potentially turning them into dedicated readers.
Kindle Vella is a potentially easy platform to grow your author platform of engaged and interested readers, especially if you utilize stories you were already writing. Especially since it’s a new feature, getting in early can boost your chances of being noticed in a smaller pool of content.
Test the waters as a new author, grow your readership as a veteran, and maybe make some money while you’re at it.
4. Use cliffhangers
With the episodic structure, you’re obviously going to want to do all you can to encourage readers to buy the next chapter. A great way to do this is to utilize cliffhangers. End your chapters with something exciting, dramatic, or mysterious that makes your reader need to see what happens next!
5. Utilize the author notes
Like I mentioned, Kindle Vella lets you include author notes in your episodes. This is an amazing opportunity to directly address your audience. The basic functions of this element is to thank your readers, give updates on future episodes, and encourage users to thumbs up and fav your story. But a clever author might see more use for this function.
You could plug your social media, let readers know that they can sign up to your email list for exclusive content related to your story, update them about your publications elsewhere, and tons of other smart ways to further monetize the venue and grow your platform.
So consider what crucial information and calls to action you can include in those author notes to make the most use of that space.
6. Write ahead
It is such a smart move to fully write a story before you publish the first installment. The biggest frustration with readers of episodic fiction is when they fall in love with a story, then get to episode 12 and see that the author abandoned it months ago.
Having a fully written story to publish in chunks while you work on the next one will get you into a productivity groove, keep your fans from being disappointed, and ensure that you’re a friend of the algorithm with regular posts.
7. Publish on a schedule
If you’ve written your story before you post the first chapter, you’re free to commit to a publishing schedule! If that’s daily, once a week, or every other month, your readers will grow to trust the regularity, and they’ll show up for the new episodes. With a reliable schedule, you can also plan events around publish days with your author platform.
8. Make it a BIG DEAL
With your finished story, a solid publishing schedule, and regular readers, make a day of it! Announce new episodes on your socials, host reading parties, assign a hashtag for fan reactions, do a release-day livestream–there are endless ideas for how to draw attention to your new episodes and make it really special for your regular readers.
This will create that sense of community that is so important for this format of writing, draw in new readers who see your fans talking about it, and get lots of eyes on those new pieces ASAP to push your story up in suggested lists on Kindle Vella.
What do you think? Will Kindle Vella be a try-and-fail, or is this an exciting opportunity for authors to expand their reach and income?
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