Amazon continues to push its own boundaries in the reader market, this time spreading into a micro-industry that has been gaining traction elsewhere, resulting in an exciting leap forward for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and potentially for authors as well.
The product is Kindle Vella, a Kindle platform created as a “mobile-first” approach to serialized storytelling.
In it, authors will have the chance to engage with readers in a way that is different for book publishing, “one short episode at a time”.
So let’s take a deeper dive into this new platform.
- What Kindle Vella is
- How it works
- Its potential benefits to authors
- The step-by-step process to publish using Kindle Vella
- Additional tips and strategies to use
Table of contents
- What is Kindle Vella?
- How does Kindle Vella Work?
- The Benefits to Authors
- How to Publish to Kindle Vella
- Tips and Strategies
What is Kindle Vella?
Kindle Vella is an additional platform from KDP, built specifically for serialized stories. On the platform, it allows you to publish short episodes of your story, which are then be available to readers on mobile devices and online.
Kindle Vella Features
There’s a lot to unpack in the above video and on KDP’s pages on the subject, but let’s break down a few of the core features:
- Episodes are between 600-5,000 words long
- It is currently only available to those in the U.S.
- Kindle Vella is available on iOS, Android and Fire devices, as well as online.
- Authors receive 50% of royalties
- Readers will spend their money on “Tokens” that will be used to unlock the story, episode by episode
- You can publish, update, or delete an episode at any time
- Readers have the opportunity to engage with their stories using the following
- Follow: readers are be able to follow the stories they want to read
- Fave: readers can mark the stories they like the most, and the stories with the most Faves will be featured in a leaderboard
- Story Crowns: readers have the option to crown their favorite story of the week.
- Thumbs Up: readers can give a thumbs up to any episode, letting the author and other readers know which installments they liked the most
- Polls: authors can add polls to Kindle Vella episodes, meaning that readers can vote on things like where your story should go next, which character deserves their own perspective, etc.
- Episodes have space for an “Author’s Note” section, allowing the author to talk to the reader directly with each episode
- The first three episodes of every story will be free
Each of these platforms feature bite-sized serialization, and while monetization differs from one platform to another, popularity of this format is seeing more and more attention.
For example, bite-sized serialization platforms have been hugely popular in international markets, such as China, South Korea, and Japan.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that Amazon has thrown their hat into the ring.
How does Kindle Vella Work?
Let's get into the specifics of how this platform works and how it can be beneficial to authors.
Most of this information we got from Kindle Vella’s main page, but we did a little digging in the discussion forum to learn a bit more and to clarify a few things.
Kindle Vella Pricing
Note: Amazon has made it clear that the specific pricing numbers seen above could change. Do not take any of this information as a definitive pricing structure. That said, we’re able to learn a lot about how pricing will generally work.
The number of Tokens needed to unlock a story will depend on the length of the story. A full, 5000-word story will cost 50 Tokens, with a 2000-word story costing 20, etc.
Authors receive 50% of royalties.
Therefore, if a reader spends $1.99 to purchase 200 Tokens, then spends 50 of them on your 5000-word story, you receive $0.25. This comes out to $.0005 per 100 words.
BUT it’s not quite that simple.
You see, the more Tokens a reader buys upfront, the more value they get for their money. Amazon uses the following formula to calculate royalties.
(Number of Tokens to unlock episode) * (Tokens bundle price/# Tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) * (50% rev share) = Earnings per episode
Here is a chart to get an idea of how much the royalties will be based on the image above, assuming no taxes and fees.
|Token Tiers||Price for Reader||Royalties Per 100 Words|
So while you might earn $0.25 for every reader that bought a 5000-word story at the 200-Token tier, if someone at the 1700-Token tier bough that same story, you would earn $0.22. And no, the math here isn’t wrong. This is a low paying option on Amazon compared to what authors are normally used to.
Limitations and Exclusivity
There are a number of limitations regarding what can and cannot be published on Kindle Vella. In reading their content guidelines, issues like exclusivity can become a bit cloudy. So here is some clarification.
- Republish any existing work that has been published elsewhere on any platform, ever
- Publish content that is public domain or freely available on the web
- Republish a translation of a story published earlier in a different language
- Repackage your serialized story as a book after 30 days of being on Vella – meaning your story doesn’t have to remain exclusive to the serialized format forever
- Publish your story on other serialization platforms like Radish – keep in mind that it must be behind a paywall and not freely available on the web
As of this writing, the Terms of Services are still being updated, so we will keep you in the loop.
How Do Readers Find My Story?
Amazon has a leaderboard that contains the stories with the most “Faves”. Additionally, on the Vella website, you will find multiple ways of discovering a story. You'll notice that in this screenshot, we have two examples of discoverability options:
- Top Faved: These are some of the most popular stories on Kindle Vella. You'll notice that they are all romance related, becuase let's face it, romance is rediculously popular.
- Stories you may like: In this screenshot, Amazon is already recommending to me some dystopian/thriller stories, because that is what I have read on Vella so far.
Kindle Vella also has other ways of discovering a story, many of which are similar to what you might find in the regular Amazon store, including:
- Featured stories
- Recently added stories
- Regularly updated stories
- Popular tags
- Completed stories
- Trending stories
Additionally, you can look at individual genres and see many of these same discoverability methods for just that genre. So if you wanted to find the top faved read in Fantasy, for example, you could go to the Fantasy genre page and look at their options, as seen here:
Each story is allowed up to seven tags that “appear on your story's detail page, serve as search keywords, and have their own landing pages.”
Tags are a great way to sub-divide the genres and find specific types of stories that you're looking for
Additionally, these tags will serve to enhance discoverability, allowing readers to find other stories with the same tag. This transparency could be useful to authors.
At launch, Kindle Vella will not support advertising through Amazon Ads. Presumably, advertising on other platforms (Facebook/BookBub) will still be possible.
At launch, stories published in Kindle Vella will not be displayed on an author’s public author page.
The Benefits to Authors
It is important for authors not to ignore Amazon when they decide to roll out a product like Kindle Vella. Between the market research Amazon has undoubtably done, combined with Amazon’s foothold in the publishing market, Vella stands to be a viable opportunity for many authors.
First, Vella offers authors a new way to reach readers.
It’s often easy to forget that there are a lot of readers in the world, and not all of them read in the same way. It’s likely that there will be new readers who will only consume content via this platform, and therefore would have missed your story if you had written it as a full book.
While there is still a lot of market-research to be done by authors, it stands to reason that reading a whole book might be viewed as a major commitment by some. Kindle Vella offers an easy way for readers to consume content piece by piece, much as they would on YouTube or when subscribed to a podcast.
In other words, Vella offers authors a new way to reach an audience they might otherwise have missed. And with new readers comes new ways to earn royalties.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, Vella gives authors feedback.
Apart from Amazon reviews, which can be hard to get in large quantities, authors have had very few ways of gaining feedback from readers. Before now, the best way was to get good beta readers, of which most authors will only have a few.
Vella breaks down the feedback to a granular level, offering ways for readers to not only “Fave” the stories they love, but to give a Thumb’s Up to each individual episode that they liked.
This feedback could prove invaluable to authors. We’ll have more tips on potential ways to take advantage of this feedback below.
How to Publish to Kindle Vella
There are seven steps to publishing a kindle Vella:
- Create New Kindle Vella Story
- Enter the Title, Author Name, and Description
- Upload the Story Image
- Select Your Categories
- Enter Your Tags
- Hit Publish
- Fill In Your Episode Content and Details
Step 1: Create New Kindle Vella story
Visit your Kindle Vella Library and click “Start a story”. Your Kindle Vella Library can also be found via your KDP dashboard.
Step 2: Enter the Title, Author Name, Description
On the next page you will be prompted to enter your story’s title, your author name (they do accept pen names), and a description of your story.
Note that this is information for your story as a whole, not for the individual episodes.
Amazon gives you a 100 character limit for the title, and a 500 character limit for the description, which is shorter than for a normal book published through KDP.
Step 3: Upload the Story Image
The image should be square, with a recommended dimension of 1600×1600, though it appears it will be displayed in a circle. Amazon also recommends the image not have any text, though this is not a rule.
What this means is that authors may need to take a slightly different approach than with a traditional book cover. While this image should still match the genre, its dimensions and type (or lack thereof), will be different.
This could be an opportunity for experimentation on what kind of image attracts the right kind of readers.
And while text in the image may still be appropriate for certain genres (some branches of YA for example), it will be interesting to try doing without.
Nevertheless, a quality image will probably be just as valuable as a quality book cover.
Step 4: Select Your Categories
After the image, you will be prompted two select up to two categories.
These are not the same BISAC categories you enter when uploading a book to KDP. They are also rather broad, but go ahead and pick the two that fit best.
Step 5: Enter Your Tags
Tags are a new feature with Kindle Vella, but they are similar to the keyword options you have when uploading a book to KDP.
Just like Kindle keywords, tags help you to tell Amazon when and where your Vella story should show up. So, when someone types something into Amazon to look for his or her next reading fix, your Vella will hopefully show up.
But here’s where things really get interesting!
Unlike Keywords, for the first time ever, you can see exactly what other people selected for their tags.
What this means is that if you have a story that is very similar to another one that is incredibly popular, you can add the same tags that that story has, and readers may be able to find it on that tag’s landing page.
However, sometimes this can lead people down the wrong path, because what if the author who selected those tags doesn’t even know if that tag/keyword gets searched?
Well, that’s where Publisher Rocket can really help. Using Publisher Rocket, you can either put other people’s tags into it to see if people really do make searches for that term, and also use it to tell you which tags are best.
Using Rocket, you could search for keywords that are high in search volume, but relatively low in competition, making it more likely that you will show up first in search results.
Then, once you have this, you can start to see how some keywords or tags would help, while others would not.
As you can see in the example above, just the phrase you use to describe a magic using male has dramatic information. Some are well searched for, while others are not.
So, use Rocket to verify and discover tags that can help your Vella. Also, you can learn more about strategies to optimize keywords click here.
Step 6: Hit Publish
Once all of the above information and image are populated, you can select “Publish and start Episode 1”.
Step 7: Fill in Your Episode Content and Details
On the next page, you will see a number of fields:
- Episode title is where you’ll enter the optional title of the episode. By default, it will be named “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, etc.
- Episode text gives you two options to upload the meat of your episode. You can either upload a .DOC/.DOCX file with your text, or you can input it directly.
Author notes is an optional space that gives you the opportunity to say a few words about your episode after the reader has read it. You can input your note in this field.
However, this space does not allow for links, HTML, or anything other than plain text.
Preview episode allows you to get a good look at what your post will look like on a mobile phone.
Tokens needed to unlock episode will tell you how many Tokens your post will cost a reader. This is based on wordcount, so for example, if your episode is 1634 words long, it will cost 13 Tokens. Your first three episodes will have a Token count of 0 because they are free.
Release date gives you the option to release immediately or at a scheduled time
Once you are done filling out all the fields, it’s time to hit “Publish”!
Bear in mind that your episodes will not be visible to anyone but yourself until Amazon decides to roll out Vella to readers.
Tips and Strategies
As Kindle Vella is still in beta and unavailable to readers yet, we are understandably short of proven strategies for success. However, there are a few tips worth considering.
Thumbs Up and Fave Systems
As mentioned above, the feedback system in Kindle Vella gives authors a great opportunity to learn from readers.
For instance, if you see a particular episode receives a consistently high number of Thumbs Up from your readers, you can begin to figure out what it was about that episode that they liked. Then you can try and do more of those things.
While it would be nice to have a more direct form of feedback, such as a commenting system, simply having quantifiable data on how much your readers loved your episode can be invaluable.
Additionally, the lack of Amazon Ads for discoverability means that the Vella market is not pay-to-play, but can get by on pure customer feedback. This gives authors a much better chance of being discovered organically, especially if your story is genuinely appealing to readers.
The Author notes section gives you the opportunity to break the fourth wall and communicate with readers.
However, this does come with a few limitations.
Foremost, you are not allowed any kind of advanced formatting in the field, meaning you can’t add links or images.
Amazon likely wants this to be a space for authors to speak to their readers directly, and not a place to promote a reader magnet or other books.
Therefore, your focus should be on building a genuine relationship with the reader, even if they can’t directly respond.
Additionally, put your focus on creating quality content. If you can do this, readers will naturally want to discover more of your work. If you’ve set up an author platform, it shouldn’t be too hard to capture these superfans.
Will Kindle Vella be a game-changer for authors? Only time will tell. However, it is always exciting to see Amazon try new things.
The publishing landscape is always changing, and it’s up to us to stay in the know and try to keep up.
For some, it might be challenging to try something completely new. What’s wrong with just continuing to publish books? Well, nothing. If that’s what you want, don’t let Kindle Vella or any other new shiny gadget get in the way. We’re pretty sure books will be around in some form for a very long time.
That said, with every new development like this one, you can usually find opportunity. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.