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
- Combining Your Chapters Into a Book
- 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 $.005 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.
|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. These tags serve to enhance discoverability, allowing readers to find other stories with the same tag. This transparency could be useful to authors.
However, it's worth noting that tags work differently than keywords in KDP. Tags are more similar to sub-genres and categories, rather than keywords. So while you might want to pick a super niche, broad keyword for a book, that same long-tail keyword might be too specific for Kindle Vella. Instead, think of them as sub-categories and choose accordingly.
As of this writing, Kindle Vella does not support advertising through Amazon Ads. However, you can use other forms of advertising to get people to subscribe to your story, such as Facebook or BookBub ads, as well as your own author email list.
While not originally available at launch, stories published in Kindle Vella are now displayed on an author’s public author page in addition to the Kindle Vella store.
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, even if the rollout is slow.
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), additional authors, 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 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 is 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), 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. DOC/DOCX files are the only file you can upload, and you can only upload one chapter at a time, meaning you will need a separate DOCX file for each chapter. We'll talk more about what to do with all those DOCX files if you want to combine them into a book later.
Note: the text box only allows for basic formatting like bold, italics, and underline. Adding images, tables, bullet-points, etc. are not currently available in Kindle Vella. Any such features that are uploaded in a .DOCX file will be stripped out. This is important to keep in mind if you want to write in a genre where such additional formatting might be necessary, such as non-fiction.
Polls are an optional feature that allow you to survey your audience at the end of each episode. This is a great way to get feedback, or to even set up a “choose your own adventure” type series, where readers can pick what happens next.
You can input your questions and answer choices in this part of the process.
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”!
Combining Your Chapters Into a Book
If you've passed the 30-day mark that your chapters have been on Kindle Vella, you can now create a book and sell that separately (if you want, you don' have to).
Unfortunately, packaging all those chapters into one volume can be a pain for formatting. After all, Vellum only accepts DOCX uploads, which means that you might be left with dozens of separate docments and no easy way to put them all together.
The other option is to go into your dashboard and open each episode individually and copy/paste every single piece, into a formatting software.
Thankfully, Atticus is a program that will make it easy for you to upload all those DOCX files into a single book file. Once you have created a project in Atticus, you can go to where it says Add Chapter and click on the three little dots.
From there, it will bring up a prompt and you can just drag and drop your Kindle Vella chapter into the window and it will add it to your book project.
Once you have all of your episodes added, Atticus makes it easy to format your book for ebook and print, it costs over $100 less than the leading competition and is avilable on PC, Mac, Chromebook, and even Linux!
Tips and Strategies
As Kindle Vella is still new as of this writing, we are understandably short of proven strategies for success. But we didn't let that stop us! To make sure we were on the cutting edge of this technology, I reached out to several authors to get their #1 piece of advice for writing and succeeding on Vella. Here are some of their responses:
|#1 Piece of Advice
Keep your episodes short - a large number of tokens can be a barrier to reading the next one.
It has been proven to be generally true that readers who prefer books are reticent to read on Vella. So if you have an email list you may want to do a segmentation for books & Vella.
Have a good hook at the end of each episode. As a Vella author, you must engage the reader (on a weekly basis) with a combination of keeping a steady story pace and capturing the readers attention with plot & characters development--PLUS all within in a tiny word count that doesn't intimate the reader. The hook is glue that holds it all together! If at any point your story becomes a snoozefest- the reader can quit. It's one of the main differences between serial fiction and a regular book/ebook. They buy it all at once vs in bite-sized pieces. So what makes the reader stick around? By adding the punch at the end of an episode that makes the reader say, "just one more". 😉
You have to be in it for the long haul. Unless you have a pre-existing following, you won't be successful from just posting a few episodes. You need to be consistantly publishing, marketing and usually running several Vella's at the same time.
As a fantasy writer, I spent years working on my world-building skills. You want the reader to believe in the fantasy world you are introducing them to, correct? Yes, but that doesn’t work well in serial writing. You don’t have the space and time to leisurely roll out and explain all the levels and nuances of your fantasy world. You will lose any readers after a couple of pages. Keep your necessary descriptions short, clear, crisp, and to the point. Then immediately take your readers into the action before you lose them as readers.
You have very little real estate to catch reader’s eyes. Use it well. Play to your tropes in your title and cover image. Make your cover image a simple, iconic image and avoid words like Amazon advises. It makes you stick out not stand out.
Definitely marketing! Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook for sure! Gotta get 'em to that water...😁
My #1 piece of advice is to just keep with it. Vella IS a numbers game, but it all adds up. Get those eyeballs any way you can with neat graphics, character art, and/or snippets. I also second what others have said about keeping the episodes between ~1,000 and ~2,000 words. I think people like the sense of pride and accomplishment of getting to a new episode, and delaying that gratification with too much content can lose them.
I approached Vella exactly as I would when writing book chapters--figuring I would eventually publish it as a book anyway (contrary to the advice to approach it differently). I don't do follow for follow, because to me that doesn't seem like a way to build a genuinely engaged audience. I've been down that road in other instances with other platforms and found that you can have a bunch of followers, etc and not have it contribute to actual sales or reader interaction at all. I post my work on Patreon as well, and I think my patrons share my work, which may contribute a bit to word of mouth. Since I already had a groove of writing and publishing frequently, and already have a fan base, I have just wrapped my Vella story into the things I do for usual book promotion on social media, etc.
Stay consistent with posting, don't be afraid to branch out under pen names.
Promote! People won't know about you if you don't tell them. Update as often as possible! Short and sweet episodes are always best. Proofread and edit! Some mistakes are forgiven, but they shouldn't interrupt the flow of the story. Have fun! Let your creativity separate you from the rest.
Consistency--Post episodes of consistent word count...post on a strict, regular schedule.
I'd suggest getting readers interested in your characters and story via TikTok and Twitter. I've brought many new readers over from TikTok in particular. Write far ahead so you have time to edit, schedule your posts so there are no delays, and make sure you keep quality high. 850-1300 words is the sweet spot for episodes. Any shorter and readers feel cheated/disappointed, any longer and you lose their attention. Offer a mini-arc within each episode--a reason/clue revealed, a small plot point resolved, a relationship deepened. Something to give the reader a bit of satisfaction. End on a cliffhanger--a question, a character appearance, a new danger, an unresolved problem, a startling discovery.
Focus on the trending genres and tropes. Write and edit each episode the best you can. Always focus on keeping your story and fun and exciting as possible to hook readers. Use nice graphics and really tighten up your blurb and focus just on story details for that section. Focus on bringing new readers to kindle vella by using your newsletter and other social media.
What I've learned is that promotion is 75-85% of the work, and writing is 15-25%. I know I've written a good story, with compelling characters, but unless someone reads it and tells others about it, it won't be seen. K-V authors, with few exceptions, are responsible for promoting the platform to those who have not yet discovered it.
I notice a trend towards shorter episodes, which entice readers to keep spending small amounts. My episodes are those with completed scenes unless I had to divide them by word count. Have the longer episodes hurt, keeping readers from continuing? Probably, and I'll adjust episode length for my next endeavor on the platform.
Promote other authors more than you promote yourself (blogs, reviews, follows) and find a few stories you genuinely adore to follow and consistently champion. No one has time to create constant website content anyway, so championing others/having a circle of Vella-buddies who cross-promote is crucial emotionally and also crucial for managing your time.
Research your category tags! Kindle Vella is newer and there aren’t as many categories as there are with books. You can get your serial a ton of visibility by playing around with your categories. The top three serials in each tag get their cover in a prominent bubble and that gets your story seen.
Serial writing is different from writing a novel in terms of pacing and cliffhangers to hook readers into the next episode. Also, editing is important, since the readers are paying for every word, every word should count 🙂
Consistency is key. When you start to get a following, you want them to know when to look for a new episode and get excited for when it drops. Word counts seem to be best if under the 1500 mark. Remember, these are short easy reads. You want your readers to make your story part of their weekly routine!
Make sure every single episode is engaging. Start off with something interesting, offer a lot of character interaction or character development in each episode. End with something that leaves them wanting more. Sometimes it's a cliffy, other times it may be a question, or a mic drop moment. Whatever it is, make it intentional.
It’s important to have several episodes at the start of a serial and the try your best to be consistent with somewhat weekly episode publishing. Shorter episodes seem best unless you have a lot of interest in your story or already have a following. It’s really important to promote your work in different ways from social media, ads, working with fellow authors in giveaways (this is only to bring awareness to the serial not to read or unlock episodes), and interacting with the community in being supportive by reading and sharing what you enjoy (tag their accounts). Plus sharing in the Kindle Vella promotion Facebook groups for visibility too. It’s kind of what most authors do, but we have to do a bit more work as it’s a new platform. Kindle Vella is being promoted by Amazon, but not enough. So we have to show support for each other, our stories, and promote our work as much as possible. Make sure you have an interesting story that will keep readers interested with each episode. So some kind of cliffhanger endings are important.
Promoting your Kindle Vella is important. So many authors focus on the reads for reads and aren’t finding their real readers. You have to promote your Kindle Vella because most readers don’t know about the platform or that your book exists on it.
Be flexible. And be consistent with your writing schedule. Vella is easy to schedule ahead so if you know you're going on vacation, plan ahead so that your readers still have something on release day.
Use your author notes correctly and don’t make reading a Vella a chore. In your notes tease the next episode and use them for ONE call to action. Such as “like so other readers can find Mike and Maya’s love story.” Don’t ask them to like, and subscribe, and give a crown etc.all in one episode. Vella is new to readers and it’s easy to overwhelm them with all the “things.” You want them to have a reason to keep reading and one action to promote the story. It doesn’t have to be the same action for every episode, just don’t make it a chore.
Additionally, here are some of our top tips and strategies to succeed on Kindle Vella:
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.