As a self-published author, I am always looking for new ways to expand my readership. After being exclusively with KDP for many years, I felt like I reached a plateau. When thinking about releasing my first full-length novel series, I wondered, how can I launch bigger?
Then I heard about Kindle Vella, a serialized fiction platform. It’s always tempting to jump on the next big thing in the publishing industry, but it’s also a huge risk. Is it worth your time to publish on Kindle Vella?
I say yes, but not for the reasons I originally tried it.
What is Kindle Vella?
Kindle Vella allows you to issue your story out in 600-5,000 word “episodes.” Some authors write as they go. I uploaded a novel I’d already written one chapter at a time. Think of a literary version of Netflix. Its competitors are Radish and Wattpad.
Authors can release episodes right away (though there is a small wait for review and approval) or they can space releases daily, weekly, monthly—pretty much however they want.
Readers get to read the first three episodes for free. Then they must buy tokens on Amazon to “unlock” each new episode. Vella stories are read in your Kindle Reader, using the Kindle App for iOS and Android, or on Amazon’s website.
How to Publish to Kindle Vella
The Kindle Vella Publishing interface is super lean, and the process is streamlined. Simply add a title, write or paste your episode into the text box, and hit save, publish, or schedule.
Benefits of Kindle Vella for Authors
What’s unique about Kindle Vella is that authors can leave a note at the end of each episode for the reader. This is my favorite feature for authors. It’s a place to talk about where story ideas come from, share interesting research notes, expand on character’s perspective, and reveal relevant personal anecdotes.
Kindle Vella has also added a poll feature, where authors can post a question to their readers.
Readers may show their appreciation by giving episodes a thumbs up. At the end of the week, the are prompted to “crown” their favorite story, adding an extra element and social-media type of upvoting system.
Vella says authors earn 50% of the money readers spend on the tokens used to unlock their story episode, which is about midway between the 30% or 70% you earn with KDP. It’s possible that if readers spend more using the token system than they do for the flat rate book, it works out that you earn more.
In addition to royalties, a monthly bonus is delivered to authors based on episodes read and customer interaction.
Drawbacks of Kindle Vella for Authors
Your existing readership might not know how to or want to use Kindle Vella. I was hoping my existing readers would try Vella and give my story some initial activity so that new readers would find me, but only a few were willing to try or knew how to access Vella.
The platform is still new and the user base seems underdeveloped. The algorithms are a mystery! SEO is severely lacking, especially in categories. You can see the options in the screen shot below. For example, if you write literary fiction or horror, where do you fit in?
Also, Vella is still only open to US authors and readers. There is a loophole—I can write and publish from my home in Panama because I have a US KDP account.
On the flipside, though Vella Readers can read free episodes outside the US, they cannot purchase tokens to finish stories unless they are inside the US. So, though I have a US Amazon account, when I am in Panama, I am blocked from buying tokens and must remember to stock up whenever I am on American soil.
True: Vella authors cannot offer or have offered the same content for free on any other platform (e.g. blog) or republish previously published books.
False: Rumor had it that authors could not publish both to Vella and as an eBook or other format. This is not necessarily true. Vella authors can upload their story to KDP for eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats as long as they wait 30 days after they’ve published their last episode on Vella.
My Experience with Kindle Vella as an Author
My strategy for Kindle Vella was to use it to generate some pre-release buzz and introduce Oblivion Black to a new market.
After hitting publish and viewing the stats in the dashboard, I quickly realized that my story was not getting found. There were only a handful of readers, according to the stats, and those were existing fans from my email list who told me they were reading my story on Vella.
Keep in mind, I have not been promoting on social media. As I said, I assumed the platform itself would organically expose me to new readers. So far, it has been hugely disappointing.
Visibility is nil. The chance of moving up in the ranks organically seems low, judging by the fact that in the past 6 months, the top Kindle Vella stories on the front page have not changed.
Why I Will Keep Publishing on Vella
I love uploading to Kindle Vella and getting the instant gratification of seeing a piece of writing go live each day. Reviewing my story in Vella’s Kindle format has helped me in my proofreading and editing process.
Adding the authors notes was time-consuming, but truly a joy. Even if few people read them, I will be able to use them as bonus content for my mailing list or future blog posts.
Virtually no one new has discovered my book on Vella yet. Still, I will continue my Kindle Vella pre-release strategy because the monthly bonuses alone are worth it. I’m using them to fund my cover design for each book.
Why Readers Will Love Kindle Vella
Readers get to try the first few chapters for free, allowing them to tell right away if the book is a good fit. As a reader, it’s nice to have bite-sized pieces to read during in-between moments. And readers will enjoy the feeling of connection with the author and knowing the story behind the story. There is an element of anticipation and suspense as you wait for the next episode, though this can also be equally annoying. If you’re a bit masochistic or appreciate the payoffs of delayed gratification, Vella is for you. If not, (again like Netflix) there are plenty of completed stories (mine included) that you can binge through as quickly as you like.
How to Read Kindle Vella Stories
You can access Kindle Vella stories in your Kindle reader of by using the Kindle app. Download the Kindle app for iOS or Android and sign into your Amazon account. The Vella stories you follow will appear on your home tab, as well as in your library. You will get notifications from the stories you follow each time a new episode is released.
You can also read Vella stories from Amazon’s website.
Tips/ Questions about Kindle Vella?
I’m still getting to know Vella as an author and will keep you posted as I learn. Now it’s your turn.
Are you interested in publishing to Kindle Vella?
What are your issues with it as a writer or reader?
Do you have questions or tips to share?
Check out my story on Vella
(read the first 3 chapters for free)