In April, Amazon announced their new Kindle Vella program. This brand new opportunity is tailor made for indie authors and new voices in publishing. It also seems to be an interesting way to diversify your income as an author, always key to making a writing life work. 

It’s open to US-based authors writing in English now, and it will be ready for readers this summer. Is it right for you? Let’s dig into it!

So what is the Kindle Vella?

First of all, let’s talk about what the Kindle Vella is: it’s a way to publish your work as “episodes,” sort of like the old fashioned serialized newspaper Charles Dickens famously wrote. And the benefit is pretty much the same one Dickens saw: being able to get paid for hooking your reader, even if you’re not already an established, bestselling author. All you need to bring to the table is new (never published or presented in another form) content that can be broken down into 600 to 5000 word sections. 

If this sounds familiar, it should: we’ve written a few times about the potential of Wattpad, which you may have encountered already (and if you haven’t, ask a young person in your life – it’s a major player in fanfiction and more). But it’s not just the success of Wattpad (and Radish and others) that are spurring this investment from one of the world’s biggest companies. Serialized stories are HUGE outside the US market right now. It’s been a major force in publishing across Asia, so Amazon wanted to get in on the ground floor in the US market.

Should I try to put my work in the Kindle Vella program?

The big question you’re asking: Is this worth it? While we’ll need to see how it performs – it hasn’t launched to readers yet, first they need to populate the platform with stories upon launch –  Amazon has gone all in on this. My wager is that, especially now, the answer is probably yes. Why? 

  • It could be a great opportunity for strong earnings. (More on that in a minute.)
  • It’s a way to reach readers your new book might not be able to do. You’re competing in a much smaller pool than you’d typically get the chance to do. 
  • The readers you will reach are more likely to be young and used to reading episodic writing on other platforms, and may not buy many traditional books, so you have an opportunity to market to a fresh audience with your work.
  • It also lets readers give you direct feedback as they’re reading, which is a fun twist for anyone who loves to spin a tale. 

Show me the money.

About those potential earnings: the royalties are currently at 50% of the value of the “tokens” that each episode costs…but there’s a lot of “BUT” involved with this calculation. 

Our initial calculations estimate you can probably earn between 1 to 25 cents per reader per episode. That’s a pretty huge variation, obviously, and there’s a lot of reasons behind that.

  • The tokens are sold to readers in bundles, and those bundles will vary in cost. The more readers buy, the lower the cost per token – a bulk discount, essentially. And you can expect Amazon to give away some tokens as incentives for other purchases, which means the cost of those particular tokens will be $0.
  • The length of your work will determine how many tokens it costs a reader to purchase each episode. Longer episodes will require more tokens.
  • Readers will be able to purchase these tokens in online stores – many of which charge a fee. So that fee will be deducted before the royalty rate is calculated.

Maybe it will be a better deal for writers than Kindle Unlimited. Maybe it won’t. But it is a kind of writing that is targeted to different readers than a typical book, so either way, it’s a good idea to try it.

Before you get back to writing your serial novel…

Right now Amazon is suggesting that you set up 5+ episodes before you make them available, so that readers can dig in and not lose interest waiting around for your next one. It makes sense in terms of managing the business side of your writing – and you can leave more episodes in the app in “draft” status to release down the road. 

They also note that this is something that is only available on the website and through the iOS (Apple) Kindle app. If the platform gains traction, you’ll see it on other platforms quickly. 

If you’re ready to take the dive, head on over to play around with the Kindle Vella platform on Amazon! We would love to hear about your success for a future blog post!