Everything I Know About Amazon's Kindle Vella
A few months ago Amazon announced the upcoming release of their newest publication platform, Kindle Vella. Kindle Vella is a serialized reading platform that allows authors to share stories over an extended period of time, episode by episode. It’s Amazon’s step into the serialized storytelling market, which has been dominated by Wattpad and Radish for years.
Readers will be able to access episodes through the use of tokens. The first three episodes of every story are free to readers, and after this, they will gain access to following episodes by using tokens they have purchased through Kindle Vella. Authors are paid through the tokens, and I will explain that in more detail below.
Kindle Vella is currently only available to US-based authors with stories written in English. It is unclear how long this will be the case and if Amazon plans to expand Kindle Vella’s reach.
Amazon has just sent Kindle Vella and all their stories live, so I’m excited to see how this new platform will work.
Why Did Amazon Move Into Serialized Storytelling?
Wattpad and Radish have done crazy well for years using this serialized, slow-release publishing method. Like, I remember reading stories like this on Wattpad back in 2013. The staying power is there, and it seems that Amazon finally decided to jump on the bandwagon.
This serialized method of storytelling has a specific draw, which probably led to the invention of Kindle Vella: the audience. The main audiences of these serial writing platforms are teenagers and young readers. In fact, young adult fiction dominates Wattpad and Radish. Kindle Vella is likely Amazon’s move to reach these younger readers, who tend to either read in short bursts on their phone or binge several episodes from one story or new episodes from several stories at one time on their phone. (Which I honestly understand; in college, between studying and work, I hardly ever had time to read for fun. I started to incorporate romance novels into research projects just so I could read something I actually enjoyed.)
I think this is the main reason for Amazon to make this move, to reach this younger audience. But, I think because Kindle is more widely used by adult readers, serialized reading will become a more popular option. Not everyone has the time or the attention span to sit down and read a whole book, so knowing they only have one episode to read at a time could make reading a more popular pastime for those who feel they don’t have time to read.
What Does This Mean for Romance Writers?
This could be a great opportunity for romance authors to reach a new audience. Romance is one of the most popular genres on Radish and Wattpad. Not that this is super surprising considering romance and fantasy novels are what make the publishing world go round. Beyond romance, the other most popular genres on Radish and Wattpad are paranormal, sci-fi, young adult, LGBTQ+, horror, mystery, and thriller.
If your audience is mostly adult women, you may have a chance to reach a younger audience through Kindle Vella. Early and young adults may be more open to exploring your novels, especially since the first three episodes of every story are free. They have the chance to decide whether they like the story before they start spending money for the story. But, you won’t be paid for those first three chapters because they are free, so that is a downside for sure.
How Do Authors Use Kindle Vella?
Overall, from reading all of Amazon’s how-tos, Kindle Vella seems like it will be relatively easy to use.
To start a story, you just have to go to your Kindle Vella Library, click “Start a Story,” fill out the information about your story, and then click “Publish and start Episode 1.” From there, you can upload a document with the episode, or you can type your episode directly into Kindle Vella’s editor.
To create and upload episodes after the first, you will go to your Kindle Vella Library and select the story you are adding to. You click “Create new episode” for a new episode or click “Continue episode” if you want to continue working on an episode you’ve already started. You then import your episode text or type it directly into the editor. After you’re done writing/uploading and are happy with the text (always reread after uploading just to double check--pretty please, just to make me happy), you will choose the date you want your episode to be released and then click “Publish.”
The great thing about Kindle Vella is the platform allows you to both edit your story details and update your story episodes. So if you want to tweak your story description or if you notice a mistake in one of your episodes, you are able to make those changes.
There are several main story details that you will need to have ready to upload when you start your story, much like you would when you are publishing a book through Kindle. This information all appears on your story details page, which tells readers all about your story.
Story Title- You should enter this as you want the title to appear on your story details page.
Author Name- A first and last name are required, and pen names are accepted.
Description- This is your story description and will appear on your story detail page.
Story Image- Your story image should be a square image with the important visuals centered.
You don’t need to put any text in this image, not even your story title, because the story title, author name, and the story description will all appear on the story details page right below the picture. When readers are exploring, the title appears below the image.
You want to select a high-resolution image that best showcases your story, with a horizontal and vertical resolution of at least 72 DPI with recommended dimensions of 1600x1600.
This should be an image, not an ebook cover because these do not repurpose well for the circular image used by Kindle Vella.
You cannot mention price or promotional offers in this story image.
Story Categories- Much like Kindle has you choose two categories for your ebook, you must choose two Story Categories to classify your story in the Kindle Vella library. These function like traditional Amazon book categories, and you can learn more about choosing them here.
Story Tags- Tags both describe your story and help readers discover it. You can (and should) add up to seven tags. They function in two ways. As keywords readers can search, and they can also be displayed on your story details page to describe the story. Each tag will have its own landing page that has all the stories with this same tag, so readers can explore all stories with this tag.
Try to avoid information covered in other parts of your story’s description, like phrases in the title or story description. Focus your tags on tropes (enemies to lovers, billionaire’s baby), subgenres (clean romance, holiday romance), and important character traits (alpha male, strong heroine). Check out this resource for choosing keywords to help determine your story tags.
Amazon has specifically noted that they have the right to update the tags feature and their guidelines “in order to provide the best customer experience.” So this is something to keep an eye on as Kindle Vella grows and becomes more popular, in case you need to adjust something for your story to perform well.
What Are Kindle Vella’s Content Guidelines?
So the first thing Amazon tells you about Kindle Vella’s content guidelines is that the existing content and metadata guidelines for ebooks apply to Kindle Vella content as well. Because of this, I am including a link to the ebook content guidelines.
The main point that Amazon is pushing with their content guidelines is that your Kindle Vella stories must be original. Basically, they don’t want someone to read a story on Kindle Vella that they have read in another form. This means you cannot publish:
Public domain content or text that is freely available on the internet.
A previously published book that has been broken down into episodes to be republished on Kindle Vella. Even if you take that book down or it was written in another language, you cannot publish it on Kindle Vella.
There is a somewhat exception though. If you are continuing a story from a book that you have previously authored and published, you can include up to 5,000 words of that content in the first episode of your Kindle Vella story to bridge the two stories (so long as you have the rights to do so).
What’s interesting is that, under specific conditions, Kindle Vella will allow you to incorporate content from a Kindle Vella story into long-form content in any language. I am going to quote this information to avoid accidentally wording a requirement incorrectly. Amazon says,
If you wish to incorporate your Kindle Vella content into long-form content (e.g., a book) in any language, you may do so providing you follow these requirements:
In order to publish a completed Kindle Vella story or group of episodes as a book or other long-form format, the last episode must have been available to readers in the Kindle Vella store for at least 30 days. You can see the latest publication date for episodes on your Story Manager page.
A book or other long-form format containing republished Kindle Vella content must contain a minimum of 10 episodes. Individual episodes may not be published as standalone content outside of the Kindle Vella store.
A Kindle Vella episode may only be republished in one book or other long-form format (i.e., cannot publish Episode 10 in two different books).
Please note: For episodes published before Kindle Vella stories became available to readers, the day Kindle Vella stories become available to readers will count as the first day of the 30-day period for this guideline.
Those are the guidelines for turning your Kindle Vella content into long-form content, so there is that option for you as well.
Another thing to note is that you can remove Kindle Vella content if you wish. Before Kindle Vella goes live, you have the option to remove your content yourself, but after the store opens, you will have to contact Amazon to remove any published content. The only thing you will be able to remove yourself are unpublished episode drafts. If you remove content from Kindle Vella, either through Amazon or deleting an unpublished episode yourself, this is permanent and cannot be undone.
How Are Authors Paid on Kindle Vella?
I know this is the question everyone is curious about. I know I was really interested in how this would work out.
Readers unlock episodes in a story with tokens, and the number of tokens required to unlock an episode is based on the word count of the episode they are unlocking. Amazon comes right out and says, you will earn 50% of what readers spend on the tokens that are used to unlock your story’s episode. BUT, it seems a little more complicated than that--especially because they need a whole freaking equation to help you calculate what you’ll earn. So, take that as you will. Because Amazon will make tokens available for purchase through mobile channels that charge a fee, this fee will be deducted from the revenue that is shared. So, when say Apple’s or Samsung’s systems sell these tokens, whatever they charge, will be deducted from your 50%. Any taxes charged will be deducted from your royalties as well.
Here is how earnings per episode will be calculated (here’s that equation I mentioned):
(number of tokens to unlock episode) x (tokens bundle price/# tokens in bundle - taxes
and fees) x (50% rev share) = earnings per episode
I’m going to use an example of this equation being used from Reedsy because I used to be good at math, but now I question myself way too much because it’s been several years since I took a math class, so I don’t trust myself to make my own examples. I also like that they give you an idea of what a full story could pay you, but Amazon does provide you with examples as well.
So, here is the example from Reedsy.
If a reader acquires 200 tokens for $1.99 and spends 30 tokens to unlock your episode, you’ll earn 30x$1.99/200x50%=$0.15. If you have 20 episodes (of the same length) in your story, that would be a payout for the story of almost $3.00.
Now instead of buying 200 tokens at a time, the reader buys 1,700 tokens at once, the episodes requiring 30 tokens to unlock would earn you 30x$14.99/1700x50%=$0.132, and the 20-episode story would consequently earn you $2.65.
There are two things to keep in mind with these examples though. First, these examples assume no taxes or fees. So, with taxes and fees, you’re looking at earning less per story (but neither example shows what the taxes and fees would look like in the equation, and math prevents me from doing this for you--there’s a reason I’m a book editor, after all). And second, the first three episodes of every story are free, so you won’t receive any compensation for this.
Amazon also reserves the right to change token pricing at any time, so keep that in
mind. If tokens aren’t selling well, Amazon may reduce the price of them. Also, Amazon will likely give away free tokens at times (much like they give free months of Kindle Unlimited and a free credit every month with Audible).
Interestingly, you can also be eligible for a launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement when you release your story. Amazon doesn’t give too much information about this (at least that I could find), but now that Kindle Vella is launched, we’ll likely begin to learn more about this.
Can You Interact with Readers on Kindle Vella?
Serialized content offers an interesting opportunity to interact with your readers that you normally don’t get with a book. In the cases of Wattpad and Radish, readers can leave comments at the end of each episode, much like a blog post. But, this isn’t currently an option for Kindle Vella. Readers will not be able to comment on your episodes.
There are a few ways readers can interact with your stories. They can follow stories, so they are notified when new episodes are released. Readers can also pick a weekly “Fave,” which is the story they enjoyed most. The Most Faved stories will be featured in the Kindle Vella store for other readers to find. Readers can also like a story by giving it a “Thumbs Up.”
The only way authors will be able to interact with readers on this platform is through the optional Author’s Note that can be added at the end of each episode. You will be able to add additional thoughts or insights, or you can let readers know when to expect the next episode. You could give readers a behind-the-scenes look at your writing or thought process, or you could share a teaser for the next episode to get readers excited for your next episode. You have 200 words to speak directly to your readers.
Amazon does make a note of what not to include in your Author’s Note though. They specifically state, “This is a tool to build engagement with your story, so avoid including any links or prompting readers to leave the reading experience.” Amazon doesn’t blatantly say they will penalize you for saying something such as, “Visit my author website to learn more,” or something like that, BUT I saw this warning in several--several--places, so I think it is best to err on the side of caution and assume there will be consequences if you include something like this in your Author’s Note.
Should You Publish on Kindle Vella?
Okay, so I gave you all the information above, but I think this final question is really the most important for one main reason: this question really has nothing to do with Kindle Vella and it’s practices. The question of whether or not you should publish on Kindle Vella really has everything to do with you and your writing style.
Serialized writing is different from traditional writing. If you’re someone who just likes to see where the story goes as you’re writing, and you feel that you have to rewrite old chapters a lot and change plot points, then I don’t recommend serialized writing. It really won’t be a good fit for you. And luckily, I truly don’t think Kindle Vella will ever replace KDP, so your books still have a place and readers to love them.
But, if you’re a heavy planner who doesn’t have to do a lot of rewriting and you are great at writing on a schedule, then Kindle Vella could be a great option for you.
Success will come partially from consistency. Say you don’t post consistently. Readers will wonder, “How long will I have to wait? Two weeks? A month? Two months?” If readers don’t know when you will post the next episode, it’s likely they won’t stick around. Consistently posting your episodes on the same day every week (and ideally at the same time) will have committed readers who come back time and time again.
Now, the other option is, of course, to write the whole story before you begin posting it to Kindle Vella. Then you would be able to post each episode weekly (or daily because that’s an option) and not have to worry about not being able to write an episode that week. Your whole story would be ready to go, and all you would have to do is upload your episodes. Kindle Vella allows you to schedule the release of episodes, so you actually upload every episode and schedule them, then let them publish on their own.
Overall, if you’re someone who likes preparing everything after you have written your story, such as your cover and book blurb and book metadata, then Kindle Vella really isn’t the option for you, in my opinion. But, if you’re an author who is very structured and has everything together beforehand with a vision for your cover and the blurb already written, then this is the option for you!
Personally, I’m not a consistent story writer, and my schedule is constantly changing. I can’t even title a story before I begin writing, let alone actually know how my story is going to end. So, for me, Kindle Vella really wouldn’t be a good option.
Tips for Succeeding on Kindle Vella
I think it is important to remember that your stories on Kindle Vella will be a professional representation of your writing and published work, even though it may feel different than publishing your books with KDP.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Consistency is key. It is important to post your episode on a consistent timeline, either weekly or daily. If you post monthly though, I recommend disclosing this to your readers in the Author’s Note, so readers know you will be back, it will just take a few weeks.
Make a schedule, and do your best to stick to it. If you can do this, it will make the Kindle Vella process infinitely easier.
Don’t forget your episodes will still need editing before you publish them to ensure you get all the Thumbs Ups and Faves possible.
Do some research on your tags before you choose them. Choosing the right tags will be what gives you a leg up in being found in Kindle Vella.
Market your stories! Let everyone know you have stories on Kindle Vella. Your loyal readers will likely get on the Kindle Vella train to read your stories, and you will also find new readers who enjoy serialized stories through your marketing. So, don’t forget to promote your new stories and your episodes when you release them.
Also, Kindle Vella is still pretty new. Pay attention if Amazon lets you know they have changed their policies because it is bound to happen at least a little as they see what happens on their platform. You don’t want to accidentally run into issues.
I’m excited to see how Kindle Vella will grow and what it will mean for the romance genre. I think it offers interesting opportunities for romance authors, so I recommend looking into it and figuring out if it is a good option for you.
“What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author?” reedsyblog. April 21, 2021. https://blog.reedsy.com/kindle-vella/.
“Kindle Vella.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GR2L4AHPMQ44HNQ7.
“Kindle Vella - Reader Experience.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G6F5YEPRLMKR3PV7.
“Kindle Vella - Start a Story.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GKWM7L5U6ESNFT5X.
“Kindle Vella- Publish an Episode.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GQXRPEL7X6FLCRRH.
“Kindle Vella - Royalties, Reporting, and Payments.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G5TFR9WSHB46ZKFN.
“Kindle Vella - Content Guidelines.” Kindle Direct Publishing. https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G3DJY2Z5WSX5U6WL.