Vella anyone???

Hi gang. Craig with you today and there’s something new on the self publishing horizon. It’s officially called Kindle Vella. I’m kind of interested in it, and would like to get some debate going on the subject.

The first thing we have to do is cover what it is. Vella is a new publishing platform for serialized work. This means you publish what amounts to a chapter at a time. The time period is variable and up to the author.

It’s important to note that the author gets paid under this plan. It borrows from online gaming in that readers have to buy tokens, then use that special currency to read whatever they are interested in. If someone spends tokens on your work, you get half. (Obviously, Amazon gets the cash from token purchases, then shares depending on where you spend them. They get the cash if you never spend them.) The token spend is based upon word count of the section.

New submissions have to be between 600 and 5000 words. I might even squeeze two chapters at a time out of the submission.

Readers can access the first three sections of a project for free. There is no news about whether Amazon is providing a stipend to the author, but I doubt they will.

The platform is available on Amazon.com and the iOS Kindle app. It’s also going to debut only in the United States. They hint at broader circulation later.

I did some rough and dirty math and it comes to about $2.99 per twenty chapters for the author. I did not account for the free sections, so it could be a bit less. Consider that if you self publish a novel at $2.99, Amazon keeps 30% of that and it looks pretty good.

The Vella project allows for an author section at the end of each submission. I can only see this as a good thing, because direct contact with readers is important. You can write whatever you want here, from “tune in next week,” to “I’m holding a free day on XXX for my novel something or other.” You can update these sections, so after the free day, you can change your remarks.

The project also comes with a minor social media aspect in that readers can follow stories they like, meaning they get notified whenever a new section goes up. Readers can give a thumbs up to those stories they like, and have access to a weekly crown they can award their favorite section of the week. These will be seen by other shoppers.

A few other points to consider here. Amazon says we can unpublish, then self publish at a later date. I like this aspect. They crop the only graphic into a circular shape, so we might need a Vella graphic, then something later on for an actual cover. This could be costly.

I grew up in an era of magazines that serialized their stories. Most of these were my father’s outdoorsman mags, but I liked it. Made me look forward to the next part of the tale. I also subscribed to comic books, and those stories never actually end. This is old school, and modern sensibilities might not go for it. Years ago, my brother subscribed to Wizard magazine, and the first thing we both did was go to the back and check out the adventures of Phil & Dixie. This was a comic that carried across each month.

Let’s pick at what we know so far. First the, seemingly, good things.

• More frequent publication. This is a good thing for an author.

• The ability to add a paragraph at the end of each section allows us to sell ourselves. This is more important than you think. We could mention our other works here, but links aren’t allowed.

• The author gets paid.

• More people could be willing to give a thumbs up than take time to write a review.

• Notification to readers of new sections. It would be lovely if readers of my ongoing series could get notification of when the new books drop.

• Appeal to the bus-stop crowd. A submission could be read during a coffee break.

There are some points of concern, too.

• The possible need for more art, unless you get a cover that can be cropped into a circular shape.

• More people could be willing to give a thumbs down who would never take the time to write a review.

• Delays. If you set a timetable of one submission every two weeks, I think followers are going to expect you to meet it. Might want to wait until you clear the muddy middle before you start posting the story.

• Lack of interest from people who read a lot of books. They like to dedicate time to immerse themselves in a tale.

• The need for cliffhangers, particularly at the end of chapter three, and the risk of overdoing them or doing them poorly.

I like the fact that Amazon is trying something new. I also know the early adopters usually make the most money from a project. I’m not completely sold, just yet. Part of my problem involves 2021 being a year of series for me. I’m working hard to conclude a classic trilogy, and book three in this format just doesn’t work. My ongoing series won’t work here either, since I’m on book four. I would need something completely new. I could do it, but not mid summer when they expect Vella to launch. They’re allowing uploads right now.

I was sorely tempted to include a poll, but those are pretty meaningless without thousands of participants. Story Empire has the followers, but only so many of you interact. That’s what this post needs.

The rest of the post is up to you. Let’s talk about Vella in the comments. Are you interested in something like this? Would you publish this way? Would you read this way? I’d appreciate some commentary beyond a quick answer. Are tokens just too gimmicky and you know you’ll be stuck with a few extras? Are you the kind who’d like to see where the thumbs up taper off, or readership drops in an attempt to improve those sections prior to actual publication? Let’s all talk about it.

68 thoughts on “Vella anyone???

  1. Pingback: Vella anyone??? – Love and Love Alone

  2. I agree that your series isn’t suited to this, Teagan, and I also think it appeals to an older audience than what I envisage for this product. I think something like your Hallaba Lulu would be perfect for this. It has a strong, but fun and slightly racy, female character and lots of interesting technology that kids would love. Craig’s The Hat series has similar types of innovations and would also appeal to teenagers in my opinion. I think this is quite visionary and I’m certainly going to think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robbie. Thanks for the “Hullaba Lulu” shout-out — and for introducing me to a new-to-me term “cli-fi.” Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t want anything that is already published (or at least available anywhere outside Vella). I think blog publications would squeak by, and if it is a blog serial, it can easily be taken down if necessary. Trouble is, I’ve “bookized” all but one of my blog serials.
      I agree that you have an extraordinary amount already on your plate. (I’m convinced that you have secret super powers.) So something already written would be helpful.
      However, an engaging serial needs lots of hills and valleys. Look at your story that way.
      Vella episodes have to be 600 to 5,000 per episode. To give you an idea, my more recent, shortest Delta Pearl episodes have been closer to 700 words. While my old serials (like Pip’s stories) sometimes went over 3,000 words.
      Existing or new, I like to give the reader enough “valley” and “hill” to satisfy the part of their mind that wants at least some completion. And of course, a bit of uncertainty — or all out cliffhanger at the episode’s end.

      I would also encourage everyone to give panstering a try. Sure, I’ve written myself into many a corner… but I just write myself back out of it.
      Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Teagan, thanks for this additional advice. My new book is written quite differently to my other work so this serialisation would possibly work. I looked at the link you provided and I see it is currently only available in the USA to American writers so it’s not an immediate worry for me anyway. You guys will have to be the guinea pigs for this.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. On the surface, it looks appealing, but I don’t have the time to be a guinea pig. By the time all the kinks are worked out, I suspect the excitement will be gone. I don’t think this is the vehicle for me. But if it works for others, I think that’s great. If you can seize an opportunity and make it work for you, I say do it. I just don’t think I can benefit from this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. I’m currently prepping a novel that I’m going to release in serialized format, so I’ve been researching platforms for serial fiction.

    WattPad and Tapas seem to be the most mature today, with very similar token systems for payment. These platforms are generally catering more to teen and young adult readers who want bite-sized chunks to read on phone or tablet. From what I’ve seen, the genre mix tends to skew heavily toward romance.

    The big advantage Amazon will have is the brand name and the book ecosystems they can tie into. I am curious to see how it does against these other two products in this particular space.

    As far as writing serial fiction, I think it’s best to publish episodes when you already have the entire work done, or heavily outline before starting so that you don’t accidentally write yourself into a corner or get stuck with a tight deadline. I’m following the heavy outlining method, so we’ll see how that goes…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Vella anyone??? | Xingu, Volume 2

  8. Hi Craig. My ears were burning, so I’ll chime in. 😉
    Seriously, I hate feeling that I’m “taking over your post” but I was called out several times, so… Otherwise I would NEVER do this. Here goes.
    Chris Graham, the Story Reading Ape, reblogged a Reedsy article that was a very well organized breakdown of Amazon’s information on Vella. The payment structure is not as good as it appears with that first little teaser Amazon supplies. Here’s a link that I hope everyone will check out, because I don’t want to take over your post with so much information.
    https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2021/05/06/what-is-kindle-vella-and-should-you-join-as-an-author-by-reedsy/

    My own opinion is:
    FOR AUTHORS: Vella is a means of being exposed to a new audience. It’s “free advertising” for the cost of your work. The payment structure (when you dig deeper) results in utterly negligible pay.
    Also, there are plenty of rules about not using already published content and similar issues.
    FOR READERS: If you like blog serials, then it’s for you. Also Amazon is pushing hard for authors to have several episodes ready “so readers can dig in” to a bigger read. To me, that defeats the serial purpose, but whatever. The episode lengths could be compared to half hour television shows.

    OTHERWISE
    Since people have kindly mentioned my current series “Dead of Winter”… Jan is right, I started it before we heard about Vella, but it would not fit their requirements. At first I was calling DoW a serial. Now that Amazon is promoting these blog-length serials, I’m just calling mine “a series of monthly novelettes.” Mine are much longer episodes than the word limit for Vella.

    That said… yes, I’m giving Vella a try, with new exposure in mind. To Alex’s comment, being able to back track is a valid concern. However, I’ve been “pantsering” blog serials for a decade, so you get a particular way of thinking.
    I have an outline of episodes, but have only uploaded the first one. On my horizon “Pride and Flowers, Prejudice and Dirigibles” — a Pride and Prejudice-take off. Episode one will be available when Kindle Vella opens to readers.
    Now, I apologize again for this long comment. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Teagan, thank you for adding this great comment. When I read this post of Craig’s I immediately thought of your serial so it is interesting and useful to get your thoughts on this new offering. I think it is very interesting from an exposure POV. I don’t make money from anthologies but do gain new readers. This would be the thought process for me and I am also interested in it. My concern is that I have very busy periods at work so wouldn’t be able to wing it. I would have to finish the book first and then publish it as a serial. My new book [the cli-fi one] would fit the bill for this, but I’m not sure I would want to invest so much time and effort in a new venture. Oh so much food for thought. I’ll check out Chris’ article now.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve heard about this recently, but although I’m also one of the people enjoying Teagan’s serial, I also prefer to read a novel from beginning to end. I get the feeling that it is aimed at a younger audience, and I can’t see my writing fitting into that format either. But I’m curious to see how it does. And it also made me think of Kindle Worlds, which seemed to disappear into oblivion. Thanks, Craig.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Craig, my son, Michael, and his mates would love your The Hat series. This idea will appeal to them and I am going to try and promote it to this crowd of young men [aged 15]. It is a fab way of getting them reading and they will be prepared to invest a short period every week or two weeks in a good book with a serialised form. Of that I am sure. Youngsters don’t like long books. Even a lot of working adults don’t want to invest in a long book. Short stories are on the rise and increasingly popular with the working millennials.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for that. The Hat will remain as short novels, because Vella doesn’t want any previously published work. If the boys like it, that would be awesome. They can use a parent’s account and read it for free as an option. Some of my work would appeal to a younger crowd, but more teens than children. If I want to try Vella, I’ll just have to come up with something new.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ogla, you are spot on with your thoughts here. I also think this is aimed at younger readers and this format is perfect for our youth. They are used to quick with some instant gratification and I think this is perfect for them. It is a great way to appeal to younger readers and the audience of the future. That is why this appeals to me with some of my work. A lot to think about here.

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. I’m interested in it, not as a reader–I like to read an entire thing when I start it. But I used to put up a free chapter a week on my blog for different stories, and it was fun. I’ve read a few things about it, but haven’t really concentrated on it, so thanks for doing all the homework to make Vella easier to understand. Is there a word limit on how long the entire project has to be? I don’t remember seeing that. I have an idea for a Muddy River that might work for Vella. I can see your writing style working for it, too. It might be a bust, but it might be worth a shot, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m reading Teagan’s Dead of Winter which follows this kind of format – each chapter costs a pittance. I’m really enjoying the story and I can see that this might be something that people who feel they’re too busy to invest in a large tome might go for. I couldn’t do it as a writer unless I already had the completed story there from the start – it’s bad enough coming across plot holes as it is, without having to deal with them under the pressure of a deadline. Also, when I do my redrafts, I often make significant changes and I wouldn’t be able to retroactively alter those chapters that had already gone out. I do think there’s a market for this, though, and it will have its fans. Thanks for giving me the heads up on this!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you kindly, Alex. I’m so happy you are part of the Journeys of “Dead of Winter.”
      Vella will be more similar to my blog serials (for episode length) than to Dead of Winter. Vella specifies a very short word limit, where as Dead of Winter installments are novella length. I’m going to give Vella a try, but writer beware the payment structure. There is a lot more to it than what Amazon shows initially. I’ll leave a link in a separate comment. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 5 people

  13. As a reader, I would not use the service. There was a service like Vella where authors submitted stories and were paid by the number of visits. (I can’t recall the name right now) It can be a grueling situation for an author unless one has a story written up in advance. Missing deadlines might be a killer. I’m all in favor of the serial aspect but will wait and see what happens. Thanks for the information

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a reader, this doesn’t appeal to me at all. I did follow a few comic books and graphic novels as a kid, but I see this as being different. When I pick up a book, I want to read at my pace. As a writer, I don’t think my target audience age group is going to purchase tokens or want to read serialized chapters. In some ways it reminds me of fan fiction sites with ongoing stories. It’s great an author can get their name out with the end chapter promos, but that only works if someone actually reads the chapter.

    I think I’m too old school for this!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. To me, Vella seems like another Amazon whim, like the Kindle Worlds. To be successful at serialized fiction you need to produce a lot of content in a short amount of time. I had this serialized fiction company ask to license one of my novels for 10K. Sounds great, right? Yeah, there’s a catch. On top of the licensing they wanted me to work full-time on producing new content for their platform. Full-time equaled 10 hour days with almost daily output. Plus, I would not be allowed to work on ANY other projects. None. I wouldn’t even have time to blog. Yes, they would pay a weekly salary, but they would own me. Needless to say, the offer destroyed any notions of even dipping a toe into serialized fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks so much for sharing this, Craig. I have been following this new platform and trying to absorb exactly how it will work. You brought up some very good points here as to the downside and the upside of doing this – the upside, namely being more exposure for the author. As far as the tokens, I truly don’t know. Gamers are so used to purchasing tokens they wouldn’t think twice about it, but the generation who doesn’t indulge in the gaming world might not be so quick to purchase. I think this would be a great platform for me to continue with my Jonah series. I’m considering it. But as you say, I think the author would need to have multiple sections written before launching in order to be able to put something up each week. Teagan Geneviene has done something similar to this with her latest project, but she started hers before Kindle Vella. I’d love to get her thoughts on this. Great post. Great information. Thank you for doing the homework for all of us!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I’m definitely going to give it a try. Three of my books started out as serialized stories on my blog. Having a weekly installment forces me to take the time to write. With Vella, you can always publish what you’ve written as a book later on.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Thank you, Craig, for explaining the platform. I doubt I would use it for my writing, but I might follow a favorite author there. It will be interesting to see how it is received. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This wouldn’t fit my writing style since I don’t have the time to spit out new chapters every week. I can see how this would sharpen an author’s writing. Each chapter would have to be interesting enough to not only move the story along but also keep the reader engaged. Personally, I would not want to read this way. I want to be able to lose myself in a story chapters at a time. I love series and I don’t mind waiting from one book to the other, but one chapter to the other would drive me crazy. Sure, readers could read something else while they wait for the next chapter, but that isn’t me. I like reading one novel at a time. Maybe if I ever put out a collection of short stories, I might try this. Lol! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great information, Craig:) I’ve been very curious about this. It was take a different approach than a book, which I think requires some skill to write in chunks and include reminders and good endings. I’ve seen it done well and enjoy the experience, yet I prefer reading it all at once. I would consider trying it if I felt I was doing it well. Can’t say I’m a fan of buying the tokens over spending cash because I could get stuck with them. You make some positive points about doing this including getting the authors name out there more often. This will be a wait and see from me, but I might think about writing something just in case.

    Liked by 2 people

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