Serial Fiction: Let’s Talk About Kindle Vella (To Write and Have Written)

With Kindle Vella on the horizon, let’s talk a bit about serial fiction, some of the confusion and misinformation about Kindle Vella, and what we might look for and plan for in choosing our own applications and career paths.

If you would like my very slick spreadsheet to calculate potential Kindle Vella revenue compared to traditional ebooks, you can get it free with my infrequent newsletter, or pick it up in the store.

spreadsheet screenshot

Video (from Twitch and YouTube):



All right, good evening, everyone. Here you go. Sorry I had to get the dog cam up just in time for the dog to leave. I mean, seriously, she has no respect for our needs and considerations here. OK. Well, hey, everybody, good evening, it is Tuesday night here, this is To Write And Have Written, I’m Laura VanArendonk Baugh. And tonight’s gonna be a little bit different. So I hope you’re in the chat because I really wanted this to be a discussion night.

So. So say hi if you’re here. And if not, this is going to be Laura just doing some interpretive dance for the next hour or so. So, yeah. And I do know several of our regulars are not here for one reason or another. I’ve seen on social media or or whatnot. So that’s fine. We’re just going to let them catch up when we have a good time. Oh, hey, Adam, thanks for stopping by. And Seeker. Excellent. Cool.

All right, and I’m just going to give me a second here, I’m just going to try to figure out where these dropped frames are coming from. And try to fix them. So sorry, give me just a moment here. Why are they being like this? Maybe it’s stabilized, we’re going to hope it’s stabilized. All right. Adam is my literalist tonight, I probably said, say hi if you’re here, and that’s exactly what I got. Hi. If you’re here, excellent.

Bridger’s in the car, fantastic. Please drive safely. No need to respond. We got all kinds of time to get in on the chat tonight. So find a safe place, travel safely. Thank you so much. All right. OK, so here’s here’s kind of what I was thinking for tonight. I know. Actually, let me back up first. I want it to be an all about me moment for just a second.

I mentioned last week that Crown & Creed made it into the next round of the Realm Award, Reader’s Choice Awards, and that is open for voting now. So I’m going to throw that link into the chat just in case any of you would like to stop by and vote for it. Now, full, be honest, vote only for books you have read. That includes mine. Don’t downvote anybody else’s books just to be spiteful or misguidedly helpful or anything. You know, this is legit. But if you have read Crown & Creed and enjoyed it, I would very much appreciate your vote. Thanks for that.

OK, back to, that’s enough of the all about me. Now let’s make this again. I want this to be a discussion, so I’m fudging the themes just a little bit for this week. We had Margaret McGriff on last week, which was a little fudgy as well, because that was kind of a Learn With Me, kind of a business. So I blended those a little bit. This one is supposed to be craft. I’m making it partly craft and business. And then next week we do have the Learn With Me. That’s when we’re going to have so many delightful people on to talk about subscriptions and memberships and crowd funding and all of that. So so we’re just kind of free forming the themes a little bit this month. But we’ll get well, that will be on task next week. We’ll definitely be a Learn With Me.

But tonight I wanted to talk about serial fiction because there is so much chatter going on about Kindle Vella coming up. And it’s a new platform. It’s on Amazon. People are very excited about it. I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about it and hearing a lot of teaching about it, like instruction about it. And some of the discussion has been very good and some of it has been unhelpful. And I’m actually seeing some things that are being promoted and passed around that are just flat out wrong, according to what we have published on Amazon’s own guidelines.

And oh my gosh, I’m already seeing people selling books on how to use Kindle Vella and how to get rich on Kindle Vella and the best practices for Kindle Vella and all the stuff. And I’m like, you don’t know the best practices. It’s not even out yet. It’s nobody can nobody can have experimented with any techniques or, you know, let’s let’s try this metadata versus that metadata and see how it goes. Like none of this. You’re just making things up and charging people money for it.

So I would like to tell you what I know from having done my research. You can have it absolutely for free. And then I’ll tell you straight up what I don’t know and what I think nobody knows because Amazon’s playing a lot of this very close to the chest, as they should. Hey, can you get up on the dog cam instead of in my lap? So, no, that’s not where I want to be, thanks. I’m just going to turn off the dog cam then. Yeah, your public can miss you. OK.

So let’s let’s talk a little bit about what Kindle Vella is, because if you aren’t familiar with it, then everything I have said thus far makes absolutely no sense. And if you are familiar with it, I would like to turn this into a not just Larra dictating things, but like let’s let’s talk about it. Let’s brainstorm a little bit, you know, all of these sorts of things.

So, OK, Kindle Vella is a new platform where Amazon is trying to jump in on these serial fiction market. Everybody is comparing this to Wattpad and Radish and those kinds of platforms. Fewer people are mentioning that that serial fiction is huge in the Asian market and a lot of money is being made over there. And so I think Amazon’s looking around and saying, hey, you know, they’re making really big money with this. We would like to do that, too. So, hey, you know what, they’re allowed to do that. It’s their platform.

So they are, Vella is a new platform that will launch in July. There will be a reading app to present these episodes, short pieces of serialized fiction. And then readers will buy tokens which they can use to unlock more episodes and read through the entire work. So if you, if you’re a complete nerd like me and you like old movie history and that sort of thing, serial movie serials were really big in the earlier and mid 20th century.

And then fiction serials were also really big in the 18th and the 19th and 20th centuries. So this is something that is not remotely new. The serial fiction that absolutely everyone is familiar with is Raiders of the Lost Ark, which of course was not a serial but was a direct homage and picked up. All of the things that you that you know about raiders of the Lost Ark were lifted straight up from movie serials to the lines on the map and the starting in media res and all of that. Yeah, that’s all it was.

So there is a a very real market for this, which is why Amazon is getting into it, because they don’t hate money. Yeah. So all of that. Readers, as I said, will pay per episode. Hey Brandi, welcome to the stream. I just saw you in the chat. Welcome. So readers will pay per episode, they will buy these episodes with tokens, your first episodes, I’m sorry, your first three episodes of any story in Vella will be free.

So your first three episodes should be pretty good because that’s what’s going to hook people into buying tokens and paying for the rest of your story. Each episode is going to be between 600 and 5000 words. So that’s a pretty big spread. You’re not locked into, it’s not like TV script writing where you have an exact to the minute count that you have to get each time. Like, you’ve got time to make some of these episodes longer. Some of them will be really short and fast. Some of them you can take some more time to develop.

And at this point, these episodes are going to be presented in the app. The app is going to have pretty basic formatting. So, yes, you can have italics. No, you cannot have images. So this is what we know so far. They are bringing in from the these other platforms that are already doing this. And guys, honestly, the thing that I keep thinking of with as far as I’m researching and reading more about Kindle Vella is I keep going back to fanfic platforms, you know, FFN which totally dates me or AO3 or any of those.

And so you can actually include author notes in your platform to, you know, just at the end of your episode and break the fourth wall and address your readers directly. “Hey, what could be happening next? You know, please read and review.” Like, I don’t think it says, I think you can do that, because they’re not really able to read and review. The reading. There’s no reviewing. We’ll get to that a second. But so it’s a pretty, pretty basic structure.

But you will have those author notes to, you know, kind of ask for feedback. Please favorite me. Readers will be able to give one favorite per week. And so you can hope that’s you, because that’ll boost you in the ratings. Yeah. Bridger’s agreeing, it really does seem like the fanfic structure, so much so that I have already asked two fanfic experts, I guess kind of kind of BNFs in the fanfic community to help me with my keyword tagging when we get into this, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

Excuse me, and here’s where we’re going to get into some things where I’m seeing actively wrong information getting passed around. So this is me saying I have read the guidelines and the terms of service and all of that 18 times to verify this. So if somebody is telling you something else, either, there’s been a very recent update, and I did just confirm 20 minutes ago that everything I’m telling you is still accurate, because there have been some updates. I want to make sure that I’m not passing anything updated.

But this is honestly, I think people either reading sloppily or speaking in wishful thinking. Everything that is going on Kindle Vella has to be new material. You cannot bring over, hey, I have this book that’s already published, but I would I will put chapter by chapter also onto Kindle Vella, so I can have it on ebook, I can have it on paperback, and I can have it in Kindle Vella. No, no, you can’t. It has to be new.

It has to be new. It cannot have been published in any language. So remember, I mentioned those really big Asian serial fiction markets. You can’t take a best seller from over there, bring it over and drop it into Kindle Vella. So but something that surprised me and I was quite happy to see, it does not have to be exclusive, which is good because I really don’t like exclusivity. I don’t do KDP Select for that reason. So you can have a book in or I’m sorry, a serial in Kindle Vella and also available on another platform so long as it is not free anywhere, thereby competing or undercutting Kindle Vella.

Oh, Bridger asks if it is fiction only. Hold that thought, because I am having, I have some speculation on that. They are currently advertising it for fiction, but I’m wondering about some other applications. So yeah, we’ll get in there. So OK. Yes, so anyway, so it can be it can be elsewhere. So one of the things I’m kicking around is, OK, I just don’t like exclusivity. So if I have it in Kindle Vella, but then how do I want to also serialize it in another place where I can charge for it?

This would probably be a good place for subscriptions or for memberships. Hey, guess what I have scheduled next week? A whole bunch of people who are currently practicing with subscriptions and memberships who are going to share that information with us. So I’m going to be taking so many notes next week. So and I saw, I know it’s supposed to be coffee, but I swear it looks like Ko-Fi, you know, but they’re launching a new tiered subscription model. I think that’s coming out maybe later this month or next month. I don’t remember exactly, but that’s going to be another platform that could potentially be utilized for this. And we’ll talk about all of that stuff next week.

But anyway, it does not have to be exclusive to Vella. And then in the future, let’s say I have a book or a story. I have 50 episodes. I publish all 50 episodes on Vella. I get to the end. I can unpublished those on Vella, compile them into a regular long form novel and then publish it now on as an ebook or paperback because it is no longer competing with Vella. So then I get to maybe use it a couple of times on different platforms.

So, OK, I’m sorry, I’m going to interrupt for just one second because my extremely bored dog has just stolen an object. Hey, may I have that please? Undómiel, c’mere. Oh good. You’re going to leave that over there. Thanks. Yeah. You’re making me look great on live internet. Thank you so much.

She found a dog toothbrush and she was like, well, I will just take this apart. Thank you. So, yeah.

Bridger says I foresee this becoming very popular in November and much less popular in December. And that’s a pretty decent assessment, actually. Yeah, that could definitely be a thing. So, yeah, that’s, you know, kind of why I wanted to talk about this.

Now, the platform is allegedly going to go live in July. And yeah. Anyway, there’s, I wanted to talk and let us do some brainstorming about how best to use it. Here is the thing, if you actually sit down and do the math because readers are not buying each episode, they are buying tokens, which then they use to unlock episodes.

So that middle exchange kind of blurs the cost. And most people, once you blur that, you know that that exchange, they spend more. So the way the way it is set up now now, let’s be honest, Amazon can change this. Their rules, their platform, they can change everything. And every time there’s this pricing could be totally different by the time we get to July. And then it could be different again by the time we get to August and then again by November. So we just don’t know.

But. You need one token per hundred words in the episode. If your episode is 600 words, you would need six tokens to unlock it. You can buy tokens in different sized packages. They all work out to somewhere between point eight and one penny per token. Then Amazon keeps half and you keep half. So I did some math. Let me hop over to my spreadsheet, which I will not make you guys look at. I’ll just tell you the end results.

So right now I have Shard & Shield, which is 140000 words. It’s a beast because epic fantasy yo. So Shard & Shield is 140 thousand words. I currently sell it at three ninety nine. It is the least expensive of the series. They go up to 499 after that. And when I do that at a 70 percent rate out of KDP, I make two dollars and seventy cents from a sale.

Kate says, oh I want to see the spreadsheet. How many times has that sentence been uttered in any writer community ever? So yeah.

And Brandy saying I spend less because I refuse to spend money on games like that. Yeah. Sometimes that’s a thing too. Like we were talking last week, you know, Bridger will do back flips to avoid a sponsored link. I never buy anything off end caps. Like you will get individuals. But in the grand scheme of things, speaking on a bell curve scale, generally speaking, that is going to make more money for people.

If we do the math and I break it all down and I publish those 140000 words, I mean, ignore that my first three episodes are free because I don’t know how many words those would be. So we’re just going to pretend we paid for all 140000 words. At the cheapest token package right now, in the end, by the time someone finished Shard & Shield, I would have made just over six dollars instead of two dollars and seventy cents.

That’s actually pretty good. OK, and then. It’s going to change so. So right now, — Amazon saying, too, that they’re going to do some bonuses at the beginning, but since nobody has any clue what those are, because literally everything Amazon has said is there will be some bonuses at the beginning, I’m just not even calculating those. Because we don’t know, we don’t know how long they’ll last. I don’t have enough information. I’m not going to spend braincells on it. They won’t last anyway.

But. That six dollars and change, it sounds really good. It’s not going to be that much because again, this is an app, so that’s going to be on people’s smartphones, tablets, etc. They’re going to be buying those tokens through the apps platform. Apple takes 30 percent of anything that is sold through their platform. So, I’m in a group that actually was selling workshops and conferences and such through their app as well as through their website. And a hundred dollar workshop costs one hundred and thirty dollars if you buy it through the app because they, because Apple adds onto it so. That’s a lot, by the way.

So what that means is Amazon loses 30 percent when somebody buys a package of tokens through the app, through the Apple app. That 30 percent loss is not going to come out of Amazon’s cut. OK, so then you can take that out of what I’m going to see as the author, because that’s how it works.

And it is spelled out like explicitly that Amazon will not lose, you know, any any fees from, any platform fee does not reduce Amazon’s share. So that’s not even a question of, oh, it’s probably how it’ll work out that way. Like we know that’s not going to work out that way.

Bridger asks, how does that compare with KNP? That is the payment per pages read in Kindle Select if you have a book in Kindle Unlimited. The answer is I believe it works out that Vella is a little bit better. Long term, I don’t expect that to be the case. I think Amazon is going to pull a Walmart. They’re going to make it very attractive in the beginning. And then once they got people in, they’re going to drop rates and now people are stuck. Cynical, but also. Prove me wrong, Amazon. So but but I think yeah, I think it’s at this point right now, it’s it’s better than a page read, I think, because honestly, KU Page reads aren’t that, you know.

And then Kate says that rules me out then, but I don’t know what that means. So if you can catch me up, so OK. Anyway, where’s it gone? Yeah, oh, hang on, I just worked out what Kate meant. Sorry, you do not have to have an Amazon or Android or whatever app to upload material to Vella. Readers will use an app to access it. So I don’t have any Apple products whatsoever, but a reader on an Apple product will be able to read my Vella work. I hope that makes sense. OK. Oh, and Kate just confirmed that that is indeed what we were talking about. All right.

So sorry. Let me get back to my notes, because all I’ve got here now is spreadsheet. What was I talking about? I was getting very excited. OK, so still a few more things that are different, or just things we need to be aware of. Your description is going to be tiny, your complete story description, I believe, 500 characters. So you don’t get to say, hey, here’s our setting, “in a world where” and then, you know, like here’s our problem and here’s our other character. And then this is what they’re going to face and do about it.

There’s no time for this. You’ve got a few sentences at most to get that story set up, so I’m thinking this is going to be a lot of leaning on tropes. This is going to be a lot of, you know, give me a very, very good hook. And and I hope you have a very, very good hook. So start practicing those hooks.

Yeah, 500 characters like that’s enough that — I write epic fantasy, 500 characters is like two names from my world. Right? So anyway. Likewise, your cover is very, very limited. You’re not going to get a full rectangular book cover. It’s a square cover that then gets reduced to a circle in the app, from all the screen caps and such that we’ve been shown so far. Again, all of this stuff could be changing. We don’t know yet.

So, yeah, Alena’s pointing out, start practicing those Twitter pitches. Absolutely. Yeah. So we’ve got, I need to be thinking in terms of, I’ve got to sell this description super fast and my cover. Now, the cover does not have to have the title on it. This is very much like a mood setting cover. So everything I’ve ever said about your cover is needs to be a movie poster? Double that, OK. We’re not going to even have a title, you’re not going to have your author name. Catch me on my scroll and make me stop and wonder what this is.

So there we go. You will still get two categories that are going to be, as far as anybody can tell so far, normal, you know, Amazon, KDP kind of categories. And then you will have seven tags, which a lot of people are talking about as keywords. But I’m really thinking about as fanfiction kind of tags, where instead of instead of genre or something or or topic, I’m thinking more like trope. OK, so this is just me talking. I could be completely wrong, but I guarantee you I’m going to be using found family as one of my tags to see if it comes up.

Now, one of the things I’ve seen is that there may be a tag cloud. So like somebody will be able to click on Found Family and bring up all the stories tagged with that, which is not something we can do currently in the Kindle store. And if that’s the case, then it’s functioning pretty much like AO3 or those kinds of other platforms, which is why I am already starting to recruit my fanfic experts to help me with tags.

So there we go. Yeah. So Alena is pointing out, like those tiny thumbnail covers you can upload to FFN. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So yeah. And as far as the tags for discoverability, I’m. Yeah. This is something that I’m looking, I’m hoping to find find a way to ethically exploit, like use those to, to get where I want. But we still only have seven of those. So unlike, you know, those massive tag lists on some platforms, this is definitely going to be a pick your highlights because you only get so many.

So that’s what we know about the platform and what is what our parameters are at this time. And again, this can and probably will change everything from, you know, what metadata is permitted to how much tokens are going to cost and what we’ll get out of it.

I honestly expect that when it goes live in July, there’s going to be an initial tsunami of like everybody, you know, like the Oklahoma land rush on to Kindle Vella. I then expect pretty quickly it will start to die out and settle and there will be a lot of, you know, churn. But then it will it will start to settle and select for people who can sustain. You know, if I come on in, like in July, I’m like, yeah, I got all this stuff and I’m ready to go. And then I published 12 episodes and I’m like, and I’m stuck. You know, people are going to go find something that is still delivering.

So my plan is to have a whole freaking lot of content ready to go, already scheduled in July. Because let me be honest, this is awkward to admit on live Internet, but I have commitment issues. One of the reasons I have not after honestly, like several years of considering a subscription or membership or crowdfunding kind of thing, is I just don’t feel good about saying I will definitely give you a worthwhile thing on this, you know, on this date every month or something, because sometimes I travel or sometimes I have other projects or sometimes I just am not that good that week or whatever.

So this is going to be something where we need to plan ahead and we need to have great content. You can upload and immediately go live or you can upload and schedule. So my plan is to have really good content and then schedule way out. So I’ve got time to have that really unproductive month or something. You can set how quickly stuff you can have stuff drop daily, drop weekly. You just get to pick the date. It’s not even like you have to commit to a schedule.

But I strongly suspect that people who are consistent will do better because readers will know what to expect. So thank you. Bridger also has commitment issues. Awesome. Excellent. Thank you. Yeah. I just don’t feel good to be like, “I will definitely have a new great piece of fiction for you every third day,” I just don’t know.

OK, I really don’t see this being great for all genres. And this is another thing that I’m seeing people talk about this as it’s going to be, you know, everybody should get in on this. I don’t think everybody should get on on this. I think there’s there’s definitely the kinds of stories, the kind of work that does well on serial fiction platforms now that are not Vella will be the kind of stuff that does well on Vella. And if you’re not doing you know, you’re not seeing a lot of memoir or whatever on those other platforms, self-help or that kind of thing, on those other platforms, it’s probably not going to do that great on Vella.

Except and this goes back to what I think I think it was Bridger who asked at the beginning, is this for fiction only? I think there might be some nonfiction opportunities here that, you know, you should try it and it doesn’t work, stop publishing there. Go somewhere else. Right. Like you don’t nobody says you’re not. The great thing about this is you’re committing to an episode at a time. You don’t have to commit your entire book to this and then sink if it doesn’t work out. So the nice thing about doing this really short form is, it is really short form, and you can be extremely flexible and respond much more quickly than if you commit to seventy five thousand words.

So Bridger’s saying I see so many applications for nonfiction. Yes. So and I haven’t seen PJZooFit in the chat. I don’t know if she’s here or not, but PJZooFit offers fitness coaching and related stuff. You could absolutely have something like here is today’s or this week’s or whatever mission, you know, assignment, workout, you know, task, challenge, whatever you want to bill this as, and have a new episode of a new challenge every day.

Bridger could have one with. You know, here is this week’s training topic. This, you know, you could totally do. Yeah. Bridger saying guided meditation or gratitude journals, dog training assignments. Yes. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m thinking of where, you know, you can parcel things out.

Now, again, you’ve got between six hundred and five thousand words. That gives you a lot of a lot of room to work. I don’t think like a 5000 word a day thing is, maybe this might be a little bit much for a challenge, but you do need to be at least 600 words. So maybe less a, you know, list three things that make you happy today for a gratitude journal. But it could be something like a devotional or a you know, here’s a mindfulness topic or, you know, I mean, you just pull things out.

Yeah. And you can make it really modular. I think that’s I think that is a potential application here. So, yeah. Anyway, where was I going with this? So I think there are, it’s definitely not a thing that everybody should automatically be like, oh yeah, this is definitely the best place for me. I don’t think that’s a accurate statement for everybody, but I don’t think there’s a risk in trying it for, you know, 12 episodes and then doing running some numbers and doing some assessments.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I have one, maybe two, haven’t decided yet, things that I’m going to put on Vella and see what happens. If it absolutely tanks and I make no traction, I will unpublished them from Vella and go back to doing th