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):

To Write and Have Written: A Writer's Guide To The Business Side
To Write and Have Written: A Writer's Guide To The Business Side
Laura VanArendonk Baugh

<p>Writing is only part of a writing career -- no one warned us that we would need business acumen and entrepreneurship to be an author. Whether you're traditionally published or an independent self-publisher, it's good to have a leg up on accounting, marketing, time management, and other key skills.</p><br><p>These recordings of live discussion on craft and development, on business best practices, on explorations of fascinating and inspiring real life cool stuff, and more will help you along your writing journey and career development. Join Laura VanArendonk Baugh as she shares what she's learned and what she's learning. (Or join the weekly live discussion with your own questions!)</p><br /><hr><p style='color:grey; font-size:0.75em;'> See <a style='color:grey;' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' href='https://acast.com/privacy'>acast.com/privacy</a> for privacy and opt-out information.</p>

Transcript:

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 things I know how to do, which is releasing them as paperback book and all of the more traditional book formatting. But if I get traction on Vella, then they’ll run through on Vella and then I’ll publish them and compile them and put them into those other formats.

We’re going to find out. And I do know that I’m not a huge fan of exclusivity, so I’m going to try to find a way to make sure that I can have them appearing in more than one place. And I’m not really sure how I’m going to do that yet, but I don’t have to know yet. So this is when when I talk about Learn With Me, it’s literally going to be a Learn With Me because I’m just going to be experimenting.

But yeah, there’s no way that I’m going to be writing stuff weekly. I’m going to try to get as much prepped and ready to go as possible and then schedule way up. Oh, yes. So Bridger asks if we know what the back end looks like. We do. And in fact, you can go and upload content now. It will not be live until July, but if you have, you know, 100 episodes ready to go, go have a good time.

Right. You can you can do that. Google. I don’t remember what it’s called, actually. I think you can get to it just from your standard KDP dashboard. If not, if you Google for Kindle Vella, you’ll get there real fast. It’s not remotely hidden. It’s pretty open. “Hoarder brain activate.” Yes.

So I plan you know, this is just me personally at this time, I plan to do some experimenting. I’m going to be very curious to see if my kind of readers are looking for my stuff. They’re not necessarily the readers I already have. I’m looking at this as a chance for to get discovered by new eyeballs. So I want to see if I can get some traction with a new set of readers. And I want to see how the money actually shakes out in practice as opposed to what we’ve been told at this time. So so I’m just going to get on in July, run some stuff, then do some math and make some decisions.

So not remotely pretending to be anything I’m not here. This is not the Kindle guru. This is not the way how to Vella. This is just you know, again, I’m seeing a lot of stuff being passed around that’s not as accurate or not as helpful. So I want to catch that up.

Now. And Bridger already jumped in here. So the rest of you, please, please join what? What other ways could could we use this? So this is. You know, again, I think this is a place where you can get a lot of — let me back up, I’m not, let me say this more clearly.

Last week we were talking with Margaret about content marketing, and she said one of the advantages of doing things like content marketing is you’re basically treating it as you have a bunch of small focus groups. I can post something, see how people respond to that. And I got to work that out in a post rather than in a book. So I can go, Oh, my people love this. Great. Let’s do more of that and less of. Oh. I spent a year or five writing this book and then it flopped because I actually didn’t have the right tropes in the right genre and the right everything.

So one of the things I think we can do with a novella is run some short experiments. I can publish 600 words and find out with people like it. Without having to publish 60000 words to find out if people like it. OK, now, obviously you can do a certain amount of that research without Vella like, you know, posting free excerpts and that kind of thing. But this is one like you’re seeing — you’re not seeing, are people willing to click like on it? You’re seeing are people willing to pay for the next episode? So that’s, you know, commitment, commitment, feedback.

Yeah. And Bridger says, you know, we foresee a bunch of cliffhanger stuff. Yeah. And this is actually one of the things I wanted to talk about, too, is classically, you know, your movie serials, the movie serials are the origin of the word cliffhanger. Like it is the trope namer. Because you would leave your hero dangling off a cliff or some similar, you know, situation so that people had to come back to see how do they get out of it, kind of thing.

I think there is a real risk that you’re going to see people sacrificing story for structure because they’re going to try to shoehorn a lot of cliffhangers and artificial tension into things to try to get people into the next episode. I strongly suspect that if your writing is good, if they would have turned the page from chapter one to chapter two, they will also by, you know, go from Episode one episode two and again, you got three episodes that are free to get them in.

So I’m just going to say really just make sure your writing is good and don’t try to shoehorn artificial cliffhangers in. And I’ll just give you my favorite. Way, way, way, way back, and I’m reading, I think, a 1930s novel that had clearly been influenced by the movie serials of its time. And, you know, the protagonist, she’s going down the stairs. I’m pretty sure this was a Nancy Drew book, actually, if I think about it, one of the originals.

And she’s going down the stairs and she catches her toe on the stair and she pitches forward and she catches her breath. And the chapter ends.

And the chapter begins and she catches her balance on the next step and goes on down the stairs and opens the door. And I was like, are you freaking kidding me? That was so cheap. OK, but that’s what they were trying to compete with, this cliffhanger thing.

We do not need to do that. All right. Good writing is still going to be the most important thing. It’s going to beat cheap artificial thrills. So, yeah. So, yeah. Are we going to see people doing it? Absolutely we’re going to see people doing it. Do I think that, you know, you need to give up your story to get cheap cliffhangers? I would say have a killer story. That’s just going to be my recommendation, ok. Yeah.

Yeah. Kate points out, And a lot of filler episodes. Yeah. You thought that. Gosh, OK, I’m gonna show my age. Do anime series Still have the obligatory Hot Springs episode? I don’t know because I like back in. Back in, you always had, episode 13 was always the recap because that’s when the series structure you know, you’d get the seasonal pause. You’d have 12 episodes of plot. Episode 13 is when we talk about the things that happened. Remember that day? And then we pick up an episode 14 was like that, the rest of the plot. And then you had your like your spring break or Hot Springs episode or something like that. OK.

Oh, Alena says they don’t do an episode 13 recap anymore. Don’t do the clip show. OK, all the sadness. OK, well anyway.

I think gaming the system in exploiting your reader to get an extra token, I think that’s going to be a win the battle, lose the war kind of thing, like, yeah, you got the extra token this time, but you can only get away with that so often before they feel like, you know, I’m putting coins in this vending machine and I’m getting not what I paid for.

Again, I think if you just go back to make your story awesome, make your writing amazing, people are not going to ever feel cheated by that. So there’s my recommendation. So, OK. So, yeah. So anyway, I said I wanted this to be a discussion, but I am totally never pausing for air. So if anybody has comments that they have not been able to slip in yet, please feel free to do that.

And if you are thinking of trying this, I definitely want to know about it. And I would say since we have a kind of a core group that tend to show up regularly for for these streams, this would be a great place to kind of start a little kickoff. Right. Like, you know, definitely we could announce when everybody’s stories were going live. So I would I would be willing to do that and give everybody a little promo.

So, yeah. Sois anybody considering trying this? And again, like, I think one of the advantages here is you don’t have to commit to, I want to try a new fantasy story, but I don’t know if I want to write another 180000 word novel like, you know, Blood & Bond. But what if I had a 3000 word story and I wanted to do it in a few episodes? I could experiment and see, you know, if people even liked this concept.

OK. So this is a really good question. Bridger is asking, do we think it’s slow and thoughtful pacing will be viable on this platform like Robin Hobb or Patrick Rothfuss. Yeah, I’m wondering that too, because because that tends to be often a little more of what I do. Shard & Shield has an incredibly slow opening. I’ll just, you know, own that up front. There are a ridiculous number of moving parts in a two world story that are neither ours, not just a Second World fantasy, but the second and Third World fantasy.

So I’m thinking there might be some room for your classic “No kidding, there I was” in media res opening and then the exposition and then pick up again. You know, so there you might be able to do some of that way. The good news is 600 words is pretty short, 5000 words is pretty long. Even my beefiest chapters don’t tend to run more than 5000 words.

So we do have room for some exposition. We do have room for some thoughtfulness and some slower pacing. Not everything has to be a breakneck pace all the time. But I think those first three chapters better be pretty amazing. Because if it’s just slower set up or let’s explore our feelings or stuff at the beginning, we’re not going to get people to keep going. So.

OK, Adam, so this is this is a great this is a great point. So Adam says, My ears perked up when I heard about Vella. Since I write serial novellas, I define serial differently. To me, an episode is a 30000 word novella, so maybe it’s not serial at all.

So, yeah, about I don’t know, it was eight or 10 years ago. I’m going to have to. Don’t quote me on this, but serials were a thing. They weren’t as formalized on Amazon, but they definitely existed. And you would see people selling episodes that together created a serial novel.

Those episodes often ran five, fifteen, twenty thousand words or whatever. So they were novelettes or novellas, that then would form together. One of the stories that I’m considering putting on Vella is one that I initially conceived of as that kind of serial. It’s still labeled serial on my hard drive. It’s still broken out into 20 to 30000 word episodes. And I’m going to be like, and now let’s make you 800 word episodes, OK? So there’s going to be some rewriting, which is going to affect pacing, which is going to, right? Like all of these things are going to have to matter.

So, yeah, like everything else, you know, definitions come in flavors. So what I would say, Adam, is go ahead and think of, you know, you’ve got those 30000 words, but your 30000 words probably still have chapters. And that might be your new episode break for something like Vella. If you wanted to do Vella.

Oh, my gosh. Brandy’s considering, but has to see if she can properly outlined it first. Outlines, more power to you. It’s not a thing that my brain can do.

Bridger: because I’m a big fan of the navel gazing and the angst in general. Yeah, OK, sorry, I’m just catching up with the chat here. So Brandy has an steampunk alien spy story. Ooh that could be really fun. She wants to know where it’s going. Yes. This is why I need to have stuff in advance because I am not an outliner.

OK, let me just say, those of you who can plot out in advance and have really detailed outlines, I have friends who work this way. This is amazing. You’ll be able to rock this because you could, in theory, write weekly and and publish each each episode live. Don’t know if that’s the best plan. Editing is still your friend, but that is at least theoretically possible. Those of us who are discovery writers who were like, oh, it’s Chapter 72 and now I know what that steam engine was doing in chapter three. OK, not not quite as plausible for us.

Yes, so Bridger, yes, tokens are currently one token per hundred words, not a token per episode. So longer episodes do get paid more than shorter episodes. So you’re not going to get, you know, the good news is you’re not going to get people writing, you know, bursts of, you know, 600 words and no more to get the same amount of money, pacing is still going to be an option. You know, description is still going to be an option. All of that kind of thing.

Alena looks at 7500 word chapter, kicks manuscript under the bed. 7500 words is a really big chapter, I’m just saying. That’s like a lot. So Brandy says her chapters tend to be 1500 or 3000 words. That’s a lot more of where I sit. 5000 is when I’m really wrapping up some stuff. So. Yeah, OK.

OK, so Adam’s saying you did post a chapter at a time for Jewel of the Stars on Wattpad. OK, yeah. So I think, you know, there’s possible. Again we can. There’s going to be some rewriting and some massaging because it does come down to, you know, your pacing is different for serial fiction than it is for a novel. It has to be. But they can both still work, which is why Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I got to see on Saturday again, because, yeah. It was already in my notes before that even happened, but that was great.

But Raiders, Raiders, if you look at Raiders, you can see all the individual episodes because they were very definitely going for that format, but it holds together as a complete film.

So when Brandy doesn’t have an idea, she writes herself into a corner. Nice. And then you just have to flail until you get something

so Bridger asks if there are any penalties for just not finishing something at this time, because this was something I was interested in, too. At this time, nothing is spelled out now. I strongly suspect that there may be something that comes up in the future in the same way that if I put a preorder up on KDP, then I don’t deliver on my due date, and there are penalties for being able to put up a preorder in the future. So you might get something like that where if you have a habit of just dropping stories and never returning to them, maybe they just don’t let you start new stories.

I don’t know. That is — oh, Brandy, thanks for stopping by.

There is a completed indicator. So story all stories will be in the catalog as in progress or ongoing, in progress. Anyway, there’s that and then completed. So if I have a 10 episode story, which can happen, episodes one through nine will be in progress and episode 10 will be completed and then the reader can come in and know I’m starting one that’s already done. So readers will have that choice to select for those stories if they want to.

However, if you have a 300 episode story. More power to you. And, you know, it’s going to be in progress for a really long time and it might be that as you hit Episode 270, your readership is down to three people and you’re like, it’s just not worth it. Maybe you just stop doing that. And those three people are frustrated. But, you know, it’s three people.

But Amazon’s real big about the customer experience, as they should be. So I suspect that if that starts happening a lot, they’re going to put something in place to try to reduce that. We don’t yet know what those procedures might be.

So, yeah, and Alena is pointing out the penalty may just be angry reader ratings. You know that that’s very possible. And then the other thing is with that, like, you know, because we don’t have to commit, like I don’t have to say up front, my story will release daily or every Tuesday or, you know, whatever it might be. So there needs to be some slide for real life. I mean, these people are not, these people are getting paid when people read, they’re not writing on contract.

So, yeah, yeah. The ratio of abandoned stories to finished stories on FFN or anything like that. Yeah, absolutely. You’re exactly where, when I said I expect a tsunami at the beginning and a lot of churn and then it to settle out with people who can commit and sustain, this is exactly where I was.

So I think we’re going to see a lot of people have a lot of good intentions. I think we’re going to see a lot of readers get frustrated that, you know, some people had bigger eyes than quills. I don’t know if it’s a metaphor to work in writing? I don’t know how that works. So and this is why I kind of recommend having a lot of content scheduled and ready to go, possibly even. I don’t know yet if I will be able to take my own advice, but if I can have one work up that I can get everything uploaded and mark completed. So even if it’s not a novel length work, but people can see, hey, this author has three stories up. One of them is already completed. She looks more reliable.

This is just me spit balling. Nobody has any way to have had, you know, testing on this yet. People who tell you they know how it works, or people who are taking money to tell you how it works don’t have any more inside information. But this is where I’m kicking around ideas. So.

“Commit and sustain my unfavorite words.” Yeah. OK, so Alena’s pointing out S03 has completed stories only checkbox. That might well be something that can develop implements as well. We don’t know. So OK. Yeah.

So anyway. I just wanted to put out, you know, some solid info and then say, and these are the things we don’t know, and invite you to to brainstorm and consider and please share your great ideas with me, because I also want them.

So that’s it. So again, the big thing and I didn’t talk much about the craft of serial fiction because we had a lot to talk about with this new platform. But the big thing to think about is, serial fiction still needs great pacing and it’s going to be different pacing. So it may take some some effort and some massaging and some reading and serial fiction still needs editing. All of these things. But, you know, just it still ultimately needs to be about the reader’s experience and then if we can give the reader a really great experience, Cool. Let’s do that.

And I think there’s some opportunity here to grab some different readers. My epic fantasy are big books, like I just said, like Blood and Bond is one hundred and eighty thousand words. I can use it as a weapon if somebody breaks into my house, if I have a physical copy of it. But those are big books. You know, a reader who is not, you know, necessarily looking for something to sit down with a tome, you know, is it a weighted blanket and a weighted book, but is really interested in that kind of story, but in smaller chunks without feeling like, you know, there’s there’s no pressure to get past this particular episode this week or something like that. This might be a good place to pick up that kind of reader.

Yeah, OK, so Bridger saying for nonfiction could see something like Karen Overall’s protocol for relaxation or similarly step by step daily assignments. That’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t know if readers are going to look for it there. I don’t know if that that that people who are who are looking for that kind of help are going to be looking in this kind of format. But I think this is something where if you have an audience and you can direct them to this format, it’s a good option. So it kind of needs an audience to start if you’re going to use it in that kind of way. In my estimation at this time, but I think there are possibilities.

So. OK. So, yeah, so if anybody’s got last minute comments or questions, I’m happy to do that. Otherwise, I have exhausted my notes and the things I was making up as I went along. And we can wrap that. So Bridger says, I wasn’t supposed to be interested in this. Hey, I didn’t remotely have this on my radar anyway. I was totally working just on, I just need to get Kin & Kind out. That’s my priority. And then I get this email like, hey, we’re launching this new platform. It’ll be in July. And I was like, I guess I need to have some more stuff ready in July.

So, yeah, totally, totally wrecked my schedule too. But flexibility in life. Yeah. So yeah. Alena says now all I need is an extra six months between now and July to get ready. Yeah. And I don’t, it’s not that you have to go live in July and let me just underscore like 18 times, it is better to launch later with a better product than to launch early with you know, those early chapters, early episodes… Your first impression was not your ideal impression and your readers and readers don’t choose to follow your story.

OK, so it’s you know, I think there is going to be an Oklahoma land rush. But I think unlike the actual state of Oklahoma, there will be additional land once the first line of people go by. So, yeah, but but yeah, do be thinking about things.

And, you know, like maybe you’ve got that trunk story that you were always considering maybe pulling out and doing something with. Pull it out and look at it. You can always decide it’s not good enough. Right. But give it a look. So

Do we know how linked it will be to Amazon author pages? We do not know. I suspect that it will be tied into Author Central and everything in the same way, but that is one hundred percent just me speculating because it’s not live. And so we don’t actually know.

Oh, OK. Yeah. Adam says the thing that makes this attractive is I have three books drafted that need editing. It’ll be forever before I get to write again, you know, meaning doing first drafting stuff. So I’m trapped in editing purgatory. We send chocolate! Something that this could be a good excuse to write again. Yes, exactly. And and again, because this I don’t have to commit to a novel length work. I have to commit to something that I can deliver a good story. And so that could be, you know, five episodes, that could be ten episodes, whatever. So.

So thanks for joining me as I brain dump on new platforms and ideas for using them. And next week it’s going to be subscriptions, memberships, crowdfunding, Patreon, Ko-Fi. All the ones that I’m not remembering. And we have a whole collection of people here to share their wisdom, experience and ideas, and I’m totally, totally going to pay attention and figure out what I can use to have a story on both Vella and another episodic platform at the same time.

So that is it. And oh, and one more thing. We talked last week with Margaret McGriff. I don’t think I said this yet, but we ended up talking about we needed to have her back. She is coming back. And I think that is June 1st. Is June 1st a Tuesday? If June 1st is a Tuesday, she will be back then and we will be talking about newsletters and things like that. And then if June 1st is not Tuesday, it will be something like that, I don’t know. I have calendars for this purpose. Clearly not in front of me, but they do exist. So, yeah, check that out. All right.

Oh yes. It is a Tuesday. Thank you, Bridger for being my external fact checker brain for me tonight. All right. And then I will see all of you guys next week for subscriptions, crowdfunding and all the things. Thank you. Take care. Bye.

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2 Comments

  1. Glad to see you addressing this new opportunity, Laura! I’ve been digging into the idea myself, as I’ve got 60k words written on a serial story I started back in 2012. It has languished while my attention was elsewhere, and not least because I just wasn’t sure how/where to sell it. But my rough draft episodes varied between 750-7500 words, and I hadn’t settled on a consistent rhythm yet. Re-writing is now my priority, to get it fit for Vella.

    Oh, and I want to say THANK YOU for including a transcript. I just can’t consume video/audio content easily in my current lifestyle, and being able to skim through and not miss this conversation is wonderful!

    • I am SO much better at reading than watching! I would much rather have a post than a video tutorial.

      If I were a better person, I would re-write the transcripts as sleeker articles, but I don’t have the time for that unless the videos and posts start actually paying instead of being a sink :D so transcripts for now! But I’m glad they’re useful.

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