With self-publishing platforms like Wattpad and Radish growing in popularity, it’s no surprise that Amazon has thrown their hat in the ring with Kindle Vella.
If you’re an indie writer, you might have already heard of this new platform, and you might be super excited to have heard that writers get 50% of their earnings on Kindle Vella.
But what is Kindle Vella? How does it work, and is it right for everyone? Let’s discuss.
What is Kindle Vella?
Kindle Vella is a new platform that authors can use to share their stories with readers in an episodic style. The big feature of Kindle Vella is its serialized format—authors publish content in ‘episodes,’ and readers consume that content one episode at a time.
If you’re a reader, here’s how it works: you find stories and media through the Kindle Vella store and preview the first few episodes of the story for free. If you’re interested, you purchase the story one episode at a time using tokens (more on that later). You can leave thumbs up and thumbs down with the stories you read.
If you’re a writer, read on to learn more about how Kindle Vella works, whether it’s a viable option for you, and what you can expect when you publish through Kindle Vella.
Is Kindle Vella a good way to publish for me?
You’ve probably heard that Kindle Vella pays authors fifty percent of royalties, which might sound like a done-and-done deal. But before you rush over to start your Kindle Vella career, it’s still worth weighing the features to decide if this platform is right for you.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about joining Kindle Vella:
1. How quickly do you write?
Kindle Vella’s focus on serialized episodes definitely has an impact on what kind of content writers can submit. It also has an impact on how they write it. Writers are incentivized to produce more episodes to get more readers to spend their tokens on them, which means there’s sort of a drive to write as much as possible.
And because it’s serialized, there’s also an incentive for writers to write faster than is “traditional”.
If you’re the sort of writer who tends to take a long time to write, this might be stressful for you. You’ll have readers waiting for your next installment, and while some readers might still come across your old chapters, you’ll mostly be waiting until you’ve published a new episode to attract more readers.
Basically, you’re building momentum as you go. This isn’t good or bad, but it’s worth considering whether that work style works for you.
2. Do you want to publish this story as a book?
Kindle Vella is great for authors publishing their original work, but it doesn’t come without content restrictions. There’s a set of rules for authors looking to take their episodes and turn them into actual longform content, or books.
First, the episodes have to be on Kindle Vella for at least a year. Additionally, the episodes cannot appear in more than one book or longform medium.
What does this mean? Basically, if you want to publish your Kindle Vella story as a book, you’ll need to wait a little while even after your last episode has been uploaded. It doesn’t mean you can’t publish it as a book, but you will need to factor that into your publishing schedule.
It’s also worth considering that readers expect episodes when they come to Kindle Vella. In other words, just uploading chapters of a book might seem strange, because those chapters aren’t formatted the way an episode might be. If you create a series of episodes for Kindle Vella that you want to turn into a book, you may need to tinker with it to make it fit more with that format.
Another quick note: you cannot take a book you’ve already published and put that on Kindle Vella. You have to write something new. Kindle Vella could be great for a series of books if the timing is scheduled intentionally.
3. Is your story available for free anywhere else?
Another of Kindle Vella’s content guidelines is that you can’t publish content that’s in the public domain or free anywhere else.
In other words, if you’ve got a Wattpad story that’s available for free on Wattpad, you can’t copy and paste that into Kindle Vella for some quick cash.
Kindle Vella vs Wattpad
Kindle Vella is especially attractive to users already familiar with Wattpad, and for good reason: on the surface, they seem pretty similar. However, these two platforms are pretty different for authors, so let’s go over some of the major differences.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Kindle Vella and Wattpad comes down to content restrictions.
We already mentioned that Kindle Vella does not allow you to take a novel you’ve already published, turn it into episodes, and upload it onto Kindle Vella. But you also need to keep an eye out for copyright laws and eBook guidelines.
Basically, you can’t upload fanfiction or work that isn’t your own to Kindle Vella.
Wattpad is a little bit different. For one, Wattpad readers are used to reading chapters of a story as opposed to the episodes on Kindle Vella. Wattpad also allows for fanfiction, as long as you aren’t claiming the copyrighted material as your own (which is a good thing) or publishing as the author of the world you’re writing with.
Payout on Kindle Vella vs Wattpad
Readers access episodes on Kindle Vella by purchasing tokens, which they can use to unlock each episode. Authors are paid 50% of what the reader spent to unlock the episode.
Written Word Media breaks it down like this: “if a reader spent $9.99 on 1,100 tokens, and bought a 3,000 word episode for 30 tokens, the author would receive $0.1362.”
Wattpad offers a Wattpad Stories program to select writers, who are then able to put their stories behind a paywall. Wattpad authors can also link to Ko-Fi or Patreon accounts, secure brand sponsorships, or apply for the Wattpad Stars program. Basically, you can still get paid for your work, but it’s a little less direct.
Engagement From Readers
Kindle Vella allows readers to leave a thumbs up or a thumbs down to engage with their favorite stories, but that’s about it. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for building a platform from Kindle Vella. This information is still valuable to the writer, which we’ll talk about later, but it isn’t going to do much by way of building a community.
On Wattpad, you have a comments section, which allows readers to talk to one another and interact with the author. This means that an author can grow a platform on Wattpad and form a community around their work, interacting with their fans who can also interact with one another and discuss the story.
Having your readers able to voice exactly what their concerns are with the story also takes a lot of the guesswork out of revising future installments for the author.
How to publish with Kindle Vella
Here are the guidelines for publishing a story on Kindle Vella, straight from the Kindle Vella website. All you’ll need to get started is a KDP account and access to your Kindle Vella library!
Now that you understand how to publish your first episode on Kindle Vella, let’s talk strategy. Kindle Vella is a different animal than its current competitors, and there are certain things authors should keep in mind if they want to use Kindle Vella as their new means of revenue.
Keep in mind that understanding what your book could earn is a very important factor when deciding if you want to create material for a platform like Kindle Vella or if you think your time and energy could better be spent publishing books.
1. Use The Ratings Systems
I know I mentioned earlier that Kindle Vella’s engagement system isn’t quite as ideal as Wattpad’s in terms of building an audience. That may be true, but it’s still possible to use Kindle Vella’s ratings system to your advantage as an author.
As you’re publishing episodes, take note of what does well and what doesn’t. Do episodes featuring certain characters always get more thumbs-up, or are there certain characters that bring a ton of dislikes?
Keep track of how people respond and adjust accordingly. This is one benefit to a serialized format—you can kind of course-correct as you go. If you were planning on starting a new arc with some characters that your audience ended up hating, you can drop that plan and do something different.
2. Write in Advance to Publish Frequently
Kindle Vella wants episodes, and if you want to maximize your profit, it wants them quickly. If you’ve worked with high-volume word count projects before, you might know that this kind of thing can pretty quickly lead to author burnout: you’re super excited at the start, you publish six or seven episodes back to back, and then you’re exhausted, sick of the story, and stuck in the middle of the whole thing.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to avoid this: write your episodes in advance!
Plan out your project however far you’re comfortable, or even all the way to the end. Then, you can schedule the release of each episode without having to stress about whether it’ll be done by then. You could even use this to your advantage and schedule release parties online—knowing the episodes are already done gives you lots more options as far as publishing goes, and it puts you in a better position for marketing.
A quick note: what I said earlier about listening to ratings still applies here. Get your episodes written, but maybe leave a little leeway in your publication schedule for tweaks as you respond to audience feedback. Instead of having the entire project done, it might be helpful to have a few episodes ready to go at a time so that you can switch gears as needed without unravelling your whole plan.
Basically: have an idea of where the story’s going to end up, have a few episodes planned out in advance, and be ready to make edits as you respond to your audience.
3. Build An Audience
Speaking of book marketing! If you want to make a lot of money on Kindle Vella, you’re going to want to build an author platform. Remember, Kindle Vella doesn’t have a comments section. It does have a place for authors to include an author’s note—which you should definitely use—but building an audience on Kindle Vella is going to be a challenge.
You will get plenty of repetition writing to market and this could be beneficial in your long-term goals.
This means you need to up your social media game, get connected with other writers, and build a readership base to come buy your episodes. You might even use something like Wattpad to gather that readership before bringing them to Kindle Vella!
But if you want to use Kindle Vella and only Kindle Vella, you’ll really want to hone in on that author’s note. Try to connect readers to a newsletter that keeps them posted about your work. This will help you stay more connected with your readers, and it will give readers more chances to support you.
However you decide to go about it, it’s best to get this audience built—at least in part—before you start uploading your episodes. You don’t need a massive author platform to get started, but growing that story will happen much more easily if you already have a few dedicated readers. Plus, it’ll help you stay motivated!
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