Kindle Vella: Amazon’s Newest Way to Reach Readers

Introducing Kindle Vella – Amazon’s Newest Way to Reach Readers

Amazon has recently launched a new way for authors to reach readers – known as Kindle Vella:

U.S. based authors can publish serialized stories, one short episode at a time. In the next few months, readers will be able to access Kindle Vella stories in the Kindle iOS app and on Amazon.com.

So what exactly does it all mean? That’s what we’re here to help you with!

In this post, we’ll take a quick look at how Kindle Vella works, what it means for self-published authors like you, what the content guidelines are, and what the implications could be. 

Let’s get started!

How Kindle Vella Works

So first thing’s first, let’s talk about how Kindle Vella works. It’s actually pretty neat:

Kindle Vella is an episodic way of sharing serialized stories with readers over an extended period of time – one episode at a time.

Readers will find the story either through the Kindle Vella store on Amazon.com and on the Kindle app on iOS.

Once readers find your story, they can start reading immediately. Amazon has made it so that the first three chapters (i.e. episodes) of the Kindle-Vella story are free to read. In order to read any additional episodes, readers will need to spend Tokens to unlock them. 

The number of Tokens needed to unlock an episode is determined by the episode’s word count. 

In addition to the episodic format of releasing content, Amazon has also introduced three new metrics for readers to interact with authors:

  • Follow – Readers can follow stories they like and get notified when the next episode is released
  • Fave – Readers can bookmark a story they like, and Amazon will feature the most Faved story in the Kindle Vella store
  • Thumbs Up – Readers can let the authors know they liked the episode with a Like/Thumbs-Up

For authors, they can add an Author’s Note that lets them share with their readers any additional thoughts, insights, or even previews of what the next episode may contain. 

Let’s start with the most important question:

How much does Kindle Vella pay? 

According to Amazon, you’ll earn 50% of what readers spent on the Tokens used to unlock your story’s episodes. In addition, you’ll also be eligible for a launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement. 

Here is how much Amazon is currently pricing Tokens:

Based on those numbers at first glance:

Authors are paid about $0.005 per 100 words. 

However, the amount paid out will also be dependent on the price the reader paid for their Tokens. 

Here’s a deeper look into how Amazon calculates royalties for Kindle Vella:

The formula Amazon uses is: 

(Number of Tokens to unlock episode) * (Tokens bundle price/# Tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) * (50% rev share) = Earnings per episode

So let’s say an episode is 3025 words – which costs 30 Tokens. The final payout is different depending on which plan the reader bought under. Let’s say one user bought 200 Tokens for $1.99 and the other bought 1100 Tokens for $9.99:

Royalty earned on a 200 Token user:

  • 30 Tokens * (1.99/200 Tokens – 0) * 50% = $0.1493
  • This is about $0.0049 per 100 words

Royalty earned on a 1100 Token user:

  • 30 Tokens * (9.99/1100 Tokens – 0) * 50% = $0.1362
  • This is about $0.0045 per 100 words

When Amazon first announced Kindle Vella, 140 Tokens costed $1.99, two days later, Amazon revised the number down to 200 Tokens for $1.99. In other words, within 2 day of launch, Amazon has already decreased potential pay to authors by about 30%. This means that as Amazon continues to tweak and optimize the overall Kindle Vella ecosystem, potential payout can still remain in flux.

As for the launch bonus, there’s not much information out just yet about how that’ll be calculated. But I would guess that it will work similarly to how the most read authors in Kindle Unlimited are given a Kindle All-Star Bonus. 

Now, let’s talk about what all of this means for self-published authors and why you should start publishing on Kindle Vella: 

Why You Should Start Publishing on Kindle Vella?

The idea of serialized content isn’t new. In fact, if you’ve been publishing your works on Wattpad for the last few years, you’ll immediately recognize how familiar Kindle Vella’s business model sounds. 

We immediately identified three main benefits that Kindle Vella addresses:

Kindle Vella pays a fixed rate of per 100 words instead of converting words into an opaque KENPC value.

Kindle Vella is arguably the fairest way that Amazon has ever paid its authors through an exclusive program. 

Where Kindle Unlimited takes your manuscript and crunches it through a black box to give you the KENPC value (which can vary wildly based on how you space and format your books), Kindle Vella pays based on word count. 

This means that no matter how you space and format your book, it won’t change the number of Tokens it takes to unlock an episode. An episode can be as long as 5,000 words or as short as 600 words, and the pay per word will still be the same.

Kindle Vella captures a younger audience through micropayments

One of the key drivers for success on Wattpad is its ability to capture a younger audience due to its use of micropayments. As younger readers continue reading more and more content from a single author over time, they develop stronger brand loyalty to the author and is more likely to keep buying from the same author. 

Kindle Vella is harder to game than Kindle Unlimited

If you’ve been publishing for a while, you’ll know that Kindle Unlimited is on version 3.0 because people have been finding ways to abuse the payment system.

In the first version of KU, authors were paid when 10% of their books were read. This led to people publishing extremely short books that hit that 10% as soon as a reader opened it.

In the second version of KU, Amazon introduced KENPC and paid a per page rate in an attempt to fix the problem of extremely short books. This just led to unscrupulous authors publishing super long books of largely nonsense and embedding links within that takes readers to the end of the book, netting massive page reads.

This led to the third version of KU, where Amazon outright capped maximum KENPC at 3000. Of course, this still led to people combining books and offering them as “bonus” content.

This resulted in a “soft” fourth version of KU, where Amazon limited the total amount of bonus content to 10% of the book. But you get the idea: Amazon is always playing catch-up to make the system as fair as possible, and along the way, there will always be some authors who are unfairly caught up in the battle. 

With Kindle Vella, this is the first time that Amazon has created a system that is incredibly difficult to game, as it is based on word count and nothing else.

Kindle Vella offers authors a more intimate way to connect with readers. 

Kindle Vella – with its author notes – lets authors build up a much more personal relationship with their readers. This allows an author to establish a stronger brand identity, as well as build deeper reader loyalty. 

The shorter format of the episodic Kindle Vella content also means authors can take reader feedback into consideration as they write their story. One prominent example of how a self-published author who did this is Andy Weir during the process of writing The Martian

When Mr. Weir started writing, he originally posted the story in episodic content on Reddit, taking reader feedback into account–either by incorporating them into the story or using them to help correct any potential plot holes or scientific inaccuracies. By doing this, Mr. Weir built a strong relationship with his readers–reader who felt a personal connection to the story.

This kind of personal reader connection helped propel The Martian to the top of the charts on the day of release, and is what drove the success of the book all the way to the point that it was made into a blockbuster film. 

There’s so much more for what Kindle Vella means for self-published authors and the changes that it’ll bring to the publishing industry at large, but I’ll save that for later. 

Because I know you–the author–are eager to know just what kind of content you’ll be allowed to publish via Kindle Vella!

What are the Content Guidelines for Kindle Vella

Because Kindle Vella is such a radical departure from how books are usually distributed, there are some key content guidelines that you need to be aware of.

Story Image:

Similar to Wattpad, Kindle Vella requires that you put an image that conveys the broad feeling of your story rather than a cover. In fact, you don’t even need to include the book title on your story image. Amazon recommends a 1600×1600 JPG or TIFF image under 2MB. 

Episode Length and Formatting

Kindle Vella episodes must have a minimum of 600 words and a maximum of 5000 words. Currently, Kindle Vella supports basic formatting like bold, italics, and underline. It does not support more advanced formatting like indents, charts, images, special characters, tables, or emojis.

Author Notes:

Author notes on Kindle Vella cannot exceed more than 200 words and does not support HTML. You are also not allowed to link out or prompt users to leave the reading experience. So the author notes are not where you tell your readers to sign up for your mailing list.

Now let’s talk about what you can’t do.

You cannot:

  • Put together your Kindle Vella content into a book in any language. To do that, you’ll need to unpublish from Kindle Vella first
  • Publish anything that is freely available on the web into Kindle Vella
  • Break down your previously published book into Episodes and republish in Kindle Vella – even if that book is no longer available or written in another language

In other words, you cannot recycle content for Kindle Vella nor can you turn your Kindle Vella content into a full book.

You must also adhere to any existing content and metadata guidelines that currently exist for eBooks. 

And just like eBook, Kindle Vella books can have up to seven tags/keywords added to it so readers can get a feel for what the story is about. Here are things you should avoid doing in those keywords:

  • Do not include information covered elsewhere in your story’s metadata like title, contributor, etc.
  • Do not include subjective claims like “best”
  • Do not include time-sensitive statements like “new”
  • Do not use information common to most items in the category like “story”
  • Do not make spelling errors
  • Do not misrepresent anything – Kindle Vella has a zero tolerance policy – i.e. they will ban your book and/or your account for repeat violation
  • Do not include Amazon program names (e.g. Kindle Vella, KDP, Kindle Unlimited, etc.)
  • Do not use language that promotes violence or intolerance
  • Do not use sexually explicit language

As long as your Kindle Vella content and keyword data does not violate any of the above, the sky’s the limit! 

How Kindle Vella Will Change the Publishing Industry

That’s right, Kindle Vella–with enough support from Amazon–will completely change the publishing industry as we know it.

See, I told you it was going to be a doozy. 

Let’s just start with the most obvious one:

Self-Publishing is about to get a whole lot bigger

If I ask you what the most common form of self-publishing is on the internet, would you be able to name it? 

Don’t look below for the answer, that’s cheating. 

I’ll give you a few more seconds to guess.

Okay. You got an answer? 

Are you sure that’s the final answer? 

Last chance…

… alright, enough messing around – the answer is:

Fan fiction!

That’s right, fan fiction makes up the most common form of self publishing on the internet, and for good reason. The only thing that a fanfic writer needs is a book or a series that they loved so much that they started writing off-shoot stories set within that world.

Now, there’s conflicting thoughts on the merits of fan fiction among authors – with some encouraging it and others discouraging it. But what cannot be denied is the sheer reach and size of the fan fiction world. 

In fact, one of the most successful self-published book that ever came into being–Fifty Shades of Grey–started out as a fan fiction to Twilight. And among the rest of the fan fiction stories out there, there are some truly well-written stories like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. 

But you know what the coolest thing is? 

Fan fiction writers are extremely familiar with the episodic content format, because that’s how most fan fictions are written. It starts off with the seed of an idea, and it gets refined and improved through immediate feedback. 

Now, those fan fiction writers finally have an avenue to take their skills and monetize them in front of the massive Amazon audience. But that’s just touching the tip of the iceberg for the changes that are coming:

Traditional publishers will face added pressure in the coming years

Assuming that Amazon provides Kindle Vella with robust support, we will see traditional publishers come under increasing pressure to make adjustments and changes to their existing model. 

With Amazon’s deep reach, a widespread adoption of the Kindle Vella episodic format for books will mean that traditional publishers like the Big 5 will need to start making adjustments to the way they publish their books. 

Moreover, by giving authors 50% of the money spent on their content, Amazon has democratized the publishing space even more than what has been done in the past. 

Writing longer content is no longer “risky” for authors

One of the biggest fears that an author–especially a self-published author–has is writing a magnum opus, putting it out there, and then seeing it flop. With Kindle Vella and the episodic release format, the barrier to getting started is lower than it has ever been. 

And like I mentioned earlier in the article: the immediate feedback authors can receive from their readers means that authors who embark on writing epic-length stories will also have the help of their readers.

Reader participation will help an author keep details in longer stories straight, come up with new challenges for their characters, and incorporate new ideas that readers come up with to take the story in new and interesting directions. 

Tell us your thoughts!

Wow, that was a lot of words. Now we want to hear from you! 

  • What are your thoughts on Kindle Vella?
  • What stories are you planning on publishing through it?
  • How do you feel about episodic content?
  • Where do you see Kindle Vella going in the next few years?
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Samantha Blackwood

The way I understand it is that you actually CAN publish Vella content as a book – but only AFTER pulling all the episodes from the Vella site…this was confirmed in a meeting with Amazon reps at which several authors I know were in attendance. If you parse the TOS, it does say the same thing, but in a convoluted way.

Guy Riessen

Yeah it pretty clearly says you can publish as a book, but only AFTER your remove all the Vella episodes.

Suzan Tisdale

I have a lot of questions and concerns.

  1. Do we know if Amazon will offer Vella bonuses like they do with KU All Stars?
  2. What happens if Amazon continues to change the cost/number of tokens? They’ve already gone from 140 for $1.99 to 200 for $1.99, on a service that hasn’t even been launched yet. There is nothing stopping them from going to 500 for $1.99 or offering ‘sales’ such as 1,000 tokens for $1.99. I’m not saying they will, but I am saying the potential is there.
  3. If they do start offering author bonuses based on tokens sold, can anyone else see the scammers taking advantage in some way?
  4. What else are we giving them rights to? I haven’t read the TOS yet, but I wonder, are we giving Amazon any rights to movie deals or game deals etc?

These are questions I’d like answers to before dipping my toe into this particular pond.
PS: GREAT article! Thanks for breaking this down for us.

Pete

Hi Suzan, these are GREAT questions!

  1. Details are scarce, but Amazon has said that Vella stories with the most number of FAVEs will be featured in the store. Amazon is still in the process of finalizing everything for the program, so I’m sure additional details will emerge. Side note: I could’ve sworn I saw that they mentioned some type of bonus when Vella was announced, but it’s not there anymore.
  2. Yes, the potential is there for Amazon to continue changing the price of tokens. Ultimately, it comes down to what Amazon feels will make them the most money. My recommendation is that if you have content that can be adapted to serial form, then publish those on Vella before competition starts heating up. The first months of KU-1 and KU-2 were incredibly lucrative for authors that took advantage of the program in the early days, and Kindle Vella will likely be the same.
  3. The benefit of Kindle Vella is that because authors are paid per word, it’s much harder to game than KU (e.g. book stuffing, super short books, etc.). I’m sure scammers will eventually figure out a way to game the system that’ll force Amazon to adapt. but as far as I can tell right now, it’s not going to be that easy for them.
  4. When you publish a book in Vella, you agree to not publish the content in non-episodic form. So if you wanted to take your Vella content and combine it into a single book, Amazon will not allow that. I would imagine the same is true if you’re trying to make it into a movie/TV show. But as far as rights, you must be the person who holds the rights or otherwise holds the permission from the original rights holder in order to publish it. Amazon does hold the rights to works that you submit.
Dave

Can we insert links to our author website and/or newsletter sign-up page within the episodes or our Vella profile for readers to see?

Last edited 5 months ago by Oleg
Pete

Hi Dave, Kindle Vella does not permit any formatting beyond basic markdowns like bold, italics, and underline.

Amazon also explicitly states that you’re not allowed to direct readers off Kindle Vella within your content. So you cannot tell readers to sign up to your mailing list inside your Vella books.

On your Vella profile, I assume that you should be able to do so. But my general guess is that Amazon will want to keep readers locked in on the Vella ecosystem, so additional restrictions may be coming down the line.

Dave

Thanks for the info. Do you know if we will be able to pay for advertising to our Vella stories?

Pete

I would imagine that you should be able to set up an AMS campaign to your Vella stories. It may take Amazon some more time to get that process set up, but I doubt they would want to miss out on additional sources of income for themselves.

Kathleen

I think this is great. And agree that everyone needs to know the good and the bad. I have a put the info in and saved it as a draft for my first one. I’m so glad a I read this… didn’t know how it would pay or the guidelines for the do’s and don’ts’. Nor did I realize it could never been made into a ‘book.’.

As a new author I am so jazzed. I believe this will help me strengthen my writing so much.

Thank you for doing an in-depth check on it.

Pete

Thank you, Kathleen!

That was the impetus behind writing this: having all the details laid out will help authors make more profitable decisions, which is a driving force behind all of us here at Publishwide.

IMO, the coolest thing about Kindle Vella is how much it lowers the barrier of entry for authors.

No need to create a cover, no need to have the full manuscript ready, near-instant feedback that you can receive from readers, as well as the ability to interact with readers through author notes will make a serious impact on the overall self-publishing landscape!

Lisa

“Now, those fan fiction writers finally have an avenue to take their skills and monetize them in front of the massive Amazon audience.” Isn’t that going to be a huge copywrite issue? The reason fanfic authors can write on sites like Archive of our Own is it’s free. As long as no money is being made they can’t be sued for intellectual property. It seems you have used a bad example.

Pete

Creative fan fiction writers will know to switch out the settings and characters so that the content does not violate any copyright. This is what E. L. James did with Fifty Shades of Grey. Originally, it was a fanfic of Twilight – Christian grey was a vampire before he was a billionaire.

After her fans started petitioning her to publish it as a standalone novel, she changed some of the details but kept the story largely the same.

But most importantly, she leveraged her massive audience, who were more than happy to purchase the repackaged book.

I imagine some of the more well-read fanfic writers–and there are many out there–would be able to seize upon this opportunity to let their readers know that they will be embarking on a brand new story that is “like X but different” and immediately be able to monetize it due to their existing fan base.

The ability to publish without needing a cover or a full manuscript fits very well with the episodic release model of fan fiction, and those writers are very familiar engaging with that sort of audience.

Earl

How frequently would someone have to publish an episode? Could it be twice a month? Or would it have to be weekly or even twice weekly?
I ask because I can see this as a great way to explore a new idea, but I still have other content I have to be working on. And I’m not speedy enough to be cranking out 5k words every day. (A salute to those who can!)

Pete

You as the author determine your own release schedule. From what other people are saying and from looking at what similar episodic content releases are like, I would say that a good schedule to keep to is maximum 1 episode a week so you keep your readers as engaged as possible.

Obviously, you don’t need to crank out 5000 words per episode (the minimum is 600 words, after all), but something like 1000-1500 words a week is pretty do-able. If you release “bite-sized” stories, then you can do 2 episodes per week at about 750 words each.

Paul

Thanks for this great analysis , Pete. I think you are right. This could be a game changer. Frustrating for those of us who live outside the USA, but we will be able to look on and learn, and be ready when they roll it out.

Pete

Thank you, Paul! 100% agree on the frustration for authors outside of the USA who are unable to get in on Kindle Vella while it is a level playing field. But on the flip side, non-US authors will also have the opportunity to see how US authors have reacted and make more informed decisions once KV goes international.

Last edited 5 months ago by Ethan Wojcinski
Jeff

Hi, great article. Interesting comment. As discussed above, micropayments may attract a younger demographics. Does anyone have an idea what the demographics (age) is for “serialized” romance from other platforms? If the demographics is younger than the traditional romance reader, its important to write to that. Appreciate any help or points in the right direction!

Thanks!

Jeff
ChooseAHero.com

Pete

Different authors would give you different answers for that question. A writer who writes serialized paranormal academy romances may have younger readers whereas a writer who writes serialized regency romances may have have older readers.

Ultimately, it comes down to the general demographics of any particular romance subgenre.

Gail Sherman Gates

I have published on Kindle/Amazon my first book in what will be a series. They are already broken down into episodes. I would be thrilled to have a new way to publish but, unless i am missing something, it looks like Non-Fiction is not permitted. Can anyone verify this for me?

Oleg

They have a non-fiction category so its gotta be okay: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/category/21364103011

Rigger42

Isn’t a key point of fanfiction that you *can’t* monetize it formally? They can put up a Patreon or Amazon wish list, or get donations for their site, but if authors started getting paid expressly for derivative work, the authors of the original works couldn’t continue to turn a blind eye.

Carla Davis Watkins

Love the concept but it’s not easy to find. I had to go to my Amazon app and search for KV. Shouldn’t it be a tab across the top? Maybe that’s the plan when it hard launches? Still trying to figure out how to do alerts for the books I have favorited. I also downloaded kindle app and can’t find alert settings.

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