This week I was scrolling through Facebook, reading comments from friends and checking out my groups, and someone posted about Amazon’s new Kindle Vella storytelling format that was launched on April 13, 2021. I took a look at it and thought, hmm, this is interesting.
The way this will work is that writers will release episodes of a serialized story for readers to consume. Readers will get the first three episodes for free, then if they want to continue reading the story, they must purchase Tokens to read the next episodes.
If this brings to mind soap operas, you’re correct that it will have a soap opera feel to it. Each episode will be a self-contained story, but they will be part of a continuing story. Kindle Vella stories should be between 600–5,000 word per episode.
Authors will earn 50% royalties. Each story will cost a different amount of Tokens depending on the word count. Readers will be charged one token per 100 words. They will have various options on how to buy tokens. They can purchase 200 tokens for $1.99. The more tokens they buy the bigger the discount they get, for example, they can purchase 1,700 tokens for $14.99.
What this will really look like is unclear. This could be profitable for writers, but how much writers will ultimately make, compared to selling a full novel remains to be seen.
The cool part of this is that readers can interact with the writer. They can follow writers and stories get notified when a new episode of their favorite story is released. They can also “fave” the stories they like and give episodes a thumbs up in social media-like fashion. Amazon explains what the reader experience will be like on their site.
Writers can write messages and comments to readers which allows an immediate connection with readers that books do not.
Amazon provides the full guidelines for those who want to give this writing format a try. The basic restrictions are that if a writer has already published a book, they can not break it down and publish it as episodes for Kindle Vella. And if they later want to take the episodes and create a book, they must unpublish all the episodes. In other words, decide if you want this to be a novel or a serialized story, but you can’t do both.
Positive Reaction to This Format
My first reaction was that this is genius. Readers do not like to spend a lot of time reading and if they could read an episode on their phone quickly while standing in line or before bed, it’s preferable to reading a complete book.
Those on the Facebook group where they were discussing Kindle Vella also seemed to like the idea and seemed interested in participating in the new storytelling format.
But actually, Amazon is the not the first publisher to think of this. Wattpad has a similar format. Authors post chapters of books for readers to enjoy. Readers can comment on the margin of the story and interact with each other. There are free stories and paid stories. And for the paid stories, readers purchase coins.
So, though Amazon’s idea is not original, it’s still a great idea in my opinion.
Writers who are considering becoming published authors but who might not want to write an entire book all at once, might consider this format. Episodes might be more manageable and allow writers to focus just on the story ARC of that episode.
Think of any TV show that you like. Each episode is a story all on its own, but also has a continuing storyline, making viewers want to return, binge watch, and find out what happens to the characters.
I guess my caution to writers would be to treat the episodes as you would a novel you would self-publish. You don’t want to write something quickly and get it up on Kindle Vella the next day. Write it, re-write it, edit it, have a professional editor edit it, then publish it. This would mean that you’d want to get a few episodes written before uploading the series. In fact, Amazon suggests you have six to ten episodes written before uploading the first one.
This could be a way to gain readership for unpublished authors, but only if the writing is strong. Reader will not continue to read a series that is poorly written or uninteresting.
I look forward to seeing how this new venture turns out for Amazon and for writers. The more options and writing formats are available to authors, the better. We’re definitely entering a new world in fiction where authors are not tied to the traditional publishing format. It’s exciting!
Have a story to tell? Want to learn how to record personal experiences before they’re lost or write a novel? Let started by downloading for free Julia Amante’s “Free Your Story” framework.