So You Want To Be a Vellan?Shop Talk
I’m excited to have found Kindle Vella a little over a year ago. I had been writing on AnyStories (now called NovelSnack) and was disheartened at the lack of dependability they offered when Google kicked them out of the Play store. Working in the tech industry when I’m not writing left me feeling really cold about any of the apps similar to AnyStories.
What the heck is Kindle Vella?
Kindle Vella (Vella) is Amazon’s app for serialized fiction. Authors join Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), create their story, add a cover image, and start posting each chapter (called episodes). Readers then login to the kindle app on their phone, or navigate to Vella in their browser to read the stories.
What are the rules?
It’s pretty simple. For a full list of the rules go here. The following are a simplified version.
- Your story cannot be published in any other format before it goes to Vella.
- You agree to not publish your Vella anywhere free for people to consume.
- To publish your Vella in ebook/print format, you must wait 30 days from the first publish date of the last episode you want to put in the book.
- If you publish into ebook/print format you must put a minimum of 10 episodes in that format.
- You cannot publish into multiple ebook/print formats, meaning it either goes to book, or in a set, but not both.
- You can publish up to 5000 words of your Vella as a magnet/promo.
- You cannot post content that is available via public domain. (I.E. no Aesop’s Fables)
- Episodes are a minimum of 600 words and a maximum of 5000 words.
- You must be in the United States (as of the date of this blog post) to publish.
- You can unpublish at any time. It takes 60 days from the date of your request for your Vella to be removed Then no other Vella rules apply to your story.
How do I get paid?
- You get royalties for every episode someone unlocks.
Since the first three episodes are free for all Vellas, you do not get any royalties on those episodes.
- You get paid a percentage of the tokens used to unlock your Vella.
The formula is listed on KDP’s website.
The bigger your episode, the higher your royalties per episode.
KDP offers a bonus for Vellas that meet certain criteria. There is a magical/mystical formula that KDP keeps pretty darn quiet, but here’s the basic breakdown (based on how I have gotten paid):
- Number of Follows
- Number of Faves (crowns)
- Number of unlocked episodes
- Number of Likes (thumbs up)
- First Month of Publish – Though some argue this doesn’t happen. All of mine have had a much higher bump in the first month than any other month of publish.
- KDP Pays 60 days out.
If you publish in January, you do not get that money until March.
Does Amazon promote this program?
Yes and no. Amazon is a store and is in the business of selling things. They promote Kindle Vella via their website, and with ads on social media. They tend to promote the top five-ten Vellas via social media. Another way I have seen them promote is via Kindle, with achievements.
On occasion they will offer free tokens, or additional tokens, to people. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited user they offer extra tokens all the time.
Otherwise, it’s on you to sell your product. I spend an average of $400 USD/month in ads and tokens.
Wait! Why are you spending so much on tokens?
I spend about $200 USD a month on tokens to READ stories. I wouldn’t use a site I don’t support, and the goodwill spread by reading Vellas in the promotion groups returns back to me in spades. These aren’t read for reads (as that breaks the rules of Amazon) but it’s purchasing episodes of Vellas promoted. Some of my favorite authors have been Vella Authors!
How do I get started?
First & Foremost – PLAN PLAN PLAN
Plan your writing schedule. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give to people wanting to get into Kindle Vella (or serial fiction in general). It is more important to be consistent than anything. While you may write the best story out there, if you take three months between episodes, you will lose readers. Serial fiction is a FAST medium.
Also, if one episode is 600 words, and the next is 4800 words, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot. View your episodes like a TV show. Each one has the same length every time, except on special occasions, or finales. If all your episodes are about 1500 words, then your readers can expect how much to spend on your stories.
Kindle Vella is slower than the others when it comes to setting a schedule, but that’s because it’s catering to the US market only at present. When it opens up to the rest of the world, it’s more normal to have a daily schedule. Kindle Vella is the only app currently not encouraging authors to post on a daily schedule. Most of the successful Vellans I have met post on a weekly schedule. Regardless of how fast you post, be clear about it and keep the schedule.
Plan where you will promote your work. I promote on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Mastodon, Hive, and via my newsletter. It’s A LOT. I mostly promote Vella on Facebook and Instagram. My goal for 2023 is to be consistent across all of the social media platforms. I know you saw the word newsletter and CRINGED. Get out of your head. Newsletters are a budding author’s bread and butter. It helps you build followers, and promote to a wider market. Trust me, I feel you about newsletters. I hate getting them, but now take the time to open and read the ones from other authors. Lots of freebies come in newsletters, FYI.
Plan your down time. Treat this like a career and plan time for you to NOT WORK. It’s critical to have you time. You will get burned out otherwise.
Second – Build Your Brand
Your story is not your brand. You are. J.R Froemling is the brand. The products of those brands are quirky romance, sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy books. Get a logo, pick your colors, and plaster it everywhere you are going to be. This even includes usernames on social platforms. While it’s fun to have a cute name, having someone recognize you is more important. For example, I used to go by roobelle everywhere. But that’s not my pen name. It has nothing to do with my books, and causes people to have to think if they are finding me. Don’t make your readers have to think. The more a person has to think about something, the less they do it.
Third – Separate Your Business From Personal
It’s a lot of work, but keep your personal Facebook, personal. Create yourself a Page and a Group administrated by your Page. So, even though you have to flip back and forth between Page & Personal profiles, it saves you a lot of heartache later. I like to be very personal and political on my private feed. I only allow certain people access to that feed and I regularly curate who sees that feed to allow myself the freedom of using Facebook as the entertainment app it is meant to be.
If you want to put ads on Facebook, you have to have a Page. Groups cannot run ads. Neither can personal profiles. The Page should be your social media presence to attract people to your site/purchasing your books. I like to have fun on mine, and try to keep is personal feeling, even with all the promotion work I do on it.
I also have a group for the professional profile. The group allows me to do fun/non-promotional things that lets me connect with people in a less professional setting. While it remains on brand, and I keep it focused on reading/books, it gives me more freedom. It also gets seen WAY MORE than a page does.
Fourth – Serialized Fiction Stories Are Not Novels… Sort Of
Serial fiction is an ongoing story. The idea is that it doesn’t end. Sure, you can have a story arc that starts and finishes, but as long as you haven’t killed off all your cast, you keep finding new things for them to do. So, instead of having three books you have one with three seasons crammed into it. About 50 episodes at 1500 words is equivalent to a single book. I don’t personally subscribe to this. I tend to write novels in the serial format and then convert them into print novels.
There are lots of people who argue that my separate Vellas hurt me over their single Vella with all the seasons in it. It’s a personal choice. I like having the different images and not having to explain to people they can skip episodes 1-X if they read the first season in an eBook and decide to read along with book two in Vella. Whichever way you choose, stick to it.
(NOTE: As of this post KDP does not allow the creation of “Series” in Vella with seasons)
Fifth & Finally – Edit Your Work
Kindle Vella is one of the easiest ways to start getting your stories published without going the traditional route. That doesn’t mean you can just throw an unedited story up there.
You should treat Kindle Vella as a final product.
People are paying for your story.
To be honest, you will always find something to fix. You should still check for grammar issues, and listen to your episode read aloud for flow issues. Nothing turns me off a story more than reading a completely unedited story.
With how expensive Kindle Vella is to readers, nothing kills a story faster than seeing it was not edited in any fashion. This includes but is not limited to:
- Incorrect grammar
- Incorrect formatting (I.E. not using quotes for speech)
- Odd formatting (I.E. big gaps between paragraphs)
- Out of Character Notes
The readers are paying by the word and the biggest feedback I get is they get angry when you put a 50 word paragraph about triggers, chapter titles, author name, or other story notes, in the post itself.
Use the author notes to convey these types of things and the chapter title to convey who’s POV is speaking for multiple POV, not the post itself.
How Much Can I Expect To Make With Vella?
This is really hard to answer. I came into Kindle Vella expecting to make about $300-$500/month. I was easily pulling that on other sites, and when I joined Kindle Vella it had only been rocking and rolling for about five months.
To my surprise, I make a great deal more than that. After all my expenses, I make about $500/month.
Your expectations should be low. I’m not saying you shouldn’t expect to make money, but it’s not easy, by any means. I hustle the hell out of my stories every day, trying to draw new readers in. New readers, who aren’t also writing, are like winning the Golden Ticket to the Wonka Factory.
You get out of Kindle Vella what you put into it. With it only being available to the US Market, you need to understand your audience scope is limited. Also, if you aren’t writing romance, or paranormal romance, it’s much much harder to break out in this format. Serial fiction apps across the board tilt in favor of romance and paranormal romance.
That doesn’t mean other genres won’t do well. There are a few horror writers that have taken off on Kindle Vella. But they don’t even have a Horror genre listed on Amazon, so remember that.
To get to where I am now, I have been fast on the writing, and have had to put my introvert brain to sleep to promote my work like crazy. No one else is going to promote for you and you won’t be successful if you don’t tell people about your work, unless you’re someone who has a reader base already and you pull that base onto Vella with you.
I hope this was helpful to anyone interested in getting started with Kindle Vella. My take is to do it. The more the merrier!