You may be hearing some buzz about a new publishing platform that KDP is rolling out soon. It’s called Kindle Vella and it’s set to launch in mid to late July.
This is a slightly different beast than an eBook. For one thing, Kindle Vella stories are not going to show up on anyone’s Kindle device. Vella is aimed at folks who read on their smartphones and other small electronic devices. You may think that’s nobody, but I can tell you that neither of my kids has ever had an actual Kindle, but they’ve been reading fanfiction on their tablets and phones for years. Even I tend to read news stories on my phone anymore. So this is a way to capture the kind of audience that always has a phone in their hands.
I should mention a couple of things before we get any further. First, Kindle Vella is open only to US-based authors and readers for now, and only to folks with the Kindle app for iOS (which means Apple products) or from Amazon’s website. If it goes over well, I assume the platform will be expanded to authors and readers in other countries, but I have no idea when that will happen. I also don’t know when folks with Android devices will be able to access Vella.
So, with that less-than-helpful info, we’ll proceed.
Kindle Vella stories are episodic fiction. There’s no limit on the number of episodes in your story, but each episode must be between 600 and 5,000 words.
The cover format is different from an eBook. Instead of creating a traditional eBook cover, you simply provide them with a square cover image – 1600 x 1600 pixels – with the important graphic elements centered because they’re going to put a circular frame around it. They don’t want text on the cover image, either – KDP is taking care of author and title info for you.
You can access the Kindle Vella platform from within KDP. You’ll see a banner at the top of your Bookshelf page with a link to the Kindle Vella Library. When you click through, you’ll end up on a page where you’ll create the landing page for your story, including your cover image and blurb. You can come back and change up your blurb any time, even after your story goes live. That strikes me as a useful feature in case your story takes a left turn as you write new episodes, or in case your blurb isn’t attracting readers.
Once you’ve created your landing page, you get to start adding episodes. KDP gives you a couple of options: you can either upload a file or write your episode directly in the text box on the episode page. You will also have an opportunity here to add a short author’s note of a couple of hundred words to each episode. (The text box for your author’s note has zero formatting options – you can break your note into paragraphs, but it won’t take.) Once you’re done crafting your episode, hit “publish,” and it will go to KDP for their review. If it passes muster, they’ll let you know it’s gone Live. If not, just like always, you’ll get the dreaded email saying you need to fix something before they’ll publish it.
A few more points to ponder: You can’t upload a book to Vella that’s live anywhere else – although if you want to pull out of Vella, you can unpublish your story and republish it elsewhere. KDP is not allowing live links anywhere in Vella stories, and there’s not much marketing you can do other than spreading the word. You can either set your episodes to be released immediately or on a future date you choose. Right now, they want you to have ten episodes loaded before the launch date.
So how do authors get paid? It’s complicated. Readers will have to buy tokens for Kindle Vella content (the first three episodes will be free for every story). The cost per episode will depend on the word count, at an exchange rate of one token per 100 words. So, a 600-word episode would cost 6 tokens and a 5,000-word episode would cost 50 tokens. Readers will get a discount for buying tokens in bulk – and that’s what’s going to make calculating your earnings tough, because authors will receive 50% of whatever the reader spent on the tokens they used to buy your episode.
I have no idea how any of this is going to pan out, but I’m going to take a shot at it. I’ve already uploaded ten episodes of The Atherton Vampire and I have 15 more ready to go once the platform goes live. I’m hoping readers will sink their teeth into my story (ooh, bad pun!). But if all else fails, I can always pull it and make a regular eBook out of it. So it’s a win-win either way.