Kindle Vella: Return of the Serial

Yesterday, we had an introductory article about Kindle Vella. Today, Melissa Bowersock delves a little more deeply into Amazon’s newest offering.


Amazon, never content to rest on its laurels, has announced a new avenue for storytelling: Kindle Vella. Many writers have already discovered the lure of publishing a serial, a short episode or a chapter at a time. Hugh Howey’s Wool, if you remember, started as a short story, then he expanded on the series little by little. It was already wildly popular before he accepted a six-figure deal with Simon & Schuster.

We’ve all seen how some series, either books or movies or both, can garner a large following. If we’ve got a captivating story line with complex characters interacting in interesting and surprising ways, our readers want to know what happens next. And while some of us might go months, even years between books — possibly losing readers during the hiatus — a series of short chapters released relatively quickly can keep those readers engaged and wanting more.

Okay, so how does it work?

First of all, Kindle Vella will only be available to US-based authors writing in the English language; our counterparts in other countries will have to wait to see if it gets expanded. Readers will be able to access it on the Kindle iOS app and on The program is not operational yet, but should be by mid-July, according to Amazon. Even so, authors can submit their work prior to the launch, and their stories will go live as soon as the program does. If you’d rather wait until the program is fully operational, you can publish your work with a scheduled release date.

Amazon suggests publishing your series as one 600-5,000 word episode at a time, and also recommends publishing the first few episodes quickly so readers can dive right into the story. There will be a Kindle Vella store where your stories are marketed, and readers will pay by buying Tokens that unlock the episodes. The first few episodes of any series will be free, but then the number of Tokens needed to unlock an episode will be determined by word count: one Token per 100 words. Authors will receive 50% royalties on the amount readers spend on Tokens.

In order to keep the Kindle Vella experience unique, authors may not publish the same content as a book. If, at the end of the series, you do decide to format it as a book, you must unpublish it from the Kindle Vella library. Likewise, you cannot break down a previously published book into episodes for Kindle Vella. If your work is a continuation of a previously published book, you may, however, include up to 5,000 words from that prior book in your first episode to set the stage. Content that is freely available in the public domain or online is not eligible for Kindle Vella.

Amazon is also introducing some new features that will allow readers to interact with your story in ways similar to social media. Readers can follow authors and sign up to be notified as soon as new episodes are released, and they can give episodes they particularly like a thumbs up. They will be able to assign a Fave every week to the story they enjoyed the most, and the stories with the most Faves will be featured in the Kindle Vella store. On the flip side of this, there will be ways for the authors to connect more personally with the readers. You’ll be able to leave author’s notes at the end of each episode where you might give some background about the action or the characters, or perhaps give a hint about the next episode to come. All of this could make for an interesting exchange between authors and readers.

So, do you have a serial in you? Maybe now’s the time to take the leap and dust off an old idea or start a new one.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

13 thoughts on “Kindle Vella: Return of the Serial”

  1. So pulp fiction is going digital. Now we’ll have cell phones instead of broadsheets. Not for me but I do think it’s a novel (sic) idea.

  2. Thanks for this, Melissa! Good to know. I’m not sure if I will try this or not – just another way to get spread thin but a good opportunity to get to younger readers. Disappointing that we can’t publish it as a whole book when we’re done without unpublishing it on Vella, though.

      1. That’s how I’m seeing it – one more avenue for publishing our work.

        If I have a Vella story take off, I’d be just as happy to leave it in the serialized format and let it keep attracting new readers there. I do kind of hope Amazon will cross-pollinate Vella with regular Kindle books at some point, so that readers who like a Vella story can learn that you also write regular books, and vice versa. But time will tell.

        1. Good idea to leave a story on Vella to cover that base, but yes there should be some sort of cross-pollination. After all, the more books (or episodes) that sell, the better for both Amazon and us.

  3. From your blog, it sounds like anyone, KDP published or not, can submit through Vella. If you go to the Amazon site, however, it specifies Kindle Vella publishing is currently only available to KDP publishers who reside in the U.S. The U.S. part you covered. But, the wording sounds to me like it’s only available to authors who’ve already published on Kindle. Am I reading it wrong? Anyone else know?

    1. Judith, I can see why this might be confusing. My take on it is that anyone can publish in the US, whether they’ve published in the past or not. As soon as you upload to Vella, you become a publisher. I don’t see anything that says you are required to have published before in any other format.
      Anyone else want to chime in? Anyone who’s already uploaded to Vella? Did you see any requirement like that in the upload process?

      1. Hi, Melissa – I just published the first episode in a series yesterday, it went into review, and today, strangely, it shows as ‘live’, though I am not sure if Amazon Vella is even available to readers yet! That said, I knew nothing about this until my first book was under review, then I saw a notice for Vella. As my next project was already intended to be serialized, I had (mistakenly) thought this option was always available on Kindle. Anyway, I entered my second episode (still under review) and I don’t know when it will be live to U.S. readers – my series is called USNJ: The United States of New Jersey. The first 3 episodes are free on this new format. I am willing to give this new venue a test-drive, anyway. I hope we get more information soon.

        1. Sarah, I think I saw something just yesterday (?) that Vella was going live, so perhaps you hit it right at the sweet spot. Congrats! Sounds like a perfect fit for your new project. Let us know how it works out for you.

  4. Thanks, that’s probably the case. It certainly makes more sense for Amazon to do it that way.

  5. Now we need an article on writing a successful serial. I’ve never tried it, although I’ve done a series of novels and a few interrelated short stories, so I can imagine the problems that crop up.

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