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The Kindle Vella platform is Amazon’s newest push into the short-form content fray. Announced on July 13th this year, the new e-reader has already made an impact on readers and authors providing them with a new way to discover new fiction and generate revenue from the Kindle Direct Publishing service. So far it’s only available on the Kindle iOS app for U.S. based users.
What is the Kindle Vella?
The Kindle Vella platform is a mobile-first alternative to e-readers that brings an interactive element into the fold. It’s specialized for serialized stories that evolve into a growing narrative over a wide range of chapters, or what Kindle Vella likes to call “episodes”.
If you’re a reader, you have the option to interact with your favorite series in various ways akin to a social media platform. You can follow your favorite authors, thumbs up and share your favorite episodes on personal social media accounts, and view the author notes which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the process and brings you closer to your favorite creators.
These series can come in a bundle of your choosing: $1.99 for 200 “tokens”, $4.99 for 525, $9.99 for 1100, and $14.99 for 1,700, and the first three episodes are always free. Tokens are each worth 100 words and are how you pay for your episodes, each ranging between 600 to 5,000 words. If you’re an author, every episode published in the Kindle Vella platform’s growing catalog that gets sold will grant you a 50% commission.
You can check on what’s popular easily by using tags to search for your favorite genres and concepts. And don’t worry, you can still find all of your favorite classics, except now you can buy them by individual chapters instead.
The episodic series
The idea of breaking down wider narratives into easily digestible bites of content has actually been around for more than 400 years. In the 17th century, books were considered a premium item and publishers decided to expand the market by breaking down the books into multiple installments at lower prices. This also allowed them to get a better feel for the success of their books. If a serial kept readers engaged then they could repurpose the chapters into a bound premium novel.
It was heavily popularized in later ages with series like Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher, Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and later even Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen. The format has reached new levels of popularity in recent years with services like Peacock and TikTok pioneering a new wave in the creator economy of short-form user-created content. Now Kindle has dipped their toes in the wave with Kindle Vella.
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New to the Creator Economy? Check out our guide and market size breakdown here.
The efficiency of the serialized format is certainly a strength of the Kindle Vella, allowing readers to buy only what they’d like to read so they can save money in case the story isn’t to their liking. They can fit their reading experiences into breaks in their days and stay engaged with the characters and plot over months or even years. The format is similar to Japanese manga/anime where chapters or episodes are released weekly to continue a much larger arc.
Episodes on the Kindle Vella platform are released at the author’s whim, usually in daily or weekly installments, which makes it easier for the readers to remember what place they left off. The social sharing aspect of the Kindle Vella platform is a great way to stay tuned for the next episodes in your favorite series and see which ones are getting the most traction.
Many new authors can make a good name for themselves by publishing engaging episodes of their narrative and getting “fave’d” and shared across all social media. The Kindle Vella helps tighten the relationship between the author and the reader this way.
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Being an author for the Kindle Vella can have its downside, however. Your writing is constricted to the serialized format and you need to commit to staying on your schedule for your readers. One of the platform’s best-selling authors Audrey Carlan had initially described her experience getting published with Kindle Vella as a “fun challenge.” It’s a process that requires content to be ready to go at a certain time every chosen period until it finishes or be written on the go.
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This might be stressful for some authors, who might already need to adjust their style to the serialized format. Another downside so far is that the platform still has limited availability. It is not yet available for the Kindle e-reader, even though it is designed for the same purpose. You can only find it in the Apple Store through the Kindle app. This means that you would require constant use of Wifi to check on your episodes and new stories; something that Kindles are designed to overcome.
Amazon has strong roots in the publishing business having started as an online book store in 1995 competing with the likes of Barnes and Noble, later expanding into the device market with the Kindle e-readers. Over time, Amazon has come to own the CreateSpace self-publishing platform, the Audible audiobook service, and the Goodreads community.
Its Kindle Direct Publishing platform has helped many self-publishing authors submit their work easily, and Kindle Vella serves as an extension of it into the creator economy. But there they also meet their strongest competition. Readers and authors have been connecting across many different platforms such as GoodNovel, Webnovel, FictionPress.com, Scribd, and Wattpad. User-created short stories, novellas, and serials have already been circulating through these networks since 2019.
Scribd, also known as the “Netflix for books,” boasts a network of 80 million users and 1 million ebook and audiobook titles. These include titles from Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, Roxane Gay, Stephen King, and Kaitlyn Greenidge. Their subscription-based platform is available on iOS and Android devices as well as the Kindle and Nook. Vella doesn’t have an audiobook option just yet and as mentioned before it’s only available in the Apple store and in the U.S. But as Vella catches on, these features will surely be integrated.
Wattpad is another big hitter that has 90 million monthly users and has expanded its influence even into the moving picture market. It was acquired by the South Korean company Naver, which owns the online webcomics platform Webtoon. It touts itself as the world’s largest storytelling platform as well as the most inclusive, with one of its goals being to create a safe space for marginalized individuals.
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Here, readers can find more personalized stories that might reflect their own struggles and have the ability to give feedback and comments on their favorite works. Through their Paid Stories program, authors can easily publish their work directly on their platform and use Naver’s leverage to turn their stories into webcomics, television shows, and even films. This kind of engagement is what Vella is trying to obtain with its serialized fiction approach.
What are you reading?
Ever since the Kindle Vella was unveiled back in July, thousands of creative writers have taken to the platform to publish their own works across many different genres. The most popular serials in each genre will be sorted by the number of “faves” they receive.
Each user has the option to fave a serial each time they purchase an episode. Some of the most popular serials include romance/adventure series The Marriage Auction by Audrey Carlan, the fantasy/sci-fi series Demon Accords Beginnings by John Conroe, the YA thriller The Dream Heist by Christina Farley, the action-packed/dystopian Bug by Callie Chase, and the romantic-comedy series Liam and Blakely by Diana Knightley.
The social media reading community has enough power to influence even the New York Times Bestseller list. See which books are getting hype on TikTok in this blog.
If you love serialized writing and want to tune in to the hottest new trends in your favorite genres, Kindle Vella has become your new alternative. Knowing that Amazon’s e-book sales contribute about 75% of the American market, the platform will surely grow and expand onto your favorite devices in no time.