Amazon launching Wattpad rival with Kindle Vella serial stories offering authors 50% royalties

Amazon is introducing Kindle Vella as a new self-published serialized storytelling option available through Kindle Direct Publishing.

With Kindle Vella, you can self-publish serialized stories, one short episode at a time with episodes ranging from 600-5,000 words. Readers can access all Kindle Vella stories in the Kindle iOS app and on Amazon.com.

Initially, KDP is inviting US-based authors to publish serial stories and say that when the scheme is available to you, you will see a Kindle Vella banner at the top of your KDP Bookshelf.

Authors will earn royalties based on 50% of what readers spend on tokens, which are used to unlock story episodes. Authors will also be eligible for a launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement. However, Amazon says ‘to make it easy for readers to find stories they love, the first few episodes of every story are free’.

This looks very much like a bid by Amazon to get a foothold in the serial market that is currently dominated by the wildly popular Wattpad, which does offer payments to some authors but not on a generally widespread basis. Serials have proved to be very successful internationally, particularly with young people reading on smartphones. For example, the story website Tapas claims to offer 1.6 million ‘episodes’ on its site and features monetization options for authors, including ad-sharing revenue, reader donations and premium stories.

Another story website Radish, which has been running for over five years, says helping writers monetize their readership is an important aspect of publishing on the site. It adds, ‘We have writers making over $1,000 in monthly revenue — with some top writers earning nearly $40,000 a quarter. We know that writing is a labor of love, and we believe in compensating our writers for the work they trust us with.’

The question, of course, is just what is the earning potential for authors who publish serials through Kindle Vella. It could be good if the figures shown in the second screenshot in this article bear some relation to reality. However, it’s much more likely that Amazon have just used some random figures here.

For example, the screenshot, which is taken from the Kindle Vella help page, shows 770 tokens being equivalent to ’15+’ episodes and costing $9.99. That would mean an author with, say, a 18-episode serial could get paid $4.98 (50% of $9.99) for a full read, taking into account the ‘few’ free episodes that Amazon offers to entice readers. That seems very unlikely to me as I can’t see readers paying out $9.99 to read a novella.

We won’t know the full story until Kindle Vella royalties start being paid and the fact is that Amazon won’t really know very much until they assess the demand and reader reaction to costs. Just as in the early days of Kindle Unlimited, it’s likely there will be several pivots along the way but it is a new outlet for writers and potentially could open up a vast new market.

Amazon has been in this sort of territory before with Kindle Serials, which launched way back in 2012 but only lasted a couple of years before folding in 2014. There was also Kindle Worlds which published fan fiction and shut down in 2018 after running for five years. The aim of Kindle Worlds was to be a platform where writers published stories based on licensed Worlds, which originally included Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries.

The closure followed Amazon shutting down its ‘reader-powered’ publishing scheme Kindle Scout in April 2018 after running for three and a half years.

Amazon lists some content guidelines for Kindle Vella, particularly in relation to repurposing older content or compiling episodes into a book and republishing. The guidelines mean you CANNOT:

  • Incorporate your Kindle Vella content into other long-form content (for example a book) in any language. If you wish to incorporate an episode or story into other content, you must unpublish all episodes of that story from Kindle Vella.
  • Publish in Kindle Vella content that is in the public domain or freely available on the web.
  • Break down your previously published book or long-form content into episodes and republish in Kindle Vella, even if that book or long-form content is no longer available or is written in another language. If your episode or story is derived from another work you have authored (for example, it continues the story from a book), you may include up to 5,000 words of content from the other work in the first episode to bridge the story, provided you control the rights to do so.

You can add up to seven tags for each Kindle Vella story but should avoid:

  • Information covered elsewhere in your story’s metadata (title, contributors, etc.)
  • Subjective claims about quality (such as ‘best’)
  • Time-sensitive statements (such as, ‘new’)
  • Information common to most items in the category (‘story’)
  • Spelling errors
  • Anything misrepresentative, like the name of an author who’s not associated with your story. This kind of information can create a confusing customer experience. Kindle Vella has a zero-tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead
  • Amazon program names like ‘Kindle Vella’
  • Language promoting violence or intolerance
  • Sexually explicit language

You can find out more about publishing Kindle Vella stories on the info page and the Help pages.


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