Kindle Vella kicks off with the hope that readers will Wolf down serial stories

Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform for serialized stories launched on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, with tens of thousands of episodes available to readers, including stories from well-known self-publishers, such as Hugh Howey.

However, early reaction from some authors taking part in online forums pointed to disappointment with discoverability issues. The Vella user experience on also looks dated when compared with other serial sites, particularly Radish which has a cleaner and more dynamic appearance.

The problem is, of course, that Amazon is trying to shoehorn a new section into a website that’s been established for many years and covers a very wide range of products, while websites like Radish have been designed from the ground up as serialized story sites.

Vella is claimed to be a new mobile-first, interactive reading experience for serialized stories and is currently available only in the US through the Kindle iOS app and on Stories are published in short episodes ranging from 600 to 5,000 words and the first three episodes of every story are free. Further episodes can be bought using Tokens, which can be bought in bundles.

Prolific novelist Rebecca Zanetti took an early lead in the list of Vella Faves with her shifter suspense romance Wolf (Stopes Pack); and fantasy, Wild West, and YA stories also featured among the Faves.

Kindle Vella royalty payment details

Authors who self-publish Vella stories through Kindle Direct Publishing will be paid 50% royalties which are based on what readers spend on Tokens used to unlock story episodes. There will also a launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement.

To find your story’s Amazon detail page link:

  1. Go to your Kindle Vella Library.
  2. Scroll to the story you want to view.
  3. Click on the ASIN.

You can track royalty earnings and reader engagement from a new report in the KDP Reports beta. Authors will get payments 60 days after the end of the month in which the royalties were reported. Learn more about Kindle Vella royalties, reports, and payments.

Amazon says the number of Tokens needed to unlock an episode is determined by the episode’s word count at the rate of one token per 100 words. The number of Tokens needed to unlock an episode can be seen on the episode set-up page. Tokens will be made available through mobile channels that charge a fee and, if this is the case, the fee will be deducted from the revenue that is shared.

Apple charges 30% commission on in-app purchases so Vella authors who get sales from readers who come through the iOS app will end up with 35% royalties rather than 50%. For instance, if an iOS reader uses Tokens worth $1.99 to read an author’s stories, Apple will take 30% of the sale of the Tokens ($0.59), which leaves $1.40 to split evenly with Amazon, giving an author $0.70 (35% of $1.99).

Amazon has set out its own formula for how earnings per episode will be calculated:

  • (Number of Tokens to unlock episode) * (Tokens bundle price/# Tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) * (50% rev share) = Earnings per episode

The examples shown below are said by Amazon to be how it calculates earnings for an episode of 3,025 words (30 Tokens) when the Tokens are bought on the web in a 200 Tokens bundle versus an 1,100 Tokens bundle. In these examples, no taxes or fees are included.

  • Episode purchased with 200 Tokens bundle: 30 Tokens * ($1.99/200 Tokens – 0) * 50% = $0.1493
  • Episode purchased with 1,100 Tokens bundle: 30 Tokens * ($9.99/1100 Tokens – 0) * 50% = $0.1362

Kindle Vella features for readers include:

  • Tagging: Readers can use tags to browse for specific topics and genres to find stories.
  • Following: Once a reader follows a Kindle Vella story, they’ll be notified every time a new episode is released.
  • Thumbs Up: Readers can leave a Thumbs Up on every episode they like.
  • Faves: Once a week, readers who have bought Tokens will get a Fave to award to the story they enjoyed most that week. Amazon will feature stories with the most Faves in the Kindle Vella store to help other readers discover popular stories.
  • Author Notes: Authors can speak directly to their readers at the end of episodes to share story insights and behind-the-scenes content.
  • Sharing: It’s easy for readers to share the Kindle Vella stories they love right from their phones through Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels or via email and text with friends.

David Naggar, vice president of Books and Kindle Content, says, ‘We designed Kindle Vella as a mobile-first experience because we know readers are becoming more and more interested in stories that can be read quickly on their phones. At the same time, readers want the connection that you get from reading a story or author for a long period of time.

Virginia Milner, principal product manager, Kindle Vella, says ‘In the three months since we opened Kindle Vella publishing for authors, it’s been great to see thousands of authors begin publishing thousands of stories, totalling tens of thousands of Kindle Vella episodes across dozens of genres and microgenres.’

Vella stories include new work from best-selling authors — including Audrey Carlan’s romance The Marriage Auction, Hugh Howey’s memoir Death and Life, and C G Cooper’s thriller Daring Hope — as well as debuts such as Bard Constantine’s young adult fantasy The Pale Lord, Ryan King’s science fiction story Earth’s Exiles, and Callie Chase’s dystopia Bug.

Author Audrey Carlan says, ‘I’ve published close to 30 novels, and I’m enjoying the adventure of writing The Marriage Auction in this new format. Kindle Vella works perfectly for an author who really wants to dig into their story and characters, and give the readers something they’ve never read before.’

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