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Two Bites of the Apple on Kindle Vella

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If you’re considering self-publishing and wanting to maximize potential income, do yourself a favor and take a peek at Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform.

If you haven’t already heard about Kindle Vella, it’s a place where you can serialize your novel over an extended period, instead of publishing one whole story all at once. Instead of chapters, you are publishing “episodes,” much like a television series.

This isn’t a new concept. Serialized novels first popped up as early as the 17th century and really took off in England during the 19th century when novels were published episodically in newspapers and magazines.

This allowed poorer overworked readers to enjoy stories that would have been too expensive for them to read as leather-bound volumes. In the modern era, Kindle Vella readers are reading on their phones, often during short breaks in their busy days, like while standing in line at the DMV or waiting in the carpool lane.

There was (and still is) a benefit to authors for writing serially. Many unknown 19th century authors were able to establish an audience and grow in popularity by first publishing in serialized format, including but not limited to Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Many modern-day authors are having similar success, building their fan bases through Kindle Vella. Why couldn’t this be you?

In a nutshell. The first three episodes of every Kindle Vella story are free to readers. After which, readers must redeem tokens to unlock future episodes. The number of tokens it takes to unlock an episode corresponds to the length of the episode. For example it takes 6 tokens to unlock an episode that is in the 600-699 word length. It takes 12 tokens to unlock and episode that is 1200-1299 words in length.

Readers can buy tokens in bundles of 200 ($1.99), 525 ($4.99), 1100 ($9.99), or 1700 ($14.99).

As they read, readers can give feedback such as marking your story as a “favorite” or giving an episode a “thumbs up.” This feedback will affect your bonus. More on that later.

How to get started. It is ridiculously easy to set up an author account. If you do not already have an Amazon account, start there. Once you have an Amazon account, access Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Once you sign in to KDP, access the “Kindle Vella Library.”

After that, KDP will take you through the step-by-step process of entering your name/pen name, the title of your story, the genre, and the key words.

As for the cover image, you don’t have to pay for an expensive book cover. Traditional book covers aren’t even allowed. Instead, choose a simple image with no words on it that conveys the tone, theme, and genre of your story. You can find many images for free online. For example, explore Canva. The dimensions of a Kindle Vella cover image should be 1600 x 1600 px.

Here are some examples of cover images from Kindle Vella (the platform will make your square image round):



Writing the Perfect Episode. Kindle Vella allows episodes to be anywhere from 600-5000 words; however, there does seem to be a “sweet spot” with readers. Because they’re often reading on their phones to kill time in between events in their busy days, the 12-20 token (or 1200-2000 word) episode seems to do the best.

Obviously, it is imperative that you make every episodes hugely compelling and end each episode on a devastating cliffhanger that leaves the reader desperate to know what happens next. If readers aren’t hooked, they won’t waste their tokens on your paid episodes. They’ll move on to explore other stories, and yours will wither on the vine. For this reason, you may need to end your episodes in the middle of what you might consider a “normal” chapter ending.

Again, think of the classic Batman episode. It always ended with Batman tied up and the swinging blade getting closer and closer to his neck.

Publishing an Episode. Publish one episode at a time (it’s as easy as a click of your mouse) and do so at consistent intervals so readers know when to expect the next installment. This is another similarity to Victorian-era serialized stories in newspapers that came out at regular intervals.

You can also write ahead and schedule several episodes (or even your whole story) so a single episode is released according to your pre-determined schedule. In fact, writing ahead and scheduling episodes is something I would strongly recommend so you don’t fall behind. I actually don’t publish Episode 1 until I have 5-6 episodes ready to go.

Royalties and Bonuses. You don’t earn any royalty on your first three episodes, which are free to readers. After that, your royalty depends on how many tokens are required to unlock your episode. Obviously, the more tokens the higher the royalty, but also remember that the more tokens required, the less likely it is that a reader will open the episode (see “sweet spot” above).

The royalty calculation is (number of tokens to unlock episode) x (token-bundle price/# tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) x (50% revenue share). For example, if it takes 12 tokens to unlock your episode, and those tokens were purchased in a 200-token bundle…

12 tokens x ($1.99/200 token bundle – $0 taxes) x 50% = Royalty

Or…12 x .00995 x 50%=6-cent Royalty

Not super exciting, BUT where the real excitement comes in are the monthly bonuses. It is a little unclear how bonuses are determined—it has something to do with reader engagement and the consistency of your episodes—but they can be surprisingly high.

I consider myself a bit of a “dabbler” when it comes to Kindle Vella. My stories aren’t anywhere near the top 100. And yet, I am still getting monthly bonuses from $500-$1000. Author friends of mine who are “all in” on Kindle Vella and really putting in a lot effort are making monthly bonuses of $5,000 and more. For one friend, way, way more! She’s even had to hire an executive assistant to keep up with her rapidly growing business.

Maintaining your Rights. Kindle Vella requires exclusive content (i.e., if you get your rights back to a traditionally published novel, you can’t republish it on Vella), and while your story is being published on Kindle Vella, you can’t publish it anywhere else for the first 30 days. 

However, once an episode has been on Kindle Vella for 30 days, you are free to do with it as you please, including simultaneously publishing it and other eligible episodes together as a full novel on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, or anywhere else you choose.

My friend who is killing it on Kindle Vella now has her books, which started on Vella and remain on Vella, also displayed on Barnes & Noble end caps.

You can also “unpublish” your story from Kindle Vella at any time, though it would be bad form to do that before ending a story, or when you have readers who are midway through and emotionally and financially invested.

Advertising. Interestingly, you can’t run an Amazon ad on a Kindle Vella story, even though the platform is an Amazon product. You can run Facebook Ads. A lot of people have also had success promoting their Kindle Vella on TikTok. See, for example, @nikkistcrowe.

Why I like it. Besides the nice bonuses, I like Kindle Vella because—as I’ve transitioned from being traditionally published to self-published—it has improved my own editing process. I already like to end my chapters on cliffhangers to compel readers to turn the page. Publishing on Kindle Vella requires me to really dig deep and nail those cliffhanger endings.

It also gives me immediate feedback as to whether readers continued reading from one episode to the next, or if some section of the story fell flat and readers tapered off (in which case I can go back and edit the episode).

Finally, Kindle Vella gives me “two bites of the apple” because—just like with the serialized stories of old—Kindle Vella taps into a different audience from those who like to (or can afford to) buy books to fill their bookcases. After being on Kindle Vella for 30 days—the same story can earn me royalties and bonuses on Kindle Vella while at the same time earning me ebook sales and page reads on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited—thus, often tripling my normal monthly income.

Have you tried Kindle Vella? Want more information about my experience? Hit me up in the comments.

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