Kindle Vella is Live

And I have a book available there:

This integration may work in the future, but not right now.

There are 11 episodes available now (there will be 38 total for this run), and the first three are available for free. Since I know many of the people who read this blog are authors or artists themselves, let me run through a few things about Vella, now that is live:

First, there is a dissonance between what established authors are already trying to do with the platform, and what the platform was designed/intended to do. Vella is supposed to be a serial fiction platform, not a straight book-reading platform. There are 11 episodes of Bright Children available now; I see most other authors putting up their entire book right now. This is because they have calculated that they can make more money on a full click-through of a book than they would make selling it for a set ebook price and (presumably) they are hoping for binge readers to buy tokens and plow through their book during the next month.

I’m not going to say that there is anything wrong with this approach. After all, how a platform is used by end-users may be drastically different than how it was intended to be used—just ask Jack Dorsey. One cannot help but conclude, however, that such an approach effectively turns Vella into Kindle Unlimited 2.0—this time with less scamming. Indeed, for the honest author, such an approach is preferable, as you cannot game the algorithm by having Chinese click farms boosting your book with burner KU accounts. They’d have to pay for every token, meaning you would be buying copies at full price. An honest author will also be making a much more understandable amount of money via the token system, rather than the opaque Kindle Unlimited paying out seemingly random sums every month.

Obviously, this is not the approach I am taking with Bright Children. The big advantage of a serial fiction platform is, in my opinion, the long-term effect of habituating users into daily use. What you want is readers opening up their app every day to read the next chapter of a story (or stories) they are enjoying, wondering what happens next. Think of mobile games, but with books. Blowing your wad in July 2021 by posting your entire book hoping for a quick return ignores this possibility. If enough authors on the platform choose the “full book” approach we can expect that the users will match that approach – essentially, they will just view it as another way to buy a book. There will be no product differentiation.

So we still have yet to see what the platform will actually do. I think there is more potential for long-term success by embracing the actual serial approach. Amazon could force this by limiting how often episodes can be released going forward (say, two per day, rather than 80), but I don’t know if they would, or if the main focus now is making sure lots of content already exists on the platform.

Some other considerations:

  1. Importing text can be a pain. If you copy-paste from MS Word, the formatting is often destroyed in bizarre ways. I’ve found that pasting into a google doc, then copying the text from the google doc and pasting it into the Vella editor yeilds the best results.
  2. There are very strange formatting limitations. Everything is justified to the left, there is a space between paragraphs rather than indents, and you have to use symbols to mark scene breaks, which look odd. You can do itallics, though which makes my writing style transfer fairly well.
  3. It can take up to three days to get an episode approved. You have to plan ahead, so posting as you work may create uneven releases (like I said, I want those habitual readers).
  4. When an episode is approaching release, you cannot edit it (due to the three-day approval). You have to wait for it to go live, then edit it. A little annoying if you find a typo you want to fix.
  5. WordPress integration appears to be mostly-nonfunctional (try clicking above).
  6. You may get an email that your episode is available free on the web; just reply and say that it isn’t (I think this is a function of bots) if it isn’t. This increases the time to post episodes, so be aware. You could end up with episode 10 coming out after episode 9.
  7. I don’t know if any apps are live; supposedly iOS was to be first, but I use android.

So that’s it! I’ll be experimenting with this platform with other things as we go, seeing what works (or doesn’t work). If you want to buy my full books, check them out below. Bright Children is actually set in the mythic past of Water of Awakening as well as City of Silver, but is quite different from both.

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