You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s new serial fiction offering, Kindle Vella. “Vellas” are stories told in episodes between 600 and 5000 words long. The first three episodes of a Vella are always free to read, but if you want to read on, you have to purchase tokens. Amazon does give its customers 200 tokens to try out the service. The number of tokens needed to read an episode are based on the length — an author has no say in the price charged. Packages of tokens range in price from $1.99 for 200 tokens to $14.99 for 1700 tokens. Episodes cost 1 token per 100 words (rounded down), which means that for $14.99, you would get at least 170,000 words of fiction. That sounds pretty good at first, but if you are big fan of humongous epic fantasy novels, it won’t won’t go very far. Take my novel Yseult, for example: since it comes in at over 190,000 words, if it were a Vella, the largest package of tokens wouldn’t even get you to the end. Right now, Vella has only been rolled out for the US, probably as a testing ground.
It’s a testing ground for me as well. I have no idea if this will go anywhere, either for Amazon or myself, but one of the novels I finished during my “year of completion” (more commonly known as the Year of Corona), was Dragon Touched. It’s an experiment to start with, an urban fantasy with steamy romance elements and dragons, coming in at under 50,000 words — a much better length for Vella-style fiction. Another reason that I decided to try the system out with Dragon Touched is that it’s a bit of a departure from my usual historical fantasy and science fiction. I don’t know if that will go anywhere either, but it was worth a try. The description:
Kyla Drake has long been plagued by visions of fantasy creatures. What she doesn’t know is that the creatures are real, a war is about to break out between them — and she is at the center of the conflict …
This is the way it appears on Amazon as of this writing:
If you’re so inclined, check out my first attempt at urban fantasy — three episodes free, remember! And if you want to help me out a bit, a thumbs up would be nice. 🙂
Some notes on my experience for other writers who are also interested in testing the Vella waters:
The description. Amazon officially allows 500 characters for the book description of a Vella, but this is way too much. I started out with about 350 – 400 characters, but when I saw Dragon Touched on the Amazon page after I published the first couple of episodes, the description was cut off before the genre elements were even mentioned. It’s better to aim for something about the length of a tweet. As you can see from the above screenshot, even what I have now is a bit too much.
Formatting. Vella doesn’t allow any fancy formatting, only bold, italics, and underlining. It doesn’t even do tabs or centering. And if you cut and paste from your word processor into the text box, you will lose whatever formatting you have. I didn’t notice that right away, and I had to go back and put the italics back in for the first half-a-dozen episodes I published. It’s also possible to upload a doc or docx file, and I assume that would keep the italics. But who creates individual documents for every chapter of a book they’re working on? I write in Scrivener anyway, and I figured it was easier for me to compare the text box and my file on screen and reinsert the italics rather than exporting individual files for every single chapter.
Publishing. It is rather time consuming to publish chapter by chapter (or episode by episode). But on the other hand, for a Vella there is no need to worry about ebook generation and formatting. I create my ebooks with Vellum, and it typically takes me a couple of hours per book. So all told, publishing with Vellum is probably easier.
Free episodes. I thought at first that I would be able to set the number of episodes that would be free myself, and had planned to make it the first five. As a result, I created what I hoped would be a good cliffhanger at the end of chapter 5. When I started uploading my episodes, however, I saw that with episode 4, I had no option for making it free. As a result, I may end up compressing the first five episodes into three, which I assume means uploading everything again. So for now I’ll leave it as is. I want to get the last book in the Glassmakers Trilogy published first.
So, yet another new publishing adventure in my old age. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments, either about Kindle Vella, or Dragon Time, or urban fantasy, or even old age. 🙂