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Amazon Launches Kindle Vella for Serialized Stories
The platform offers a strong monetization model for serials, but writers lack control over pricing
By Jane Friedman
https://hotsheetpub.com/

Yesterday, Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Vella, which looks like what you might get if you mashed together Amazon KDP and Wattpad. It’s a platform for authors to self-publish work in installments and get paid by readers, limited to the US market for now. Stories are meant to be read on a mobile device, similar to competing platforms (e.g., Wattpad, Radish, Tapas, Webnovel).
Serialized stories on Vella cannot be published and available as a book elsewhere. You cannot adapt a previously published book-length work for serialization on Vella, even if you take it off the market and even if it’s only available in another language. If you wish to sell your Kindle Vella serial as a book after the fact, you have to unpublish it on Vella. However, it’s possible that episodes published on Vella could also be made available elsewhere as long as they’re not free. But this remains unclear—we’ve asked Amazon for clarification and will follow up when more information becomes available.
Readers can read the first three episodes for free, but they must pay Tokens to continue. Authors earn 50 percent of what readers spend on Tokens. Authors are also eligible for an unspecified launch bonus based on customer activity and engagement.
The number of Tokens needed to unlock a story is set automatically based on word count. When writers set up their episodes prior to publication, they see a preview of the number of Tokens required to unlock the episode. Aside from writing to a particular story length, authors have no control over how many Tokens are required to read an episode and thus no control over pricing. In promotional images for Vella, pricing appears to start at about 1.5 cents per Token, or $1.99 for 140 Tokens, but Amazon says official Token pricing will be announced later. On social media, some authors have expressed skepticism about the platform until there’s greater pay transparency.
There is no commenting, community, or messaging functionality. However, authors can share personal messages, limited to 200 words, with readers at the end of a story. Readers can offer likes for episodes; readers who purchase Tokens also receive a “Fave” they can award to the story they enjoyed most that week. The Kindle Vella store will feature stories with the most Faves. We imagine the limited number of Faves—all restricted to paying readers—will (hopefully) avoid gaming of the system.
Kindle Vella stories will not be available to readers for a few months. Presumably that’s to give writers sufficient time to populate the platform with content. Once available, stories will be found in a specific Kindle Vella store within the Kindle iOS app and on Amazon.com. Amazon’s guidelines for writers say, “We recommend publishing at least five to 10 episodes before stories become available so readers can dig in right away.” Each episode must be between 600 and 5,000 words. For more information on writing for Vella, see Amazon KDP’s site.
So how does this compare to other serialization platforms? Amazon is setting up shop in a well-established market. Here’s a brief overview of the most popular options.

  • China Literature / Webnovel. China Literature is the online literature behemoth in Asia. It’s trying to better establish its English-language platform, Webnovel, in North America (see our separate item) by offering guaranteed cash payments to writers willing to commit to 1,500 words a day. But Webnovel’s outside-the-norm terms may deter writers, as might the flavor of the site itself, which looks auto-generated.

  • Wattpad. Established in 2006, Wattpad has more than 90 million users globally and is the most popular platform for serialized literature in the Anglophone market—with strong appeal to Gen Z and Millennials. It considers itself a social storytelling platform where community is an essential ingredient of what makes it work. Readers can comment on stories, and authors can engage with their followers; authors keep all rights to their work (unless they agree otherwise), and there are no restrictions on what can be posted at the site. But monetization is not straightforward. One has to be a Wattpad Star to join the Paid Stories program or have access to most earnings opportunities. Kindle Vella offers writers the advantage of earning money right away. It might also appeal to authors who are focused on producing paid content and have limited interest in community features.
  • Tapas. Tapas has a young audience similar to Wattpad’s, between 18 and 24, and competes with Wattpad and Webtoon for both readership and creators. And, like Wattpad, Tapas offers a community with reader-creator interaction. Monetization for Tapas creators is similar to Vella, but with more choice. Creators who are approved for Tapas’s Premium Program earn a 50-50 revenue share when their episodes sell to readers. Whether content is free or paid, readers can send tips directly to creators. And creators also earn a 70 percent share of advertising revenue. Tapas creators keep rights to their stories unless they agree to partner with Tapas as an agent for their work.

  • Radish Fiction. Founded in 2015, this reading app is a smaller player in the US, with about 10,000 stories from 2,000 authors. Like on the other platforms, readers make micro-payments to keep reading serialized stories. Becoming a writer on the platform requires applying for consideration, like with a traditional publisher. Radish is on the verge of being acquired by a South Korean firm that already has a 12 percent stake in the company, indicating a continued rush among Asian companies to buy up storytelling IP. (Wattpad was acquired by a South Korean firm earlier this year.)

This isn’t the first time Amazon has experimented with serializations and writing communities. In 2012, Amazon launched Kindle Serials, an invitation-only program for authors to write serialized works. At that time, there was a lot of investment and excitement around digital shorts and narrative “singles,” with startups like The Atavist and Byliner getting significant funding, but it was a trend that didn’t really survive much past 2016. After a handful of projects, Kindle Serials quietly went away in 2014. Before long, Amazon closed other community writing efforts like Write On (somewhat like Wattpad, but not part of the Kindle environment or monetizable) and Kindle Scout.
Bottom line: Our very early take: While it may seem late in the game for Amazon to launch Vella, we know plenty of authors who won’t go near Wattpad or China Lit. (Some see such platforms as hotbeds of copyright infringement, among other things.) Kindle Vella may appeal to an older and more established authorship than that associated with other online literature platforms. Genre fiction novelists who are already successful publishing through KDP may decide to embark on a serialization side project to find new readers or extend existing IP in an interesting way. Or they might post works in progress at Vella (a little extra income while drafting?), then take everything down prior to the book launch. Because Amazon’s guidelines forbid republication of existing content, that should keep the platform free of noise and focused on writers who are genuinely interested in providing (and profiting from) a serialized reading experience. And it may be appealing to all types of readers who don’t care about social interactions and just want to escape into a story.
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