How to Use Kindle Vella: A Complete Guide

Last Update: May 02, 2021

Recently, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), has opened a new way to tell your stories. Through a new app, called Kindle Vella, readers around the world will be able to log in, find your story, and pay to read it. The difference? They will pay for each chapter (known as episodes).

While the platform is not yet available to readers, the writers can get a jump start on their story monetization and begin publishing content.

Today, we will examine Kindle Vella, explain with it is, how it works and who it is for. We will also compare Vella to other popular monetization platforms and answer all of your questions. Are you ready to start selling your story a piece at a time? Let’s find out.

What is Kindle Vella?

Vella is a new storytelling venue for writers. It is Amazon’s newest platform, taking serialized stories and monetizing them. Now, instead of selling a whole novel, or a series of short stories, you can release your books, one episode at a time. Each episode (except for the first few) must be unlocked by the reader.

To unlock an episode, a reader pays with tokens, which they purchase from Amazon. And, if the reader spends their tokens on your story, you get the royalties for that purchase.

This short YouTube video from Amazon, introduces Kindle Vella. Kind of.

Introducing Kindle Vella, from Amazon

Who is Kindle Vella For?

Currently, Kindle Vella will be a part of the Kindle iOS app and found through the Amazon website. Readers from around the world will be able to log in and start reading stories. Vella doesn’t currently have an opening date, but is slated to begin “in the next few months.”

The only current restriction is that Vella is solely open to US based writers. You must have a Kindle account with verified banking information. Writers are paid royalties through the standard Kindle method and must have a US Bank to receive the funds.

Over time, we expect Vella to open up to other countries. But, there isn’t a specific release schedule for this as of right now.

Vella for Readers: How a Reader Finds Your Story

Kindle Vella Story Detail Page
Story Details Page image stolen from Amazon.com

When Amazon opens the app to readers, they will be able to log in and find your story. This is done through the standard search option, as well as through a variety of store-front options (more on this later).

Once the reader selects your story based on the description, images or tags (or all three), they are presented with your Story Detail Page. Here, they will get the story title and by line, shown how many episodes are currently available, number of reader likes and if it is “faved” (a Vella method of showcasing top stories).

You also have the opportunity to give a brief description of the story to get the reader interested. Below this, you will see the tags for the story and be able to click to start reading the first episode.

It is important to note that the first three (3) episodes of your story will always be available to read, for free. It isn’t until the 4th episode that you begin to earn royalties from readers paying to unlock episodes.

Now, a smart writer will have an engrossing story that is much longer than 4 episodes. But an entrepreneurial writer may offer a few 3-episode stories to gain readership for free (wink wink).

Readers Pay to Play

Starting with the 4th episode, readers use their tokens to unlock the remaining episodes. Each episode is charged based on it’s length. There is a maximum of 5000 words per episode, as well. You will want to balance brevity with style to create a good balance.

As of this writing, the expected cost is 1 token per 100 words. Keep in mind that the tokens aren’t exactly cheap, so readers will be more cautious in the beginning. If your story doesn’t capture them, you won’t earn much in royalties.

Amazon does plan to sell tokens in bundles, such as 200 tokens for $2. Or 1500 tokens for $15, etc. The exact prices aren’t set in stone, but it will be about $1 for 100 tokens. We also expect there will be discounts for larger purchases (1700 for $15 instead of 1500 tokens, for example).

Reader Interaction

As the readers unlock and enjoy your story, they can interact with it. There are three methods of interaction.

  • Follow. The reader can select the follow option and get notices and alerts when new episodes or stories from that author are available.
  • Fave. If the reader enjoys the story a lot, they can “Fave” that story. The stories with the most weekly Faves will get a Fave Crown icon and showcased on the front of the Kindle Vella Store.
  • Thumbs Up. Similar to the Facebook “like,” readers can give a “thumbs up” to an episode they enjoy.

The Story Details Page showcases all three reader interaction stats.

Author Interaction

As the author of the story, you will also be given an opportunity to interact with your readers. There is a spot called “A note from the author” at the end of each episode.

Here, you will be able to leave a short message to the readers. You can say anything you want, basically. Good practice, though, would be to thank the reader for reading, offering insight to the next episode or offer a release date/schedule for upcoming episodes.

Don’t forget, you get paid based on how much readers pay to unlock your episodes. The current royalty payout is 50% of what readers spend on the tokens they use to unlock your episodes. If you keep them engaged, write good stories and use the note from the author section to keep them coming back, you can do quite well.

Royalties are covered below in more detail.

How to Start a Vella Story

Starting a Kindle Vella story will begin at the KDP website. If you are not already an Amazon member, you will need to create an account. If you already have an Amazon account you can sign in using that. Once signed in, you will need to head to the Vella page through the KDP Bookshelf.

Once here you will find a new link for the Kindle Vella Library. And on this page, a large “Start a story” button will be on the top right.

Kindle Vella start page
Start your story on the Kindle Vella page

As you can imagine, the next step is to click the button. This will begin the Story setup process.

However! It is important to note that you cannot save, publish or continue until you have set up your payment details. This is where you will add your banking information and address, etc so you can get paid. It is also how Amazon verifies you are in the U.S., allowing you to publish on Vella.

You can access the payment information through your profile, or, scroll to the very bottom of the story set up page. In small print below the grayed out “Publish and Start Episode 1” button, will be a link to the payment information page. If the button is not grayed out and there isn’t a link, it means your payment information is already saved.

As you fill in the information, the top section of the page will begin to show what you have entered. When you first start it says “Tell us about your story…” though this will change as soon as you enter a story title.

Start Story Screen
Starting your story on Vella
Let’s break down each of the information sections on this page.
  • Story completion status. This drop down allows you to change your story from on-going to complete. This option will be grayed out until you have at least one episode published.
  • Story title. This is where you enter the title of your story (100 characters, max). It is how your story will appear on the Story Detail Page.
  • Author name. Obviously, your name as you want it to show on your story. Note that pseudonyms and pen names are allowed, but a first and last name are required.
  • Description. A 500 characters (max) area to enter the story details. Think of this as the blurb for your book that gets the readers excited about reading it.
  • Story image. You can upload an image for your story. You should leave off the title and author name in the image. Images must be 2MB or smaller, and no larger than 1600x1600px. Currently only JPG and TIFF formats are accepted.
  • Categories. For these drop downs you can select the category for your book. There’s a primary category and a secondary category, but only the secondary is optional. Categories include Action & Adventure, Children’s, Dystopia, Erotica, Mystery, Thriller, etc. It is wise to select two categories to get better coverage.
  • Story tags. Like everything else on social media, tags are important. A tag is a quick search option and will give readers more details about your story, so choose wisely. Each story can have a maximum of 7 tags. Each tag can only be 25 characters or less. We suggest you use all 7. Enter the tags one at a time, clicking the “+ Add tag” button after each one.
  • Save or Publish. Once you are done here, you can save the information as a draft, or publish the story and start working on Episode 1.
Other Important Information

As the Kindle Vella is not yet open to the public, “Publishing and Starting Episode 1” is okay to do, since no one can see your story yet. However, if you do not have at least 1 episode ready to go, “Save as draft” is a better option once the app is live. This way, readers who find your story page won’t be disappointed that there is nothing to read.

Each story will go through a quick Amazon Guidelines check. You will see this on your Kindle Vella Library page. There are 8 categories that your story can be labeled as where the status is concerned. If there is a problem you will see “in review” and if you are working on the story it will show “draft.”

Only stories with “Live” or “Live with Unpublished Changes” are shown on the Vella store. If you see “Blocked” there is a problem with the content of your story and you cannot edit or publish the story at this time. This is generally due to copyright or content violations. When this happens, further details will be provided to you.

How to Publish an Episode

Once your story details are complete, you can begin writing your episodes. The Episode page is similar to the story details page, as it takes you step by step through each section. We will cover those sections here.

First, you can name your individual episodes. It is not required, though. All episodes are automatically numbered as you create them, and stay in order of creation. If you want to give a title to each episode, the limit is 100 characters.

Next is the story itself. You have 2 options here: upload or direct typing. If you already have your story written down, you can upload it as a file (only DOC and DOCX files are accepted at this time). There is an import button to use to bring your story into the page.

If you decide to type as you go, there is a plain text editor on the page for you to use. Word count is at the bottom of the text editor.

Vella episode screen
Vella episode content screen

After that, you have the optional Author note. Each episode will have a space for you to leave messages for your readers. Using this space is not required, but is highly recommended. If you plan to publish a new episode on a schedule, for example, let the readers know when the next episode will drop.

Below this section is a preview button. You can look at a live view to see how it will appear to the readers. You don’t have to use the preview, but it is recommended. Especially if you have used indentation, spacing or other text-based formatting. Using the preview will help make sure the story appears as it should.

Important Note

Each episode has some limitations, like basic formatting. This means bold, italics and underline are all that you can use.

Also, each episode has a text minimum and maximum. The minimum for any episode is 600 words. If your text is shorter than that, it won’t publish. You can also only have a maximum of 5000 words. This is because of the token limit, which is covered further below. If your text for that episode is more than 5000 words, consider making it 2 episodes, or editing it to under 5000 words.

Continuing on…

Below the preview button will be the Token count to unlock the episode. You cannot change this amount since it is based on total word count. (if you want more tokens, write longer episodes). There is a maximum of 50 tokens per episode and the first 3 episodes are always free.

Finally, there is a release date. You can set the episode to publish immediately, or schedule it for a future release date. Use these to your advantage, giving the reader a heads up for future release dates (using Author Note) but make it easy on yourself and upload them all now (if you can). Let the scheduler work for you.

Once you are finished, you can save the episode as a draft, or publish (based on schedule selection above). There is also an option to cancel the episode and return to the main story manager screen.

Once published, congratulations! You have a Kindle Vella story on the site. Repeat this process for each episode and each story you want to publish.

Special Note…

Each episode can be edited at any time. You must return a live episode to draft mode for editing. If you decide you don’t like an episode, it can be deleted as long as it has never been live. You can delete a story or episode in draft status. You can also unpublish a story or episode from the Vella Store.

Stories that have been live in your library though, cannot be deleted, only unpublished.

But there is more. Let’s look at the gritty details and get you the biggest payouts possible.

What to Include in a Kindle Vella Story

A story published on Kindle Vella is a lot like any other story you write. However, there are a few things you need to pay special attention to.

The biggest aspect is that you are limited in how much you can write per episode. While 5000 words is a lot for a single episode or chapter, some writers do go over that limit. More importantly, though, the readers are paying for your words, and they need a damn good reason to pay for 50 tokens to unlock a single chapter.

Your writing needs to be amazing. If you don’t like editing or grammar checks or hiring a proofreader to help you out, you won’t make it very far. Great writing is and always will be the cornerstone of any sale driven writing.

Engaging the reader is a must. Luckily, you get three chapters to do just that. Here at the Extra Draft we cover a lot of story telling and writing aspects to help you with your stories. They all have a more significant meaning, now.

Using the first three chapters to grab a hold of your reader is crucial. You have that space to build and introduce compelling characters, an engrossing story and show the inciting incident. If your reader isn’t hooked by then, you are dead in the water.

Here are few particular links to specific posts you may like to look over. Though, we recommend you spend some time on this site and the blog to learn as much as possible.

Earn Royalties and Engage With Your Readers

Obviously, the biggest draw for an author to use Kindle Vella is that they can get paid for writing a single chapter. The more you write, the more you can earn. But how exactly do you get paid through Kindle Vella?

The basic premise is that for each token that is used to unlock your story, you get 50% of the profits from the sale of that coin. That’s basic, though. Amazon is using a formula to calculate the percentage amount to pay you and it looks like this:

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

Looks confusing, right? It’s not as bad as it seems. Basically, Amazon will make tokens available for purchase through various mobile means. The Vella app, obviously, but other third party vendors can (and will) get involved, offer special deals and may have other fees or taxes associated with it.

Kindle Vella Royalties Explained

All of these fees, taxes and total cost of the sale are removed and you are paid up to 50% of what is left over. The total cost of each individual token is what you are paid on. So, for example, if the reader buys a bundle of 200 tokens, those tokens cost more than the tokens that come from a bundle of 1500 tokens.

This means that if the reader unlocks your story using the more expensive tokens, you earn more.

Let’s assume the reader paid $2 for 200 token bundle. They use this bundle to unlock your episode that requires 40 tokens (4000 words) with no additional fees.

40 tokens x ($2/200 – 0) x 50% = 40 x $0.01 x 50% = $0.20. You will earn 20 cents for that one reader for that one chapter.

Now, assume a reader comes along and unlocks that same chapter (40 tokens) but they purchased a 1500 token bundle for $9.99 with no additional fees. Then it looks like this:

40 tokens x ($9.99/1500 – 0) x 50% = 40 x $0.0067 x 50% = $0.13. For the same chapter, you earn 13 cents because the cost per token for reader Number 2 was lower.

Obviously, this is beyond your control, but it is important to understand the payments so you don’t freak out when you look at the royalty pay outs. Each one will be slightly different.

Engage with Your Kindle Vella Audience

The author note area, I believe, will be one of the most under used aspects of the entire process. So, make sure you are using it correctly. Here are some tips for writing your Author note at the end of each episode.

  • Thank the reader. You want the audience to feel included and special. A simple thank you for reading this episode will go a long way.
  • Don’t be subtle. There is a reason every YouTube video ends with “Like and subscribe to my channel.” They say it because it works. Don’t be afraid to ask the reader to Fave your episode, Thumbs up your story, and Follow you for more episodes. If you want the attention, you will need to ask for it.
  • Let the reader know what’s going on. If you are posting an episode every week, or every second Thursday or even once a month, let them know. If you make them guess or wait for notifications, they will forget all about you.
  • Think about yourself as a reader. What do you wish your favorite author would say to you? If you read their latest novel and at the end of it was a little message to you, the reader, what would you want it to say? Write that.

The Best Genres for Kindle Vella

Currently, Kindle Vella supports 15 categories for genres. Non-fiction and Children’s Stories are the only two options of Primary category that do not have a secondary category option. So, if you are writing How-to’s or children’s books, you only get to select that category.

The other genre options are:

  • Action & Adventure
  • Dystopian
  • Erotica
  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humor
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Paranormal
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Teen & Young Adult
  • Thriller

As with any platform, some genres are expected to do better than others. Because of the pay to read aspect, you may not find a good fit for historical fiction, erotica or sci-fi. Not that these can’t do well, but there are better platforms (and more established) for them.

Plus, Sci-Fi stories tend to be long and people won’t pay the price of two books in a book store to read half of your story.

However, Romance, Paranormal and Young Adult are expected to do quite well. Romance is still one of the top genre’s in any platform and will continue to sell for years to come.

Young adult is also quite popular around the world and it fits a large selection of the mobile app reader’s interests. This, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in other genres. But if you already use these three to write your stories, you are going to have a much easier time will sales, at least in the beginning.

Kindle Vella Vs. Other Similar Services

Kindle Vella is new for Amazon, but paying for stories isn’t a new or novel idea (no pun intended). There are several platforms available for a wide array of writers and readers alike. So how does Kindle Vella stack up? We compare Vella to Wattpad, Patreon, Radish and more to find out exactly that.

Vella Vs. Wattpad

Wattpad (https://www.wattpad.com/) has been around a long while. Officially starting in 2007, the company got the idea and started making it happen back in 2002. Today, Wattpad is one of the largest online writers and readers connection portals around. The biggest draw is that it is free. Writers add their stories, readers read them.

They also have comment capability where any reader can comment, ask questions or anything else on any part of your story. On top of that, there is a large community forum where people talk about books, the stories and sell their services like cover designers and art work for your books.

The paid stories feature in Wattpad is relatively new (2019). It works almost identical to Vella. However, it is only available through the mobile app. If you want to buy coins and unlock stories, you have to use the app. The other main difference is that Wattpad allows you to unlock a chapter at a time, or the entire story at once.

While I am certain Vella will add the “unlock full story” feature in the future, Wattpad gives the Kindle a run for its money in terms of number of active users and has a 20-year head start on content. Still, Vella will pay more, and makes the process easier for everyone, which will put Wattpad back of the class in less than a year (personal guess).

Vella Vs. Patreon

Starting in 2013, Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/) started as a place for artistic professionals (content creators) to monetize their skills using their fan base as support. While Patreon is not known for it’s writers, like Kindle, it still has a place for any artist’s work, including books.

The main difference is that Patreon is a monthly subscription service. So if you want to follow an author to see new releases or updated chapters each time, you have to renew your subscription each month. Patreon has a corner on the market for creatives when it comes to charging for their work.

Instead of just paying to get the next episode, members on Patreon pay each month and expect more stuff. As a creator, you are expected to give or offer “behind the scenes” items that the paying visitor can’t get anywhere else. This sets up a recurring monetization stream for the member, but limits the abilities of the visitor.

While Patreon has a lot of great advantages, in terms of books, stories and writing Vella will be a better option.

Vella Vs. Radish

Radish (https://radishfiction.com/), founded in 2015, is almost identical to Vella. They offer short episodes (they call them bite-sized chapters) where authors can write little stories that readers pay to read. Sounds familiar, right?

The biggest difference is that Raddish focuses on the writers. They have an application process based on the type of writer you are (beginner, established or influencer). They also pay less than Amazon and have a smaller following. The concept is good and there are some decent stories on Radish, though, and for on-the-go reading, it is a viable option.

However, it doesn’t matter your skill level or how you see yourself with Kindle Vella. As long as you have an Amazon account, you can start publishing. It literally takes 3 minutes to go from log in to publish, and Amazon already has the base Kindle readers for an audience.

Bigger numbers, less red tape and high sales potential make Vella the winner here.

Vella Vs. OnlyFans

Onlyfans (https://onlyfans.com) started in 2016 as a content subscription service for anyone that uses social media. The original draw was that there were many content creators on social media limited by the terms of service or conditions of being a member. OnlyFans set out to allow content of any type to be displayed, and your top fans from social media could come and pay you to access that content.

Of course, the Internet being what it is made OnlyFans more of a porn hub than a content creation hub. Still, there is a place for it and writers on OnlyFans can still earn quite well. Mainly because you can set your own prices, offer pay-per-view style content and monthly subscriptions.

If you are a writer of erotica, it will go over well on OnlyFans, where it is expected to not do so well with Vella. You do have a potential to earn more with OnlyFans. However, if you aren’t willing to show pictures, upload videos and interact on a more personal level with your readers, it can be difficult to earn.

Vella Vs. Medium

Launched in 2012, Medium (https://medium.com/) is an online publishing platform that allows you to post content that will be beneficial to others. Mainly, readers look at content created as self-help, how-tos and informational articles. The main idea (for the creators) is to draw attention to their writing ability, get links and eyes on their personal websites and content and hopefully find new clients or potential for-hire opportunities.

Medium does now have a Partner Program that is a paid service working much like Vella. Instead of coins, though, you get paid when members read your stuff. This process can be profitable, since popular and well written stories get featured and therefore more views.

However, it is only when members read your stories that you get paid and not the general public. Since anyone can go to the site (or app) and read your stories at any time, it is more difficult to get members to read to raise your numbers.

For the type of content that Medium is best at, non-fiction is better suited for the American based company. Vella, though, will still outperform Medium in almost every other genre and in all financial aspects.

Important Vella Links

Vella has several links that you will need to know about. Here are all of the important ones for you to do your own research, learn more, or start writing your stories today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When is Kindle Vella going to be live and open for readers?

A. There isn’t a set date at this moment. However, the best guess is going off of the Vella main page that says “in a few months.” We expect a mid to late Summer 2021 release.

Q. Do I have to live in the US to publish on Kindle Vella?

A. Yes. Currently Vella is only open to publishers (authors) who reside in the United States. While this is expected to change over time, we can’t guess as to how long it will take or which other countries will be included.

Q. What kind of content should I publish on Kindle Vella?

A. Stories that can be formatted and released as serializations will be best. You want your episodes to fall between 600 and 5000 words total, and they can be stand alone or linked to one another.

Q. Can I post items from the public domain on Kindle Vella?

A. No. Vella does not allow content that is freely available. All work must be original, of your own making and not infringe on any content or copyright issues. However, you can publish on Vella any serialized stories you wrote, even if they are on another platform.

Q. When will my story be available to Kindle Vella reders?

A. All stories published and approved prior to app release will be available as soon as the app is released to the public. It is advised by Amazon that you have at least 1 story with 5 to 10 chapters ready for release day. Once the app is public, your stories will be live as soon as you publish them, or when they are scheduled to go live.

Q. What if I don’t want my Vella stories to be public just yet?

A. The best way to keep your stories out of view and waiting until you are ready to publish them is to post them in draft status. Once they are submitted or scheduled, they will be “live.” You can then go back and make edits or schedule the release for a future date.

Conclusion

Kindle Vella is a new content creation platform for authors in the United States. Publishing through a new mobile app (part of the Amazon Kindle), writers will be able to earn a 50% commission on each chapter or episode of their serialized stories.

The public facing aspect of the app is not live as of this writing, allowing for authors to gather and finalize their content and have their stories ready for release day.

This article was designed to give you all the possible information on the Kindle Vella application so you can make the best decision possible for you and your needs. If you have any other questions, please use the comment section below and JT will do his best to answer you all.

Updates to this article will be announced and dated at the top.

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1 Response

  1. hot shot bald cop says:

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