Serial publishing–that is, publishing a novel chapter by chapter, often in magazines or other periodicals–has been around for a long time. Charles Dickens was known for it. Now Amazon is getting in on the serial game with a new service called Vella.
I’ve talked about various outlets for self-publishing in the past, including Amazon’s KDP and Kindle Unlimited, so of course I had to look into Vella. I’d guess they created it to compete with services like Webnovel and Dreame, and I’d honestly put more trust into Amazon than those two.
The Vella store isn’t actually open yet. At the moment, Amazon is encouraging authors to have anywhere from 1-5 chapters (called episodes) ready to roll so they’ll have material available for readers when Vella launches. Honestly, the program sounds a bit like Webtoon, but for books instead of comics. Readers buy tokens to unlock story episodes, and writers earn royalties when readers spend tokens on their stories. The first few episodes of every story are free so readers get a sample before they have to spend money.
Publishing on Vella is a little different than publishing a complete novel through KDP. The content guidelines are available here, but I’ll give you a few highlights:
- Existing content guidelines for eBooks apply to serials published through Vella, so make sure you’re up to date on those.
- Vella doesn’t accept anything that’s been previously published in long form. So you can’t break up your existing eBook into a serial format and push it through Vella.
- They don’t want anything that’s been published online for free–so the story you’ve been posting on your blog is a no-go.
- No links to outside material in your author’s notes. They don’t want you encouraging readers to navigate away from Vella.
Pricing and Royalties
Royalties are currently 50% of whatever the reader spent on tokens. Your episode’s word count determines how many tokens a reader will pay to unlock it. I’m not comfortable crunching the numbers, but you can read more about that here.
I’ve seen authors in Facebook groups complain about the pay rate, but I couldn’t tell you from personal experience if it’s good or bad compared to non-serial publishing. Obviously it will add up if you attract a lot of readers. Brush up on those marketing skills now, so you’ll be ready to promote your work when Vella launches.
So is Vella worth it?
I honestly couldn’t say. It sounds a bit gimmicky, but the truth is that serialized novels have been popular for a long time. Like, The Pickwick Papers long. They’re not exactly novels, but Webtoon makes a killing off of some of their series. A few of those have even been adapted for other forms of media. God of High School and Tower of God have been made into animated series. Jim Henson Studio is producing a Netflix adaptation of Lore Olympus, and there’s already a ton of merch at stores like Hot Topic and BoxLunch. If Vella takes off, authors who got in on the ground floor might do very well.
Tokens add up though. Readers might end up paying more for a serialized book than they would have paid for an eBook of the same length. If that stays the same, I’m not sure how long Vella will be able to sustain itself. People will eventually get tired of shelling out to read a book one episode at a time when they could just buy a complete novel and be done with it.
I still have questions, too.
What happens when you reach the end of your serial on Vella? According to the current guidelines, you would have to unpublish all episodes if you wanted to publish it as a longform novel rather than a serialized novel. You also can’t sell it in other markets while it’s on Vella, so publishing wide isn’t an option.
I’m also concerned that Vella might go the way of Kindle Worlds, and disappear with little to no notice.
I do like the idea. I just want a little more information before I jump in.
I’ve had good luck with serials before. Years ago, I posted fanfiction online in serial form. At its peak, one of my stories got well over 10,000 visitors per month and it was in a dead fandom. I didn’t get any money from it, obviously, but I did get lots of comments and messages from readers and the attention was fun. Publishing in a serial format could work out pretty well for me. I just want a finalized idea of how earnings would work, and the best way to transition a finished novel off of Vella and into a more typical novel format.
What do you think about Vella? Is it something you would use?
I would consider it, under the right circumstances. Of course, I don’t have anything ready to publish right now, but I’m working on that. What about you? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.