I recently sat down with Virginia Milner, the head of Kindle Vella and Principal Project Manager of Kindle Direct Publishing. This interview was timely because so many of us have questions about publishing on Kindle Vella as authors and self-publishers.
It was a privilege to get some of those questions answered from the source.
I really related to Virginia as far as getting into this business because of my love for books growing up.
Virginia’s elevator pitch for Kindle Vella? Here you go:
Kindle Vella is a serialized, mobile reading experience.
The General Idea Behind Kindle Vella
Authors write stories in episodic increments of no more than 5,000 words at regular intervals. Readers are able to then follow the story for the duration.
“It seemed that people were really looking for a book experience, but in shorter increments to fill the in-between moments of life like waiting at the doctor’s office, or for the bus, etc.” Virginia said of the inspiration to create Kindle Vella.
The Questions I Asked Virginia About Publishing on
Disclaimer: This is NOT an exact transcript. This is cleaned up for readability.
It’s kind of like the literary equivalent to your favorite TV shows.
Me: What type of author is suited for Kindle Vella?
Virginia: Really anybody who has a story to tell that they think would fit in that format and work well for readers in that way.
She went on to say that everyone from best-selling authors to relative newcomers is giving Kindle Vella a try. Authors without huge social followings have been able to build an audience on Kindle Vella.
“One thing we’ve seen is their frequency and regularity of the episodes being published is what kind of makes a difference.”
Me: I know I’m going to put you in a very awkward spot, but I’m sure you’ve read some Kindle Vella stories out there. Are there any favorites for you right now?
Virginia: I am a fan of The Marriage Auction.
Me: Every author loves to be paid. Obviously, we don’t like to be starving artists, so the big thing is this…can you share with us, briefly, the royalty structure for Kindle Vella? I know it’s very unclear to a lot of people and I’ve tried to do my best to demystify the whole thing, but hopefully, you can shed some light on it that will help people out.
Virginia: Our intent with our royalty structure is really to create an opportunity where authors can earn meaningful royalties from publishing on Kindle Vella. That’s absolutely our goal.
The way that works is there are two parts to it. One is readers buying tokens to read Kindle Vella content and they use the tokens to redeem episodes. Authors receive 50% of the dollar value of the tokens that readers are using to unlock their episodes, so that’s the royalty.
Then, the second part of it is we have a monthly bonus that we’ve been issuing based on the reader activity and engagement that we’re seeing with the stories and the publishing frequency.
- Your story does not have to be published exclusively on Kindle Vella. If it’s been published elsewhere in a serial format and isn’t available for free, it can be published on Kindle Vella or vice versa.
- You can publish your story as a print book or eBook without removing it from Kindle Vella. So it can be available in both formats so readers can choose. We do ask if you do publish to eBook or print that your last episode be active on Vella for 30 days prior. You can make use KDP Select and make it available for Kindle Unlimited readers as well.
Me: As Kindle Vella grows, is it going to be like the KDP Select global fund, and will the amount grow?
Virginia: It’s too soon to tell. We’re just getting started, but we are committed to making sure authors earn meaningful royalties from publishing this content and we’ll adapt as we need to.
Me: What’s the best way for us to provide you with feedback as authors about Kindle Vella directly?
Virginia: There are a few different ways to do it. You can always contact the Amazon KDP customer service team via the link at the bottom of your dashboard.
You can also leave feedback via our social profiles on Twitter (@AmazonKDP) and on our Facebook Page.
We also have a community forum you can access from your KDP dashboard via the Community tab. (All of these links are below!) Then just look for Kindle Vella. There’s a really great active group of people there discussing the same questions like we’ve been talking about today. The moderator there, KDPSam, takes note of all of the feedback, helps answer questions, and clarifies things.
Me: How often should one publish to get the most engagement?
Virginia: Based on what we’ve seen so far, and it’s going to depend on the author and their specific readers, but I would recommend at least once a week. That’s what we’ve seen work the best in terms of keeping the story top of mind with readers and keeping them engaged.
For writers, you’ve got to stay on top of it, so if you’re able to get out two episodes per week, that’s great too, but I would say at least one episode a week. That will also help with the Faves as well.
The Questions My Audience Asked Virginia
Melanie: Are there any plans to expand the non-fiction category as much as fiction?
Virginia: We’ve been super excited to see non-fiction content already on Kindle Vella. Hugh Howie wrote his autobiography entitled Life and Death. Longtime Seattle journalist, Fred Moody published Barfly which is a memoir about him becoming a bartender after he retired including all kinds of weird things that happened at the bar including Anthony Bourdain’s visit.
So, we’ve seen super interesting content that readers are definitely enjoying. As more content comes to Kindle Vella, we will make sure that readers can find this content and engage with it.
We definitely want to see more non-fiction content and have been really excited to see the content we already have.
Everyone: Are there any plans to expand Kindle Vella beyond the U.S. and is there a timeline for specific regions that you’re going to expand to?
Virginia: We’re just getting started. We just launched in July, so I’ll just have to ask everyone to stay tuned for that answer.
Foolish Author (person’s username): If authors are going to earn less in Vella than KDP, why should they publish in Vella at all?
Virginia: Kindle Vella is a new way to tell a serialized story. It’s a unique format and our royalty structure is designed specifically for that format. It’s very different than publishing an eBook and the royalties you would expect for that.
We expect that the 50% royalty rate combined with the bonus to be a compelling way for authors to earn a meaningful income from publishing on Kindle Vella as they publish successful stories that readers are interacting with.
I would encourage any author who thinks they have a story that would work well in this format to give it a try and see how it works. Leverage the tools that allow them to interact directly with the readers and see how it goes. It’s just different from publishing through KDP or publishing an eBook.
Questions That My Live Audience Asked Virginia about Publishing on Kindle Vella
Rusty Knox: How can we drive traffic? Are there any plans to add Amazon ads?
Virginia: Amazon ads aren’t available for Kindle Vella right now. The things we’ve seen authors doing is engaging their fans on social media, using their email list, and using the features available through Kindle Vella itself like Thumbs Up, Faves, frequent publishing, etc.
Timothy: Any word on when Kindle Vella is coming to Android?
Virginia: As I said, we’re just getting started, so I’ll ask you all to stay tuned on that as well. For Android users, Kindle Vella is fully optimized for Mobile if you just want to use your browser to access it. That goes for iOS users as well.
Author and Writer: How long will bonuses continue to happen?
Virginia: We plan for the bonuses to be ongoing. Another thing we’re also doing through the end of this year (2021) is compensating for free tokens. New customers to Kindle Vella get 200 free tokens to get started, and we’ve been compensating authors for those tokens.
C.P. Knight: Will you be adding formatting to the Author Notes? Even just line breaks would make them much easier to read.
Virginia: That’s super helpful feedback. I’ll definitely take that back to the team and we’ll look at it.
Jessica: How often is the featured list updated?
Virginia: I can just say that it’s updated frequently. We look for stories that we think readers will be interested in, adding new stories, and updating them on a regular basis.
Audrey: Can you confirm that the Kindle Vella experience has been rolled out and if it is or is not in beta? How would you respond to criticisms about discoverability, usability, and lack of audience?
Virginia: I would say that we’re just getting started. This is a brand new product both for authors and readers. We’re 3 months old, learning as we go, listening very carefully to both sides, watching how people are interacting with the experience, and constantly working to make improvements.
On marketing and discoverability, we are continually ramping up our efforts in that area. We are listening to the feedback.
At Amazon, we have a saying: “Every day is day one.” It means that we are always working like it’s the beginning and being mindful not to become complacent. This is especially true for Kindle Vella. It’s day one for us.
Audrey: Is there any plan to tell authors how many Crowns and Faves they get and how much those Faves are worth?
Virginia: The Crowns are the icons for the Faves, so it’s not a separate thing. Right now we don’t show that, and we are just kind of monitoring and figuring out what’s going to make sense, what’s going to help authors, what’s going to help readers, and if there are adjustments we want to make.
UnlimitedStory: There was mention of using social media, but we were told not to link off the platform. I’m assuming that’s in reference to the Author Notes?
Virginia: Yeah, the reason for that, like we were talking about earlier, is for the author to engage readers in the story and add another hook to feel connected to the story, the author, and to keep reading.
If you’re in the middle of binge-reading a story and there’s a link that takes you somewhere else, you may not come back and continue reading. Reading the story is supposed to enhance the reading experience and keep you reading that story.
I mentioned social media in the context of it being one thing we’ve seen some authors have great success with by just creating that conversation about the story in another place for their fans to connect and discuss the latest episode or provide feedback.
I would say that’s in addition to the story, the Author Notes, and not necessarily linking from one to the other.
Omanah: Does Kindle Vella have a “read to me” option yet and if not, are there plans for one?
Virginia: Great question, I’ll ask you to stay tuned on that.
Jessica: Do you foresee that an All Stars type of program would be available for Vella sometime down the line or is just the bonus pool enough?
Virginia: We haven’t announced anything like that yet. Again, we’re just getting started. There’s a possibility that if we think that makes sense for this program, it’s something we would look at, but we haven’t announced any specific plans around that at this time.
Love Townsend: You shared with us your favorite Vella series, but what is your favorite book? Dale: Give me at least three?
Virginia: The first book I read that made me fall in love with reading back in high school was Crime and Punishment. It made me realize the depth of storytelling that’s possible and how a story can unravel, pull you in, and how the writing fits into that. That was the first book that really made me appreciate literature, writing, and reading.
I think the book or books that I enjoyed the most, you know this is a little cliche, but Harry Potter is just riotous to read. It’s just fun, it’s just escapism into a different world and I love that series.
My favorite book that I’ve read recently was Little Fires Everywhere.
Resources Where You Can Learn More About Publishing on Kindle Vella
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