Intrigued by Amazon’s Vella

Vella is coming soon.

Writers will publish stories in episodes. A single episode may be anywhere from 600 words to 5000 words.

Readers will read stories one episode at a time.

One neat feature that I like is that the author can include optional notes at the end of each episode. An author might share insights into how the story came about or share a personal note. There are many ways that authors can use this space.

Ordinarily, when you read a novel, such notes don’t appear between the chapters, and would seem to break up the momentum of the story. But with Vella, readers aren’t buying the entire book at once, but are reading one episode at a time. I might like some of the tidbits that get included here. Another possible use of author notes is to generate interest in the next episode.

Author notes are capped at 200 words per episode, so a single note won’t be too long. But after reading several episodes, there is a lot of potential for readers to learn more about the characters or the author.

Covers are simplified. It isn’t necessary to include any text on the cover itself. You just need to make a 1600 by 1600 square image (less than 2 MB) to generate interest in your story. Amazon automatically places the title and author name below the image.

Formatting the story is incredibly simplified. Every story will appear in block paragraphs with no indents, with spacing between the paragraphs. This is done automatically. You type, paste, or upload a story with paragraphs and that’s how it will come out.

There are no pictures to worry about in the content file. There are no bullet points, no subscripts or superscripts, no headings, no subheadings, no drop caps, or any of the kinds of things that complicate formatting.

Since Vella is designed for sharing stories, it is designed for plain text.

It is also phone friendly. For the phone, it makes sense not to indent paragraphs, but to instead put space between them. You can type with indented paragraphs with no space between them, and when you upload the file for each episode, it will automatically be converted to block paragraphs with no indents, with space between paragraphs.

The description is limited to 500 characters, which forces you to be concise. Most readers don’t read beyond the Read More point at Amazon, especially for fiction. It pays to learn how to be concise here, and to generate interest without spoiling the story.

The first three episodes are free. This basically serves as the Look Inside. The first three episodes need to be good enough to make the reader to want more.

For me, the most challenging part is to come up with the tags. I think this will be easier once Vella gets underway and we can explore the different tags in use.

The category choices are currently very limited. There are basically no subcategories. You’ll need to use a couple of tags to function as your subcategories.

The pricing is interesting. Readers buy tokens in bulk. The examples suggest that a token will cost about a penny. The exact cost depends on how large a quantity of tokens the customer buys. They can buy more and save a little per token.

The token idea makes sense because you can’t charge small dollar amounts on a credit card; the fees would make it impractical. But you can charge for hundreds of tokens on a credit card and let readers use tokens to buy low-cost episodes.

It looks like Amazon is taking prices out of the hands of the author. It looks like one token will unlock 100 words. For example, if an episode has 753 words, a customer will need to use 7 tokens to unlock the episode. If an episode has 799 words and you add one word to it, a customer will need to use 8 tokens instead of 7.

It looks like the author earns 50% of the customer’s cost of the tokens. So if customers spend approximately 1 penny per token, an author earns about half a penny per token spent. In this example, an author is earning about half a penny per 100 words read.

It’s interesting to compare this with Kindle Unlimited, where authors in KDP Select earn a little under half a penny per KENP page read. A KENP page read typically has well more than 100 words, right? So half a penny per 100 words in Vella seems to be a much improved rate compared to Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s another way to look at it. Suppose that you write a 100,000 word novel and break it up into episodes for Kindle Vella. (Before you get any ideas, you’re not allowed to publish currently or previously available books on Kindle Vella.)

At 100 words per episode, a 100,000 word novel would require spending 1000 tokens, which is a lot of tokens. If a customer spends 1 penny per token, it will cost the customer $10 to buy every episode of your novel (well, the first three episodes are free), and you would earn about $5 in royalties for the novel. So the royalty rate, if it stays this way, appears to be favorable for authors, much better than Kindle Unlimited, even better than sales of novels.

Seriously, most indie authors don’t price a 100,000 word novel at $9.99 and proceed to sell it like hot cakes.

But the novel was just to get an idea of the royalty rate, not to suggest that a novel is a good fit for Vella.

Vella is designed for stories that can be told one episode at a time.

Another important consideration is that customers will buy the story one episode at a time.

The customer isn’t paying the price for the book and buying the entire book.

The customer will read the first three episodes for free. If they are good enough, the customer may buy the first episode. The sequence of episodes needs to hold the reader’s interest, otherwise, the reader will just spend a small number of tokens and abandon the book.

If the reader only reads 10% of the book, the author only earns royalties for the tokens spent to unlock 10% of the book. If the book is good enough for most customers to read all of it, then the author earns the maximum possible royalty for the book. So just having 100,000 boring words won’t be earning authors $5 per book. But 100,000 captivating, spellbinding, marvelously crafted words can bring a favorable royalty per customer.

The pricing appears to reward reader engagement. Personally, I like this, whether as a reader or as an author.

Vella has appeal to me both as a reader and as an author.

As a reader, I look forward to Author Notes. For me, it’s like a bonus feature. You sometimes get these things in front matter or back matter. But with Vella, when they are available, we’ll get them in tidbits between episodes. I like the potential.

As an author, until now I’ve only written nonfiction, mostly math and science workbooks. I’ve considered writing stories for several years, but until Vella was introduced, had never attempted it. But now, I’m planning to write some stories. I may publish some or all of them under a pen name. We’ll see.

I’ll definitely be registering the copyrights for my work though.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

How Much Did Kindle Unlimited Pay in January, 2020?

The Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for January, 2020

$0.004411 is the per-page rate for KENP read for Kindle Unlimited in January, 2020. It’s down from December’s rate of $0.004664, which was also down from November. It takes a dip around this time almost every year, probably an effect characteristic of the holidays. Fortunately, even after the dip, it’s still significantly above $0.004 per page.

The KDP Select Global Fund rose to a record high of $28.2 million for January, 2020.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited for December, 2019

The December, 2019, Kindle Unlimited Per Page Rate

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was 0.004664 in December, 2019. It’s down from December, perhaps from holiday Kindle sales, but close to what it had been in October.

The KDP Select Global Fund rose to a new high of $26.2 million for December, 2019.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited, October, 2019

The Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for October, 2019

$0.0047 is the Kindle Unlimited (KENP) per-page rate for October, 2019.

It’s nearly identical to the rate for September, 2019. (You need more decimal places to see a difference.)

September and October were about 7% better than July and August.

The KDP Select Global Fund reached a new high of $26 million.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited: What was the KENP rate for July, 2019?

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ FOR JULY, 2019

The KENP rate for pages read in Kindle Unlimited in July, 2019 was $0.00439.

It’s a small drop (roughly 5%) compared to June’s rate of $0.00464.

However, Amazon actually paid out more royalties overall in July than in June.

That’s because the KDP Select Global Fund rose from $24.9 million to a record $25.6 million.

Perhaps Amazon Prime Day had a small impact. If, for example, Amazon sold many Kindle ereaders, there may be new customers using their free month of Kindle Unlimited.

Whatever the reason, the per-page rate does tend to vary a bit, although it has been relatively stable for much of 2019.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Rate for May, 2019

MAY, 2019 KINDLE UNLIMITED PER PAGE RATE

For May, 2019, the KENP per-page rate for pages read through Kindle Unlimited was $0.00466.

This is nearly identical to what it was in April, and is a small improvement over March.

In May, the KDP Select Global fund climbed up to $24.6 million.

The Global fund was $24.1 in April and $24.0 million in March.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

April 2019’s KENP per-page-read rate for Kindle Unlimited

KINDLE UNLIMITED: APRIL 2019’S PER-PAGE RATE

$0.004665 was the per-page rate for pages read through Kindle Unlimited in April of 2019.

This is an improvement over March’s rate of $0.00451.

$24.1 million was the KDP Select Global fund for April of 2019.

This was nearly identical to March’s figure of $24 million.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Now Has Scrolling Options

 

NOW YOU CAN READ A KINDLE EBOOK BY SCROLLING DOWNWARD

Some formatters used to say that a Kindle eBook is scrollable like a webpage.

But until now, that wasn’t quite right. You used to paginate your way through a Kindle eBook by advancing onto the next “page.”

But Kindle eBooks also weren’t like print books. When you changed the font size, line spacing, or read the book on a different device, the “pages” became significantly different.

However, now on supported devices it is possible to scroll down through a Kindle eBook just like you scroll through an article on a website online.

In the settings, look for the Continuous Scrolling option, shown below for my Kindle Fire.

If you’d rather paginate your way through the eBook, just disable the Continuous Scrolling option and it will function just like it always has.

This new feature is important to authors and publishers who use KDP for a couple of reasons.

Some readers will now scroll through your eBook, whether you like it or not.

So let’s give a little thought to how this may impact eBook design.

  • You want to add Space After to the last paragraph of a chapter (or section) that ordinarily precedes a page break. The page break is removed in Continuous Scrolling, so if you want to have space between the last paragraph of your chapter and the chapter heading that follows, you want to add Space Before to the last paragraph. Ideally, you should do this through paragraph styles or HTML. In HTML, create and apply a style definition that adds a bottom margin to the paragraph. If you’re using Word, create a body text paragraph that adds space after. I use a variety of paragraph styles that add space after: One is like the normal body paragraphs, one is for non-indented paragraphs, one is for the last point of a list, and another is for centered paragraphs. (By the way, since the Look Inside scrolls like a webpage, this is a handy tip to help create a little vertical separation in your Look Inside.)
  • With ordinary pagination, you could control page breaks and prevent information from showing on a screen sooner than you’d like (although some devices like Kindle for PC allow two pages to show on the screen at once). Suppose, for example, that you have an eTextbook with problems followed by answers or solutions. Ordinarily, you could place the answer or solution on the next “page” so that students could try it first, then check their work. However, if they scroll through the eBook now, they may stumble into the answers before reading the problems. Of course, once the student gets used to this, they can scroll more carefully if they don’t wish for this to happen. But it is something to consider as an author or publisher.
  • On the other hand, you can’t design your eBook with the assumption that everybody will scroll through it. Some readers will still be paginating like always.

Can you think of any other ways that this new scrolling feature may impact Kindle eBook design?

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

December, 2018 Kindle Unlimited Royalty for Pages Read

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY PER PAGE FOR DECEMBER, 2018?

2018 closed out at $0.00487 per page with December’s Kindle Unlimited per page rate (KENP read).

This returns it to the values it had for September ($0.00488) and October ($0.00484).

Although it is a drop from November ($0.0052), the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate seldom clears half a penny per page. Based on its behavior for the past few years, the November amount is more of a sweet bonus than an expectation.

The per-page rate is still in the $0.0048’s, and has been at least at that level for 4 consecutive months, which is a relative high.

The KDP Select Global Fund for December, 2018 was $23.7 million. (It was $23.6 million for November and $23.5 million for October.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Book Update

BOOK UPDATES

One challenge with nonfiction books is keeping the content up-to-date.

As an example, I’m currently in the process of updating my self-publishing guides.

I just updated my Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon, Volume 1 (the Kindle edition is on sale on Black Friday, thru Cyber Monday). The others will be updated soon (and I’ll add a note to the description once they are).

As you may have heard, CreateSpace recently merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As a result, I needed to update all of my self-publishing guides. A few of them mention CreateSpace over a hundred times, so it hasn’t been a ‘simple’ update.

I also noticed a few other things that needed updating, like mention of the CreateSpace eStore option (which is no longer available) and changes to Kindle Unlimited.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve updated dozens of my books over the years. A few of my books have required several updates.

It’s a great feature of self-publishing: Amazon makes it fairly quick and easy to keep your content up-to-date.

I have some tips for doing this.

  • Keep a list of the most recent filename for each of your books. If you spend the next few years publishing multiple books, this list will save you time finding your most recent files. Type the list on your computer, backup the file, and print out a hard copy, just in case. (You can find the name of your most recent content file at KDP, unless you originally published the book with CreateSpace, then you’re out of luck if your book has already transitioned to KDP. Don’t rely on Amazon to keep your file info.)
  • Store your most recent editable files (by that I mean your Word file, not your PDF or MOBI file) in multiple places, like on a computer and on a jump drive, just in case something happens to one of the files.
  • Amazon is generally pretty flexible in letting you simply revise the files of the existing book (paperback or Kindle), even if you have fairly extensive revisions. If your current edition is selling well, it makes sense to simply update the files. If you publish a new edition as a new book on your KDP bookshelf, your book will start over with sales rank, keyword relevance, customers also bought lists, reviews, etc. (though perhaps by request you can get reviews transferred, but I would ask beforehand, just to be sure).
  • If your current edition isn’t doing well (in terms of sales or reviews), then it may be better to start over with a new edition. You can simply unpublish your original edition. (Note that paperback editions remain on Amazon forever, just in case a previous customer wishes to resell a used copy.)
  • If the update is significant, mention it in your description. If the update may be a selling point (or if it may make what had been an outdated book into an updated book), mention it at the beginning of your description, like UPDATED IN NOVEMBER, 2018. You can even make a starburst (like the one you see on the picture for my article) to call attention to the update on your cover (my starburst was designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net).
  • Some problems you may not wish to call attention to. Maybe you corrected a few little typos or mistakes, which nobody else has pointed out in reviews. If so, you probably wouldn’t want to mention this.
  • However, if a review is quite visible on your product page and calls attention to a problem that has since been fixed, you may wish to note this in the book description. (It’s generally much better to revise your description than to comment on the review directly.)
  • Think twice before revising categories or keywords. If any of your original categories or keywords have succeeded in establishing relevance at Amazon (note that you may not realize this if it has happened), revising your categories or keywords may lose this potentially valuable relevance. Maybe you have established some relevance and don’t realize its value: If you’re getting any sales now, changing categories or keywords comes with a risk. My advice is generally not to change these if you’re content with sales. If you’re not getting sales, then there really is no harm in trying, and in that case maybe new categories or keywords will help out.
  • Check your corrections carefully. It’s amazing how easy it is to introduce a new mistake when you’re making a few little corrections.
  • Getting the updated Kindle edition of a book doesn’t work the way we might expect. It generally doesn’t automatically update. Why not? Because customers would lose notes, highlights, and annotations, which could be really frustrating for some customers. If a customer sees that the new edition is available (or if the author wants to check out the latest edition), just buying the book again won’t solve the problem (not if it’s bought on the same account as the original): Amazon automatically finds the original version and delivers that (even if you remove the book from your device first). You can visit Manage Your Content and Devices from your Amazon account and check if there is an Update Available flag present: This lets you manually update the book. Under Preferences, you can also find an option for Automatic Book Updates. If you still don’t get the most updated version, you need to contact Amazon and ask them to “push” the latest version onto your device.
  • It may help to educate your customers. If you post information about your update on your blog, for example, you can tell customers how to get the latest edition of your Kindle eBook.
  • At KDP’s Contact Us option, there is an option to request to have Amazon notify customers of your book update. A message there indicates that this is generally reserved for major problems, like when some of the content was unreadable. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides