Hello there my lovelies! It’s Sunday, and I know I told you I was going to try and do a review of my current read “The Bitter Rival” by LM Fox, but I’m sorry, I just didn’t have time to finish reading it yet. My life is a crazy mess, so I promise I’ll try again next week!
Also, my next guest blogger, Lashun Williams, is scheduled for 4/9/23 and I’m super pumped for you guys to read what she has in store for you!
Anyway, even though my review wasn't ready, I didn’t want to leave you completely in the lurch, so instead I’m giving you My Two Cents on Kindle Vella-again. This time, one-month post ‘going live.’
First—a disclaimer: The following is only my experience and my opinion of the service. If your experience has been drastically different, I want to know about it! So please leave a comment or message me and let me know.
Second-go check it out live! If you haven't already, please go check out my live story “Someone's Always Watching” and see what I'm talking about. The first three episodes are COMPLETELY FREE. And there are 8-episodes currently available.
Digital User Experience
So first of all, let’s talk about the ease of using Kindle Vella (KV). If you’ve ever used KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) then you’re already a step ahead, because Vella goes through KDP. The ease of setting up new projects and interfacing with the book will be fairly similar, but it is slightly different than other Kindle products.
I had to set up a KDP account (because I’ve never used it) so that was a bit of a process, but nothing too terrible. If you have an Amazon account, you set it up using that user ID, and it’s important to note that if you’re using a pen name (like me), you have to use your real identity for your KDP account. But it doesn’t show up anywhere in your book data as long as your pen name is listed as the author on all your projects.
Anyway, for KV, you navigate to KDP, then there is a section below any current Kindle Unlimited/Kindle products specifically for Vella projects. It takes you to a separate site for managing your KV story or starting a new story. After setting up the main story page (title, author(s), description, and 1-image photo) you can create episodes.
It’s important to note, ALL KV stories have the same circular image space at the top of the story. So unlike a book project, you don’t have as much creative freedom for creating a “cover.” You get one photo to convey the overall vibe of the story. I found one photo limiting, so I used Canva to create a collage, and tweaked it so it fit inside the circle.
In addition to the image, description, and title, you have to give your story a category from a list of top categories (i.e. romance, thriller, suspense, mystery, etc.). You can choose two. And you will need to give it tags (usually used for subplot). You can create up to 7. So make sure you know what your story is about!
As far as creating episodes goes, it’s also fairly simple. You create a new episode, give it a title (optional, but most everyone does it), then you can either write it directly in the KV story space, import a doc/docx file, or copy and paste.
I write my story in Google Docs as one consecutive file so I’ve always utilized the copy/paste, but I’m sure importing is even easier. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend writing directly into KV, because if something were to happen with their system, or for some reason they ever took it down, you’d lose your work. So I recommend keeping a backup of your own file.
You can also add episode polls, and questions for your readers. I think this is meant to make your story more collaborative/interactive with readers. Like if you wanted them to give you input on where your story should go, or feedback about what they think might happen next. I talked about it in my original post about KV. I think it’s a cool feature that I hope to utilize in the future, but it isn’t something I’ve currently ever used.
After you've drafted/edited your episodes, you can schedule stories to release on a specific date, or you can choose “release now” and it would go live immediately (almost). I say (almost) because just like any other KDP project, there is an approval process required for publishing. It says it can take up to 72 hours for your story to be approved, but in my experience, it usually takes less than 24-hours on average. Regardless, it does take a bit of time before your story goes live, just so you know.
Another FYI, I learned from experience, you can schedule posts for specific dates, but you have to do it at least 4-days before you want to schedule them for. So for example, I release every Thursday, so they have to be scheduled by Sunday in order for me to schedule. Otherwise, I have to “publish now” on Wednesday and hope they get approved by Thursday, and that has led me to being early releasing once and late releasing once.
Another thing to note: you can edit a story after it goes live, but not during the approval process. So once you hit “publish” you have to wait until you’re notified by Amazon that your story is approved before you can make changes. And once you do edit and publish the edits, it has to be approved again. So that’s just a little bit of info I’ve learned along the way. I do love that you can continue to edit your stories even after they're published because I am a tinkerer. Just like my blog, I tend to read it dozens of times but undoubtedly after I publish, I'll find a typo or something worded weird and want to fix it.
Also, in the vein of staying ahead of the curve, you can save drafts, and have multiple episodes ready to go, which I find completely necessary. On your story dashboard, it shows you how many are live and how many are in process at the top, and also lists drafts.
What it boils down to is, I think it’s a fairly simple straightforward process, especially if you’re pretty good at picking up on new websites. So overall, KV is pretty user friendly. There are definitely a few things I’ve had to work out, but I have found the process of using it pretty easy.
Payment Process Experience
Ok, so as of the moment I’m writing this blog, I haven't been paid, but I do have stats to report.
I went live on 2/25, and today is 3/26. I currently have 8 episodes posted, 24 total reads (5 locked episodes), 3 follows, and 15-👍🏻s. The reporting is ready-made and no real interpretation required. It shows how many reads I’ve had, and how many of those are “locked” episodes (meaning someone had to spend tokens to read them). I can also see the number of likes, reviews, and follows.
So far, I’ve earned $0 in royalties (read this post about how royalties are calculated–note KV has made their verbiage on royalties more clear since my original post and I updated it there).
Anyway, I got my first bonus statement (for February) on March 21st, and it said I would receive bonus payments in April totaling $11.22. So obviously I’m not making it rich, but $11 is better than $0 that’s for sure!
The one major problem I have with this process is that it isn’t really spelled out how those bonuses were earned exactly. It simply says “bonuses earned” in all the reporting, and since I don't know from what, it makes it difficult to figure out how to replicate it. All the literature on KV commonly asked questions says bonuses are earned from users using free/paid tokens to unlock episodes, faves and follows. So I assume my bonuses were earned from a combination of these three things, but I can't know for sure how much from what.
As I mentioned, I haven’t been paid yet, but the payments are released quarterly in April, July, October and January, and setting up payment is fairly easy. You fill out tax information and input your direct deposit details so easy peasy, money goes directly into your account.
So, this bit has been the most difficult for me!
I hate selling stuff. I know I’m not good at it, and I don’t want to do it. Honestly, it’s a HUGE reason I haven’t just self-published my debut novel series already. I am petrified it’s going to just die in a sea of KU books because I can’t figure out the right marketing formula to reach my potential readers.
I have a presence on social media–a decent sized bookstagram and booktok circle–but it’s obviously (based on my numbers) not necessarily translating into readers. I’m having trouble targeting the right people, and my KV story hasn’t really picked up much traction.
Because I have a zillion other things going on in my life right now (including counting down the days until my oldest daughter graduates high school), I have felt a bit discouraged about this lately. And I’m positive it’s a contributing factor into why I’ve been in such a reading and writing rut lately. It also is affecting my ability to keep up with marketing. I haven’t given up on it, I’m still publishing episodes, but I just haven’t exactly been marketing as much as I should.
One thing I have found seems to somewhat work is KV reader groups. There are groups out there on social media (Facebook mostly) where you can post story links to hopefully reach people who might be interested in reading your episodes. A lot of times these groups are populated by other indie/vella authors who also hope you'll read their work in return. And, if nothing else, it’s a free support group. They’re all trying to work out the same things as you, so they’re sympathetic and super helpful.
Ultimately, so far, marketing is my steepest hill to climb.
I'm still trying to find the right formula and unlike KU, where tons of other authors are doing it and onboard for sharing their secrets, KV is still fairly new. There are people out there who are smashing their numbers on KV, but so far I haven't found a really great resource willing to share their secrets. For sure I've found a circle of friends experiencing the same struggles as me, but I wish I could find someone to mentor me.
In all reality, it’s probably good that I didn’t just jump in and release my debut novel series. I think releasing KV first has helped me understand more about myself (as a person trying to peddle my indie writing), find resources for help (I’ve found several editors that I will definitely use for my books before I publish), and it’s helped me build a support system of other indie authors who will ultimately cheer me on when I do publish my books! Plus, I’ve found so many marketing ideas that even though I haven't quite been able to work out what works yet, I have discovered things that don't work, so I can hopefully land on what does!
I know when I do decide to publish my romance series, my experience will ultimately be different than KV, but that’s ok, because I’ve learned that I can endure and keep pushing forward.
Ultimately I'd say, one-month post 'going live' on KV, it hasn't been a completely horrible experience. Did I hope that my story would become an overnight sensation and that I'd have thousands of reads by now? Of course! Was I realistic enough to understand that probably wouldn't happen? Absolutely. But, I'll keep moving forward, keep trying to figure out what works and what doesn't and hopefully one day I'll find the right formula!
So that's it, that's my one-month post ‘going live’ Two Cents on Kindle Vella. So far it's slow going, but I'm going to keep pushing. Here's hoping 🤞🤞 my six-month check-in brings better news.
Have a great week friends!
-Rose Rayne Rivers
Comment below and share your experience with KV? Do you have any great resources I should read?
Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!
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