Amazon Rolls Out Kindle Vella Program

Since starting my writing journey on Wattpad in the faraway year of 2012, I’ve watched the free-reading platform grow exponentially. To my knowledge, Wattpad has been an innovative platform for writers and writing opportunities for non-published authors for years. They started with the Futures program, that I fortunately got to be a part of, but it never quite made it out of the beta stage. It thrived, for what seemed to be a short time, and paid authors from advertisement revenue. This was Wattpad’s way of paying their most esteemed authors every quarter. And by no means was it livable income, but for someone like me – a college student working a job and running a band – the passive income helped.

Then Wattpad ended the Futures program as the Paid Stories program was launched, and other coin-based platforms such as LURE, Dreame, Kiss, and other coin-based story apps began to follow suit. The reason I mention Wattpad is because, I believe they should be credited for the snowballing effect we’re seeing in these reading platforms today.

Now, Amazon’s Kindle Vella Program aims to do the same thing. With their coin-based, serialized fiction, writers can capitalize off their readers with every episode posted, where they can access stories through the Kindle Vella Store on or the Kindle app.

The way this works is similar to every other serialized story platform I’ve seen:

The first three episodes will be free, which aims to hook readers and have them willing and ready to buy tokens to read more. It seems like the way Kindle and the authors will determine how many tokens are required to unlock the next chapter depends on the word count of thus chapter.

1 token for about every 100 words, and if you write like me, that total can increase significantly over time. I was writing around 5k-word chapters on Wattpad before I started my self-publishing journey. That’s an average of 50 tokens for every new episode.

And here are the coin bundles in which you can purchase:

Kindle Vella Example 3

Not too bad, right? Well, let’s get into the good stuff: the royalty rates and calculations for the authors.

Amazon says authors will earn 50% of what readers spend on tokens, and even provided a formula to calculate expected earnings:

(# of tokens to unlock episode) x (token bundle price / tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) x (50%) = Earnings per episode

Let’s break this down further, shall we? For example, let’s use the metric I provided early. 50,and the reader purchases the 525 tokens bundle ($4.99) which comes with 525tokens, and for fun, we’ll leave taxes and fees at zero, although we all know reality doesn’t work that way.

We all remember PEMDAS, right?

(50) x ($4.99 / 525 – 0) x (50%) = a whopping 0.237 cents per episode! And this isn’t even including taxes and fees, which will certainly lower the royalty rate per chapter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I love crunching numbers. Let’s get even more generous. Let’s say readers are willing to pay for the highest token bundle available, but all the other metrics remain the same:

(50) x ($14.99 / 1700 – 0) x (50%) = 0.220 cents! The number went down, even though the reader is spending more money for more tokens.

I’m not saying it’s not a good idea, or that Amazon is taking complete advantage of its writers (It is, but what’s new?). I’m saying that, writers will make virtually pennies with this program.

Now, I’m not going to go into my educational background with the music industry, but we all know how streaming services literally pay tenths-of-a-penny per stream. It’s nothing. You can’t make a living with streaming alone.

Is this the future of the publishing industry? A dying industry’s dying breath to somehow justify paying its creators insubstantial cents in a world where content is nearly limitless? And besides, I don’t know about you, but when I read, I like to have the entire story in my hands. I don’t like waiting, because if I have to wait, I simply lose interest.

This is something I’ve learned from writing on Wattpad for years. People want consistency, they want it now, and they don’t want to wait a week for a new 5,000 words. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong, please, but this just seems counterproductive.

Or maybe, despite being only twenty-five, I’m becoming one of those old coots who scream “back in my day!” when industries attempt to keep up with the times.

Or maybe I’m a starving artist who, for once, just wants to see artists and authors and creators get paid what they’re worth for once, especially from a company worth $314.9 billion dollars.

Sources here.