For those of you kind enough to email and ask how we did following our second Covid-vaccination, we’re fine. More accurately, I felt a little lethargic the next day while Harrell had a fever, chills, body aches and couldn’t manage to stay awake until it was time to go to bed. The next day, we were both doing our usual things.
To the week’s topic, I’ve recently learned that Amazon is taking its first tentative steps into publishing serial fiction. They are way late on this. Wattpad was in the game in 2006. A much later arrival is Radish, which came along a decade later. These days, there’s a feeding frenzy of these kinds of publishers – WebNovel, Tapas, KISS, HiNovel, so many, many more – and all of them seem to be using the same playbook. They’re publishing micro-fiction for an audience that wants bite-sized chunks of story that can be read on the go. They share a lot of the same terminology, too. These short bits are referred to as “episodes”, instead of a chapter, and a collection of episodes is called a “season”, as opposed to a novel or novella.
I was new to all of it. I knew about Wattpad, because the Good Witch has dabbled in it, but for the rest? Not a clue. Once I heard about Vella, I did a little looking around. It surprised me to learn that Radish has its own writing staff, and that these Emmy Award-winning folks use reader feedback to produce “hit stories in a hyper-fast, data driven way.” They update their most popular series several times a day. Several times a day…. Then I learned that the most popular “Radish Original” stories are never meant to end. Really?
How is a writer who can’t figure out how to off-load Chinese Yuan going to compete with that, I ask you? I’m incapable of being hyper-fast in anything. It takes me half a day to write a blog and, you’ve probably noticed, the words aren’t all that polished. I’m lucky if I can update something once a day. Oh, and I won’t write a story that doesn’t have an ending. I like endings. But maybe I’m the only one.
So, how are things working for the Radish organization? Those data-driven super scribes are making bank. In April, it was announced that Kakao Entertainment intends to buy the company for over $350 million. There’s money in mobile publishing, which is why it’s surprising that Amazon was so slow to step in. It took them until April of this year to announce their beta program for “Amazon Vella”. They encourage writers to create episodes, not chapters, with cliff-hanger endings. Don’t offer anything that’s already been published as a novella or novel. As I write this, there’s no date for when the program goes live, but there are hints that it might be available by August-ish.
If you haven’t heard, readers can read the first three episodes of any Vella serial for free. After that, future episodes will be available for 1/20th of a cent per 100 words. If I’m doing the math-thing correctly, that same reader can buy a 2,000-word episode for one penny. The writer doesn’t get to bank that entire penny, though; it’s split 50/50 with Amazon. Which leads me to believe that my math has to be wonky. If it's correct, this sounds like a great deal for readers (like me), a lousy one for writers (like me).
And, yet, the Good Witch says I’m missing a bet by not reaching out to this audience. She knows I’m wary about some of these other serial fiction outfits – and, if you’re a writer, you should be, too – thank you, Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware – but G.W. trusts Amazon to play it straight. She’s encouraging Harrell and I to jump in and try a romance sub-genre that we’ve never written.
“Stretch yourself!” she told me. “It'll be fun!”
Stretch myself? At my age? But… once she started talking to me, the perfect (obscene) title for a new romance popped in my head. Does Vella allow obscene titles? I was typing the title into our “Future Stories” folder when, suddenly, the computer exploded!
No, it really didn’t. I’m practicing cliff-hangers. More next week.