Well, some kind of Vella, fella.
I was so excited that Amazon had a serial fiction app coming that I shared my excitement with everyone. Harrell and I went full-in, too, disassembling our historical romance novel so that it would fit within Vella’s guidelines. Worked out pretty nicely, except for actual reader interest (I’ll talk about sales in a minute) and the story’s description.
In regards to the story’s description, Amazon limits their writers to “500 characters.” Not 500 words, that would be too easy. Five hundred characters. The description we’d prepared for the back of the upcoming paperback – in December – was way too long. After we shortened things, here’s what I wanted to use:
“I’ve been corresponding with a gentleman in the West,” Deidre said. “When the train arrives in six days’ time, he’ll be at the depot. He’ll be waiting for his bride.”
A sliver of orange biscuit escaped from Faith’s lips. “His – what?”
“His bride, his mail-order bride.” Deidre clapped her hands together. “Arriving on the train, traveling under my name, he’ll think you’re me, won’t he? Everyone will. The two of you can get married!”
Faith choked on the remaining portion of biscuit.
Even if it didn’t say enough about the storyline, I found the dialogue intriguing. I’d want to see what happened next. But Vella descriptions are all crunchedtogetherlikethis, which is a miserable reading experience.
After much fussing, we went with this:
Faith Collins hopes her cat can forgive her. Having assumed another woman's identity, she's riding the nation's first transcontinental train in the hope of finding true love. Posing as a wealthy mail-order bride, she'll arrive at Harrington Station in a few days to meet her prospective groom. She doesn't know that the woman she's pretending to be has an enemy on the train -- or that he's plotting to kill both Faith and her beloved cat....
It's all right, I suppose. When The Awful, Terrible, NO GOOD Mail-Order Bride becomes a proper eBook, we’ll use our original paperback wordage and I’ll be happier. And, when that version launches, we might actually make a buck or two. Because Vella? So far, the most successful authors that I know aren’t seeing much in the way of returns. A low two-figure payout is the best I've heard. For that much money, they did everything that Harrell and I didn’t do. They notified their newsletter readers, they used every form of social media to inform their followers, they did giveaways and pumped their work as strongly as possible. They deserve the success that follows… except it isn’t following yet. This is a new experience for some of them.
For me, it’s old hat. When the story came out, I didn’t even tell you – and I like you. For writers who are used to seeing a flood of buys and good reviews? They’re shaken.
I know three people who are pulling their never-to-be completed serials from Vella. I had a casual acquaintance tell me that Amazon had “zero traction” among younger readers, and she was sorry she’d ever gotten involved with it. But here’s the thing: Vella isn’t even a month old. It’s in beta form, which appears to mean that Amazon hopes the format can learn to survive without any help. Of course, it’s going through some growing pains. Owning one of the biggest platforms in the world, Amazon isn’t using it to share the news about Vella with its customers. I’ve seen one advertisement on Twitter and that was just this morning.
Why did they use Twitter? Amazon believes it appeals to a younger audience. Will a historical romance, like "Awful", appeal to a younger audience? That's not what we've seen in the past.
To date, our story has a few followers, no reviews, and I doubt we’ll see enough in royalties this year to buy a pair of fancy coffees at Starbucks. Not two fancy coffees with extra shots of expresso, that’s for sure. But our initial excitement about Kindle Vella – I just looked it up, that’s the official name, "Kindle Vella" – has helped us become familiar with serial fiction in general and a whole new writing world has opened up. I’m loving the new story we’re working on.
No money, but lots of fun? Yeah, not the worst trade.