Several months ago, Amazon rolled out its new Kindle Vella program to writers. Amazon has just announced that readers will have access to Kindle Vella by the end of July.
What is Kindle Vella, exactly? It’s a serial fiction app, somewhat analogous to Royal Road, Tapas, Radish, and Wattpad.
Will Vella prove the death knell of these other services? Who knows? But the fates of Barnes & Noble and Borders suggest that this might not be a good time to be purchasing shares of Wattpad, if it were publicly traded.
Will I publish on Kindle Vella? Probably. Eventually. But not right away. I like the idea of serial fiction, but I am most concerned with giving readers what they want. I’m not sure that most of my readers really want micropayment-based serial novels.
Initially, at least, success on Kindle Vella will probably go to certain kinds of genres, for certain kinds of readers. Which kinds? Well, probably the ones that are already successful on sites like Royal Road and Wattpad. This means: YA romance, YA fantasy, and YA science fiction, often with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean anime tropes.
These kinds of fiction are perfectly fine, but none of these categories is really my bailiwick. I’m 52 years old, and I usually write with the adult reader in mind. I have some idea of what a certain kind of Baby Boomer, Generation X, or older Millennial reader might want. A Gen Z reader…not so much. So I’ll probably proceed slowly where Kindle Vella is concerned.
Whatever Amazon does, Amazon usually does well. I see only one problem here, and that involves revenue. While there are paid stories on the various web serial sites that already exist, much of that content is presently provided for free.
Web serial readers not only skew younger, many of them are also outside the United States. Only about 25% of Wattpad’s traffic is U.S.-based.
Nothing against non-U.S. readers (or younger readers, for that matter). But it’s worth asking: will a medium that is mostly patronized by younger, non-U.S. readers elsewhere find traction with the over 35, U.S.-based readers that are currently Amazon’s bread-and-butter?
I don’t know, but I’m sure someone inside Amazon has considered those questions.
Vella could could turn out to be as ground-breaking as the Kindle was, changing the way millions of people read. Or…maybe not so much. I wouldn’t want to bet money on this one either way.