If you’re like me, you’ve wondered if Vella is a good use of your time, writing, and marketing resources. The short answer: Maybe. The longer answer: Possibly, if you have a marketing platform already. And the longest answer? Well, that’s a complicated algorithm, as Amazon would say… and it’s perhaps as mysterious as how they compute their bonuses or select featured authors.
Amazon’s new platform offers authors the chance to share their works, short or long, in a serial format much like those offered on Wattpad and other “mobile first” (as Amazon describes it) platforms. This month I jumped on the Vella train and began publishing my own serial (A People’s History of Magic). In a true Novemberish Nanowrimo-like burst of energy, I’ve been releasing episodes in a frenzy by reworking a novel I had reluctantly set aside, thinking I’d never have the time to edit.
Of course, I still don’t have the time. I just write it anyway. Vella is addictive.
sage arcane newly-gleaned knowledge:
Tip # 1: The greatest downfall of Vella is that Amazon doesn’t know how to promote it. Be prepared to promote yourself, and find a way to make it fun.
Tip # 2: Sure. You don’t have to put this work in. After all, you’re busy writing a serial! But if you’d rather have an audience than languish in obscurity, you’ll want to find a way to enjoy the marketing process. At that point, consider a new marketing launch with every episode, or even every other. Why is this important? Because when you launch a traditional book on Amazon, that’s when you create the biggest buzz. But then the buzzing stops buzzing… and before long your hard work is a dead fly littering Amazon’s shop window.
Statistically, with a traditional Kindle release, if you miss this brief window of momentum, you’re sunk. All that can save you is an expensive booklist blitz or the happy chance that Neil Gaiman tweets about your novel. But with Vella, readers who tune in at any point will be directed to episode 1. So even if a title or graphic for episode 10 is what finally grabs someone, they’ll still be funneled to the start of your serial.
Also, when promoting new episodes instead of the serial in general, marketing yourself won’t feel as repetitive. After all, you’re genuinely sharing fresh content (and hopefully some fresh artwork) with readers.
Tip # 3: Compose interesting episode titles. Now is not the time to be literarily uptight or conduct yourself like you’re in a stuffy MFA program. Create titles that would grab your attention. If you’re posting to social media, who knows what new, unique base each of your funky titles might reach through SEO’s.
As an example, my last two episodes were titled “Palantirs, Monkeys’ Paws, and Pomegranates” and “Occam’s Razor and Kevin Spacey Coffee.” Why? I dunno. Because it was fun. I have no regrets. (All right, that’s not true. I feel slightly guilty for positioning William of Ockham anywhere near Kevin Spacey.)
Tip # 4: Another technique is to utilize the comments area at the bottom of each episode to improve story pacing. Most authors use this feature to engage with the reader or offer their contact info, since no links are allowed in Vella. But Vella lends itself to short, fast-paced plotting, and if you’re breaking down a more traditional novel, like I am, it can be difficult to find stopping points that will hook the reader.
Voila! A teaser in the comments area can help propel readers to the next episode even if your current episode wraps up rather neatly.
Tip # 5: Lastly, if you’re unable to devote the amount of time (or to imbibe the amount of caffeine) necessary to frequently release new content, try adapting writing that you weren’t planning to sell in a traditional format anytime soon. There’s little to lose by publishing on Vella (Amazon currently allows authors to later re-release their stories in book form), and you can experiment with reader response rates and build a following while practicing your craft.
My current Vella is a comedic science fantasy and adventure mashup that crosses several genres and would be hard for me to traditionally promote, but on Vella, I’m already addicted to watching it unfold. Now I get to learn if there’s a market for my bizarre Umbrella Academy-meets-Luke Danes from the Gilmore Girls-meets-The Office ensemble cast of misfits.
And if there’s not? At least I had fun naming the episodes.
Please drop me a line and send your thoughts on Vella; I’ll be posting another blog with more tips soon!
Kendra Griffin is an indie author, writing teacher, and developmental editor who has never met a good dog or a good underdog she didn’t fall in love with. Learn more about Kendra on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Her Vella serial is called A People’s History of Magic, and the first 3 episodes, like all Vella serials, are free.
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