Sunday, June 6, 2021

Writing episodic fiction for my new guy.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to put in a plug for our Summer Reading Challenge. It's been going on for just over a month and I've read, uh, one new-to-me book on the list. Oh, wait -- actually I'm still reading it. Whoops. I have another one queued, though. 

Anyway, I can't win any of the prizes. But you can! Hop on over to the link, check the list, and get cracking. The contest ends September 4th.

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copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021
So here's my new guy. His name is Jerome Reed Atherton, a.k.a. The Atherton Vampire -- Jerry to his friends. Looks like a charmer, doesn't he? I'm writing his story now for Kindle Vella, a new platform that Amazon is developing.

We don't have a launch date yet for the platform, although one blog has speculated it will be sometime this month or next. What we do know is that Amazon is aiming Kindle Vella at people who read on their phones or other mobile devices, and it will work a little differently than a regular Kindle ebook. For one thing, the story will be doled out in episodes of between 600 and 5,000 words apiece. For another, readers won't be able to purchase the whole story at once, the way they do with an ebook; instead, they'll buy virtual tokens, and then use those to buy the episodes. The episodes are priced by length, with one token worth 100 words -- so an episode that's 1,200 words long would cost a reader 12 tokens. As usual with these sorts of things, the more tokens you buy at once, the cheaper they will be. 

Don't take the prices for tokens at that link above as gospel; Amazon hasn't finalized them yet. But using that chart as a rough example: it looks like Jerry's story is going to end up being about 40,000 words long. The first three episodes of every story will be free; in Jerry's case, that's about 2,500 words lopped off the total, so you'd be paying for 37,500 words. The whole shebang would cost you 375 tokens, or (according to that chart that hasn't been finalized yet) between three and four bucks.

Another thing that isn't super clear is how much authors are going to be paid. We'll get 50% of what readers spend on each episode, but the formula has variables that include the price a reader paid for their tokens and the fee charged by the sales platform. That's not as good a deal as the 70% royalty that authors get for ebooks, but it's not nothing. And it's a way to reach a whole new readership. Assuming this thing takes off.

And assuming people like Jerry's story well enough to keep reading it. That creates a bit of a challenge in terms of structuring the story. I'm keeping my episodes on the shorter side; none has hit even 2,000 words yet, which is shorter than the chapters I write for my novels. And each episode needs to end with something that will compel the reader to buy the next episode -- a cliffhanger, say, or a surprise of some sort. I'm thinking I'll end up with 25 episodes. That's a lot of cliffhangers.

I'm not allowed to publish a Kindle Vella story as a regular Kindle novel unless I unpublish it from Vella first. So we'll see how it goes. If Jerry doesn't get many fans to bite (sorry not sorry), I'll pull the story from the new platform and publish it as a regular ebook. Either way, I think Jerry's story has legs, as we used to say in journalism; I have a whole bunch of ideas for sequels. 

I'll let you know when Kindle Vella launches and how things go from there. Or as they used to say on TV, stay tuned for our next exciting episode!

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These moments of episodic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!