Amazon Vella -- Can there be anything more worthless?

This might be a bit of a rant. I’m running on short sleep and no small amount of stress from an upcoming cross-country move (and not quite everything has gone wrong).

Mods, if this should be elsewhere, or even deleted, I totally get it. I’m trying to protect my fellow writers from some dumb.

I was sitting in bed at 4:45a this morning after driving from St Marys, GA to Durham, NC and back and I happened to accidentally back out of the book I was reading on the Amazon Kindle app. I discovered that there were a couple notifications in the app-- Amazon loves to constantly use your internet connection and devices to market to you, generally works you’re not even interested in.

They also offered me 200 “coins” or “credits” or some hash for their new serial fiction app, “Vella.”

Here is where the rant begins. Vella is serial fiction, as in “You buy a chapter at a time, like watching an old serial western or a TV show circa 1990.”

Vella is apparently focused on “indie” and “self published” writers, probably because Amazon realized that established, traditional authors wouldn’t have anything to do with such a lackadaisical and unprofessional format. (FYI: I am self published in my nonfiction. There will never be a time when I market my fiction serially. If that becomes the only format available, I’ll delete my manuscripts.)

Vella is an asinine idea and WHEN— not if— it fails, remember that I said it first.

Item: A book is not written chapter by chapter. Poor writers do this. Authors do not. Every “author” (really, they’re all wannabe bloggers) I see gushing over this ludicrous delivery method thinks they can grunt out a chapter and toss it up without considering timelines, flow, editing, continuity, or even consistency within the lore of their own universe. Competent professional authors make mistakes with full editing staffs while writing a book as a whole— now Amazon thinks an *amateur * can do it in pieces?!

Item: Serial fiction has been tried before with writers such as Stephen King and Piers Anthony. It failed. If they can’t make it work, you won’t, either. Wattpad and Blogger are full of two chapter long “novels” abandoned by writers with good ideas and no clue how to organize them or even write them coherently. I’ll wager a shiny quarter right now that more than 75% of these “books” by “authors” will be abandoned after three or fewer chapters.

Item: Readers will stop buying serial fiction the very first time the author of a book they’re reading misses an update. John Scalzi was almost dropped by his publisher for missing five deadlines on the Interdependency Trilogy because he couldn’t stay off Twitter. That’s a guy who was under CONTRACT. Almost 90% of blogs are abandoned within the first six months. Books are not blogs and they’re not written the same way blogs are. People who write blogs don’t know the first thing about writing books unless they’ve actually written one. All both of those people might crap out a halfway decent product if they write the book in advance and release it in installments the way King and Anthony did.

Most “authors” trying to strike it rich with this leaking bag of stupid won’t do that. That means the general quality of writing will be poor— so why should readers waste their time and money on it?

Item: Readers won’t buy because the books are also overpriced. Why pay 50 cents for a chapter of a book that probably won’t even be finished (and isn’t likely to be any good due to the poor writing process and lack of editing even if it is) when you can get the first book in thousands of series for a three bucks or less? John Conroe’s Demon Accords series is all $4.99 or less (Mostly $2.99). I’ve started 14 new series in 2021 because the first books were 99 cents or less so I gave them a try. I don’t even read sample chapters at the end of a book (and actually hate them). I certainly wouldn’t pay for the privilege of reading part of a book!

Item: We don’t even watch one episode of a TV show at a time any more-- we stream the entire season in a binge-- and those ninnies think someone is going to patiently wait for the next chapter to their YA dystopian future vampire zombie romance story? They and Amazon think they’ll wait a week (or even a day) to get the next chapter in some random ass book by some random ass author?

Item: Authors make a payout of around $0.00475 per chapter. You’re not making a car payment with that. It’s not even worth the time to write it. You have to sell a thousand copies of that chapter to make a nickel.

Guess who is making the other $0.49525. It rhymes with “Amazon.”

Write your book. Edit it. Publish it. Stop looking for shortcuts.

If I sound pissy about this it’s because it’s a pathetic Amazon cash grab attempt. Few authors of any quality will write. Because of this, the reflected value is low, so readers won’t buy. This makes it a death spiral. Why would I waste my time and money buying one chapter of a book that may never be finished when I could spend about the same amount for a full novel, such as Charles Stross’s The Laundry Files at $0.99 for the first book?

The idea is stupid. Blogs are not books and bloggers don’t know the first thing about writing books. Again, two of the biggest names in their genres couldn’t make serialized fiction work, and it’s not going to work now.

Most damning, I ran a search here on L&L to see if anyone had mentioned Vella yet. Nope.

Scrivener is fast becoming the authoring standard now for writing organization. I can confidently say that if most new writers are not planning out their books with Scrivener, they probably are not planning them at all. That means that the writers on Vella are most likely not planning their books. They are writing one chapter at a time-- just like their blogs!

You cannot write a book that way!

Please. Do. Not. Sell. Your. Hard. Work. Like. This.

Novels are hard to write. They take a piece of you on every page. Giving it to Amazon to sell in a terrible marketing scheme is dumb as hell! Self-Publish if you like, and the Amazon eBook publishing system is tolerable, but for god’s sake do not let them pay you a nickel a chapter for a thousand sales while you write in a disassociated format that turns off the readers!


Serial novels used to be quite common. Their decline was more due to the rise of (serialized!) broadcast media and the decline of print periodicals than anything else.


You are exactly correct. For example, The Count of Monte Cristo was released as a serial novel. However, Dumas knew how to write such fiction and had the story planned well in advance, was under contract to complete the work, just as Hunter S Thompson was with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and none of the books you mention were competing with immediate download of entire movie and TV series or other established works-- or a bunch of funny cat videos on YouTube-- or the fact that HALO 6 is coming out in a few more weeks for the Xbox. For example, I recently made the decision to divest myself of almost all of my paper books, moving instead to eBook format.

For $214 I can replace the first thirty books in Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, or $7.14 per book. At six hours average read time, that is 180 hours of read time. Good investment. And I can get the whole thing immediately and without having to wait for the next installment to come out.

On top of this, those serial works were often discontinued when they didn’t sell. The works of Sherlock Holmes, for example, were not novel in their serial nature. There were dozens of other writers who tried to compete with Conan Doyle, who we have never heard of because they got three or four episodes in and were forced to conclude when Holmes hogged all the sales. Hell, part of the reason Conan Doyle tried to kill off Holmes was that he was tired of the serialized nature of the story and wanted to move to traditional novels with a different character.

This link makes some of my points. For example, serial novels have been criticized for:

  • Excessively long texts
  • Overly grand dramatizations
  • Too much repetition
  • Too many exaggerated or flat characters
  • Plot lines that don’t make sense when viewed as a whole"

Keep in mind that these are criticisms of accomplished authors such as Dickens and Verne. This isn’t Betty, who normally writes a cooking blog, but her stories of how she grew up in Delaware and that’s why her rice pilaf is award winning led her to believe she can power out a novel. These are authors who don’t know the first thing about novel structure, much less serialized novel structure. Dumas had seven novels under his belt before he wrote The Count of Monte Cristo as a serial. Verne had twelve before he wrote his first serial book.

Lots of things used to be quite common but aren’t any more. A man is no longer considered half dressed without a fedora. Full service gas pumps are no longer the norm. This doesn’t mean that they are likely to make a comeback. Disco, for example, still sucks.

Please pardon the more obnoxious typos and any sentences that seem to follow a purely random structure. On top of not sleeping, my wife decided it would be hilarious to pour alcohol into me, so I may not remember this when the liquor mortis hits tomorrow morning.

To your good health!


Okay, that was a great line! :grinning:


Yeah, that Dickens guy’ll probably never make it… :wink: