Or has that ship sailed?
Last year seemed the best (at least for me) time to get on the Vella train. I was there from the very beginning, with an earlier iteration of Last Train Home. That one was a true litrpg, and I kinda regret not sticking to that format with its successor. With Last Train Home, I did go with the more subtle angle of dropping the stats and game screens, so the characters don’t realize they’re in a game adjacent world.
I didn’t know how to market my story back then, sticking mostly to Reddit, which is where most of my reads and follows came from. Twitter was a dead end entirely, and I didn’t think to use Facebook, of all places. After lackluster reads I stopped updating my story around October. I made roughly $130 in bonuses that year, and less than a dollar in royalties…yikes!
I decided to give Vella another try in January of 2022, this time with my debut novel, Fluid Bonding. I received a generous bonus, which encouraged me to write and publish additional Vellas. I don’t want to go into detail of my finances here, but I made enough to help cover my share of rent and other expenses.
My highest bonus that year was in July, but gradually dwindled over the ensuing months. The October “free read” week was highly disappointing, and hurt more than it helped. Likewise, the bonus I received for December was equally disappointing.
Things picked up in January, with my highest bonus to date, though considering the many milestones I hit…I kinda expected more. But I can’t complain too much, especially realizing I may not be able to hit that number again in the future. Which is the subject of today’s post.
Bonuses have been lower for most people recently, especially for those not in the top one hundred. Some who made four figures are barely making half now, despite working their asses off to produce new episodes and market their stories. People who publish new episodes a day, for example, are not being rewarded the way they used to.
The current theory seems to be that Amazon is no longer factoring in updates as part of its algorithm, instead prioritizing actual engagement, such as reads, likes, etc. It would appear this was their way of counteracting ChatGPT crafted stories, which were draining bonus money from actual authors. A horde of those accounts and stories were also banned and removed from the platform.
You also have to factor in the substandard marketing on Amazon’s side, as well as the choice to limit the platform to its least favored market…the US. The vast majority of serial readers are overseas, and China in particular makes up a large piece of the market.
And then there’s the issue with Amazon losing money in general, and the layoff of 12k+ employees. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they became selective with the bonus pool, much like they do with Kindle Unlimited. And if that happens, I imagine they’ll lose many authors.
I’m not too discouraged this time around, but would be inclined to finish up three or my ongoing stories. I technically already plan to do so by May, though that leaves Last Train Home, which is intended to be a long series. I may keep it on the platform until it inevitably crashes and burns, but wouldn’t add new stories.
The royalties I currently make just don’t warrant the extra effort, when I could be focusing on book WIPs instead. I’ll be upfront about my royalties, as those are far less likely to ruffle any feathers.
My book royalties, on average, are around $40 a month. That’s ten books.
My Vella royalties…are $10-15 a month, and rarely go beyond $20. These last two months have been much higher than usual ($30-50), and only because I doubled my promotion efforts. I will say that my bonuses so far this year have been rather generous, but I try not to be too reliant on them.
Most of us are only hanging around for the hefty bonuses, and some authors are expressing their continued frustration and desire to drop out altogether.
I'll keep an eye on things and report any new findings, but right now I don't have a ton of faith in Vella making it to 2024.