P*issed with Vella, P*ssed with Amazon

Grrr, really ticked off!

Amazon offers what it claims is a “brand new way” to tell a story, serialized so readers can read “episode” by episode, paying as they go after the first three episodes. Except that Vella is not not-so-new. Creatives can sell their material on WordPress. They can also serialize their creations on such platforms as Patreon and Radish. There might be others I don’t know about. 

So, considering Amazon’s size and worldwide familiarity, I decided to publish my novel using Vella. It might not have been such a great choice.

My first chapter is now “live.” The only problem is that I can’t find it anywhere. It’s not under my name in the books category. I can’t find the Vella library using the Amazon search window. Where is it? I’ll be darned if I know. Nobody in the Vella “community” knows anything either.

Checking Vella Library’s help page was no help. I found info that said Vella would be available in “the next few” months. That information was not dated. There was no indication as to when Vella might be available, even though Amazon made it seem as if Vella is available now. What else would “live” mean? If you publish a story using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) it’s available within seventy-two hours. You enter the author’s name in the Amazon search window and there’s the story.

When I created the first “episode” of my novel, I announced it to friends on my Facebook page, in a group I manage, and on eight other pages for groups whose members might be interested. I got many positive responses, people willing, even eager to read my story. What do I tell them? Sorry, I jumped the gun, Amazon doesn’t have Vella ready yet? 

I’m thinking of unpublishing my story and trying to figure out how to set up Word Press premium so people can read my novel chapter by chapter with paid subscriptions. At least I know WordPress is ready to go whenever I am. Whenever my readers are.

One thing I do like about Vella. It’s easy to use. To anyone who’s used KDP, Vella is even easier.

Besides Amazon’s misleadingness, what else I dislike about Vella is that payment for each chapter is not set. It depends on the word count. I have some chapters that are less the 1500 words, others that are almost 5k words. The author’s pay should be the same no matter how long the chapter. Pay for the whole thing at once, read the chapters as they’re published.

If A Home for an Exile’s Heart becomes available in the next day or two, I might have to eat my words. But I may still unpublish my book.

My Publishing Choice: Vella

Dream on, Writer, Dream on.

This is what I dream of, a balcony somewhere in Italy or the South of France, made possible by my royalties. Well, at least I have a balcony, even if it’s far from those places.

Deciding on how to publish my novel was a tough choice. Sure, I’d like the prestige of having a major, or even a not-so-major, traditional publishing house buy the rights to my book and pay me a royalty. But that statistic I mentioned in my previous post, that a literary agency accepts fewer than one percent of submitted manuscripts gave me pause. 

I’m not twenty-five years old. I don’t want to spend years submitting and resubmitting my manuscript to agents and hoping to be one of few writers accepted as a client. In the past year, I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties five times, more than that, if you consider that hopeful writers can pitch one project more than once during the hours the pitch party runs. The only interest in my pitches has been from other writers. Too bad they’re not also editors from publishing houses.

There’s so much to consider when you’re looking for a publisher.

WordPress seemed like a good option since I have a few followers, it has Reader to help bloggers find each other’s posts. I can link to other social media platforms. But even with the help of a WP customer service person, I couldn’t figure out how to set up a premium block. Maybe I’m too impatient. I don’t know if I’d have to set up a block each time a published a new chapter. That would be more work than I want to do. I want to write, not set up premium blocks.

Patreon is a platform where creators can offer their material to subscribers. I seriously considered it, but when I went to their site, I could find other creators’ posts to see what they’d done. That was annoying. Anyone can look at WordPress and see what’s on offer.

Vella is Amazon’s new publishing platform where writers can serialize their books, chapter by chapter. They pay a royalty of fifty percent, although the first three chapters are a free sample. Much better pay than any traditional publisher. The writer retains creative control. I don’t have to worry about word count. There are books on the market that are much longer than mine, but selling them to a publisher isn’t easy; the acceptance rate is probably even lower than that fraction of one percent. One of my writer friends encouraged me to do with Vella because it’s new and therefore Amazon might push it more. It’s certainly in their interest to do so. They get a bigger cut than they would from books published using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Considering all that, Vella seemed like a good choice, so I went with it. I published the first chapter of my novel today. It was easier than publishing with KDP, which is also easy. It can take up to seventy-two hours for the episode to go live, but I’ve published stories on Amazon before and it always took less time to be approved. It helps that the material is short.

I hope they turn into dollars.

Maybe I’ll never make more than pennies per chapter. I’ve already done some self-promotion. Hopefully, the pennies will add up and the stack will get higher as I add more chapters. If this goes well, I have another book to publish on Vella. It just needs a bit more work.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing. It’s what I do.

Finished Writing My Novel. Now What?

With a Bit of Info from an Agent

How to get my story to readers now that it’s finished?

What do you do with a book you’ve finished writing and are hoping to get published? 

You can go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to literary agents or directly to the few publishers who accept unagented submissions. You can pay a vanity press to publish your book. Or you can go the self-publishing route in a couple of different ways. The first is to use a self-publishing platform, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows you to publish both ebooks and paperbacks. There are other self-publishing options besides Amazon. The second choice is to go to a subscription service, such as Patreon or Amazon’s new platform, Vella, where readers pay to read your book section by section; the platform takes a percentage of royalties. It’s like the old days when newspapers and magazines printed serialized stories.

Despite these new publishing options, many writers still choose to go the traditional route. It’s still a prestigious way to get published. Having “gatekeepers” select and vet a manuscript seems to assure some sort of quality control. I’ve read many traditionally published books where quality control does not seem to have been a consideration. No doubt you have, too. Advances from the publisher are another incentive to choose the traditional publishing option. There’s also the snob factor. If you self-publish, some readers assume no traditional publisher wanted your book, which could well be true, but doesn’t necessarily mean the book isn’t worth publishing or reading.

I have finished writing a book that I’ve submitted to agents, as well as directly to a publisher. I’ve participated in Twitter pitch parties, with not even a nibble. So what should I do? Keep on querying agents, publish my book myself, or offer it to readers on a subscription platform?

One of my writer friends has published four books the traditional way, he also is a regular contributor to a special interest magazine. You would expect those sorts of credentials to make it easier for him to find an agent. Not so. He has recently finished writing a new book, which he has been diligently submitting to agents. More than sixty of them. He doesn’t allow rejections to discourage him, for every rejection, he sends his query to a new agent. He’s like a long-distance runner when it comes to submitting. I’m more of a plodder. I’m still weighing my options, even as I send out queries.

WordPress allows creators to set up “premium blocks” which allow writers and other creatives to serialize their work. Or, creators can request tips and donations. I’ve tried asking for donations for my most popular posts with absolutely no results, except from me, when I tested my donation block to see if I’d set it up correctly. I had, so apparently, readers would only pay for material I’ve spent hours writing, re-writing, editing, and editing again unless they had no choice. Of course, they would still have a choice–pay and read or don’t pay and don’t read. Because of that last choice is why I hesitate to choose premium as an option. An agent might accept me as a client. The agent might find me a publisher and the publisher might pay me an advance. All that could take years, if it happens at all. So what does a writer, who can’t pay her rent with rejection slips do? The odds are stack against us. 

Easier said than done.

Here are answers from a literary agency.

“You should look for an agent before a publisher.

“…these days publishers rarely buy the rights to self-published books or additional books in a series you’ve started self-publishing.”

Of the queries the review they accept less than 1%! But they hope you believe strongly enough in your book to try anyway. Of course, there is no guarantee that they can sell the manuscripts the accept to a publisher. 

The question is if you believe strongly enough in your book, should you spend years looking for an agent or should you publish or serialize your manuscript yourself? If you do, you will have to market like mad. The fact that a traditional publisher chooses to buy your book, does not mean you won’t have to market. Many agents want to know what social media platforms you’re on so you can do the majority of publicizing your own material.

When do you stop hitting your head against the brick wall of traditional publishing and punch through it? Will you make a hole or smash your knuckles?

Oberon’s Monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

(Act 2, Scene 1)

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in...

This is one of my favorite passages from Shakespeare, from one of my favorite of his plays. It’s not the whole monologue. After these few lines, Oberon allows his jealousy, because his wife has adopted a mortal boy, to turn him mean. He anoints his fairy queen, Tatiana’s eyes with a magic potion that will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees, the weaver, Nick Bottom, who has been magically given a donkey’s head.

I had to look up the flowers.

Turns out the oxlips are actually primroses. Theyre also known as cowslips.

Musk rose and eglantine are both species of wild rose.
The name woodbine can apply to a number of different vines, including honeysuckle. I picked this photo because I thought it looks magical.

Weed is a synonym for a garment. So the snake’s enameled skin is a garment that would fit a fairy. If you’ve read novels set during the Nineteenth Century, you might have come across a reference to “widow’s weeds,” in other words, her mourning clothes.

And, of course, the fairy queen is accompanied by her court of, I guess you’d call them fairies-in-waiting. Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed.

In Shakespeare’s day summer was considered to begin on May first, thus, the summer solstice was midsummer, the time when the boundaries between the human world and the fairy world were particularly thin. Fairies could cross over then and meddle in human lives. Hopefully, for the better.

Happy May Day!

Dancing around the May Pole was one of many traditions. The May Pole symbolizes male fertility, while wreaths and baskets symbolize female fertility.
Song on May Morning
John Milton - 1608-1674

Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
  Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
  The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
  Hail bounteous May that dost inspire 
  Mirth and youth, and warm desire,
  Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,
  Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcom thee, and wish thee long.  
Pale primrose

May First was once considered the most important day of the year. It signaled the return of light and fertility. It was one of the year’s several fire festivals.

To the Celts of Britain, May first was known as Beltane. The name Beltane means the fires of Bel. Belinos was one of the names of the Sun God.

To ancient Romans, May first was known as Floralia, a five day festival to honor Flora, the goddess of flowers.

During the 19th and 20th centuries May First was May Basket Day when people created baskets with flowers, candy, and other treats and hung on the doorknobs of friends, neighbors and loved ones.

This tradition has been going on since 1929.

Too bad this is a silent film. It looks like fun.