An Experiment

I want to try an experiment.

Recently (mid 2021), Amazon announced the beginning of “Kindle Vella”, a new avenue of publishing where books or stories can be released in “episodes” — or basically chapter by chapter. Readers buy tokens and can spend these tokens to purchase episodes of their favorite stories.

Now I am not wholly on board with Amazon as a sole means of publication, yet this seems like a sophisticated way of managing writers’ work, compared to a site like Patreon where writers often will post their books or stories a chapter at a time, or short stories, or something where it might not be viable to charge for standard means of publication. In return for a monthly spend, patrons get perks based on the tier they spend to. Vella works not by a monthly fee, but rather via a by-episode charge — hence the tokens.

Tokens are priced at $1.99 for 200 and up to $14.99 for 1700 (prices may change after writing this). Readers get to read the first 3 episodes of any story for free, and after that, subsequent episodes can be unlocked for 1 token per 100 words in a story. And with a word limit between 600 to 5,000 words per episode, stories shouldn’t cost more than 50 tokens. Honestly, I think that’s pretty genius.

These stories are supposed to be quick — chapter length. It means that one could get regular updates to a story rather than waiting for a full novel to be released. The question then remains: what project of mine is well suited for that?

“The Colton Skyward Chronicles” is part Indiana Jones, part loose fantasy (magic and such existing though not overtly), and part pre-WWII historical fiction (although I have no intentions to keep to a strict historical, much less accurate thread on this story). 

Colton is a Han Solo like character who is well known for his exploits — both good and bad — though he is generally a decent guy (albeit quite full of himself). The main villains are the Nazis with plenty of other foes thrown into the mix. The whole point of the story is fun. I am not writing it to become some satire or to convey some grander theme on society and life. Nope. This is pure ridiculous fun. 

The original plans were to have this story go along the same path as all my others, which up to now really meant that I was going to write it and shelve it. On my priority list — even if my newfound urge to publish doesn’t wane — it is too far down for me to worry much about. But with Vella… well it might just have a good path right now to jump to the head of the line. Publishing the entire work later as a full novel, as was the original plan, is perfectly allowable (one cannot publish a book then post on Vella however).

Monthly seems like the right frequency. Given they are up to 5,000 words or less, it means I can maintain a writing average of about 170 words a day to keep up the pace with a few in the can and ready as a reserve. It feels very doable without being overwhelming. If I double the requirement to 340 words a day, I can write the each month’s episode in the first two weeks of each month and then use the last two weeks to spit and polish. There are 4 episodes already completed and ready for posting.

Realistically, the idea for this experiment came from a need to keep me actively writing, with a purposeful eye on forward movement. It is the same reason that I keep thinking about going back to a once-a-day-posting on my blog, or the Free Fiction Friday idea I once did. Neither work for me as they become too overwhelming.

Read back on my last post “Revival” where I discussed the aforementioned urge to push towards publication. Publishing whole novels these last few years was too daunting. And while I am working to correct that way of thinking, to get myself back on the proverbial horse of independent publishing, I do need something smaller and less stressful to counterbalance. Colton Skyward seems the perfect project for that — something I write for pure ridiculous fun. Think of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and how nonsensical and hilarious it was. Or the middle-grade children’s books The Bad Guys. They exude the idea of writing to just have some fucking fun. That’s why I started Colton Skyward in the first place.

Kindle Vella seems the perfect place to experiment using Colton. I don’t expect by any means that it will be popular or earn much — sure, it’s the hope, but not the expectation. It’s about having some fun, about maybe learning to trust myself. We’ll see what happens.

Planned release will be be between now and February 1st, then monthly on the date I release the first story.

Update 4/19/2022: Colton’s first episode was released today, a few months late (sorry for that). Subsequent episodes will be released on the 15th of every month starting with Episode 2 in May. Links also added above.

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