So, I dutifully tried my hand at Kindle Vella. For those who aren’t familiar, you create stories and then release them one chapter (“episode”) at a time. So, I created the story, included the more controversial themes that would be included, and submitted it. They don’t make it go live until you publish your first episode, though, so I went ahead and pasted the first ~5000 words into it. Also fine. They approved it a few days later. I even included a poll (just like I wanted to do) and set the due date for July 31st. Well, I got a little antsy and decided to post the second chapter. While spicier than the first chapter, almost all of the elements in the second chapter were present in the first chapter—which, again, was approved. So, I submitted the second chapter, and it spent days in review, which reminded me a little bit of Slave Auction, which also spent days in review. Found out Sunday they rejected it, and now it shows up with a big, red badge that says “Blocked”.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the topic was pretty out there: an anthropomorphic doe was punished for speaking out against the emperor by being subjected to “humility training”, which involves (per the tags—which they approved) bestiality, rape, forced impregnation, and forced birth. But, it frustrates me that they approved the first episode only to block the second episode. From a reader’s standpoint, who would want to read a chapter and then not be able to read the rest? Or, perhaps worse, who would want to read a chapter and then miss a chapter and have to pick up in chapter 3? The whole concept seems asinine to me. Still, I dutifully wrote their help desk, pointing all of this out (as well as the fact that there are other stories published on their site that include those topics). I said that best-case, I was hoping to get my story unblocked and published. Barring that, I hoped that they would provide better definition of what is considered acceptable versus unacceptable (particularly since two chapters of the same story were handled differently). And, I said that if it came down to the discretion of individual reviewers, then I requested that they improve their training to provide a more consistent experience for authors.
As expected, I received a canned response saying that they reserve the right to determine what is acceptable or not. And, they’re right: it’s their platform, so if they decided that they didn’t want, say, any reference of bunnies, that’s their prerogative. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lousy user experience from both the writers’ and readers’ perspectives when they inconsistently apply their rules. And, don’t get me started on the Puritanical nature of acceptability when it comes to text on a page. Kiddie porn? Absolutely unacceptable: demonstrably psychologically harmful at minimum (not to mention the physical harm). Fictitious text on a page that does not even reference any real-life people or events and does not advocate for people to participate in the activities described? Yeah, I’m not seeing the harm there. It’s tagged as erotica (so, adults only), marked with keywords of potentially upsetting subjects (so people know what they’re getting), and if they choose to read it at that point, who is anybody to tell them they can’t? I wish people would stop trying to force their morals on other people and just live and let live, you know?
The upshot of all this is (as one of my former coworkers used to say), “We have data”. I might not like the results, but at least now I know that Kindle Vella is not for me. If they’d blocked the story upfront, that would have been acceptable. If they’d accepted the second chapter, that would have been even better. But, the actual result was the least intuitive and most aggravating of the options, so I’m not going to use it anymore. I’ve requested that they take down the entire story, and I’ll decide what to do with it later.
…I would laugh if I submitted it via the usual channels and it got approved…
On another note, I had had this idea that the whole Jack’s Blacks concept was to have enough stories out there that I could make passive income. Now, this month has been particularly good for that—people have really enjoyed Jack’s Blacks: The Service—but I’m still looking at ~$11 for the month. In contrast, I just finished a nearly $400 commission in about the same amount of time it took to write The Service. The frustration with commissions is that they require me to actively work on them as opposed to royalties where I publish the book and then passively collect income, but it occurred to me that maybe I’m thinking about it wrong: if I were to take the money I made off that commission and invest it, even making 4% return on investment (I know, I know, tough sell with the stock market as it is, but the recession will pass…), I’d make more in a year off of that than I made on royalties last year. If you figure that I’m doing far more than one commission a year, that kind of investment could actually add up. We’re not talking, like, retirement earnings, but definitely better than I’ve been doing on short stories. And hey, if the short stories were to take off and get popular (not holding my breath, but hey, I’ve got a better chance of that than winning the lottery), I can always churn more out later, when I’ve got people clamoring to swallow up my next book. <snicker> Yeah, right. But, it’s definitely an interesting thought and one I intend to pursue. I have admittedly been…shall we say, “consuming” the money I make from commissions (new computer, odds and ends here and there), but I’m gonna try investing it and seeing if that doesn’t achieve the same goal as the royalties—but with better actual results.