Amazon Announces Kindle Worlds, a Platform for Fan Fiction

Kindle WorldsFan fiction is an interesting genre. You start with characters that already exist from movies or television shows and create new stories around them.

Admittedly, I read my share of fan fiction. Sometimes a show’s run ends too early, or a video game pulls me in so deeply, that I want to read more about the characters (this happened to me with Mass Effect, for instance).

Kindle WorldsAmazon announced Kindle Worlds today, the first commercial platform for writers to create fan fiction and earn royalties. Amazon says it has secured licenses for Gossip Girls, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries.

According to Amazon, it will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35 percent of net revenue.

Amazon Publishing will pilot an experimental program for short works—between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories—typically priced less than one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20 percent, the company wrote in a release.

There is no porn allowed in the new Kindle Worlds, which means a book like Fifty Shades of Grey will not get created.

However, you have to wonder what rights holders of these books will think of some of the storylines for the characters. What if the rights holders don’t like the turn of the story? Can they pull it? Amazon does state that not every story will get approved, but that it will try to get most posted.

Kindle Worlds will start with 50 pieces of work when it launches this June.

One of the things I love about fan fiction is that it’s not commercial. Truly, these people enjoy a story so much that they’ve actually felt compelled to write about it. Another little known secret about me: I’ve been down that road before, too. I have enjoyed a television show so much, but wanted a different storyline, so I created one.

Writers who publish through Kindle Worlds should note that this is not a self-publishing situation. It’s being published through Amazon, and the company retains all the rights to work.

Personally, I wouldn’t get involved with something like this. It seems like a cheap way for a company to get ideas, and ultimately, it misses the essence of fan fiction. Of course, there are people who want to get paid for the popular fan fiction stories they have created … but at what cost?

7 Comments on Amazon Announces Kindle Worlds, a Platform for Fan Fiction

  1. Juli Monroe // May 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm //

    I think it’s brilliant, actually. While there is A LOT of porn out there, there’s also some excellent writing that deserves to make authors some money. I’m reading a top-notch Supernatural story now. No porn or even a particular relationship, just an interesting plot that’s kept me reading for almost 100K words now (with about 50K to go). For a long time I’ve thought it was a shame that level of hard work goes unrewarded (except for Reviews/Comment/Kudos). I’ve got two stories I’d submit in a heartbeat if the fandoms become licensed through it.

    I think the rights holders issue is a valid one, especially when slash fiction is considered, though it may depend on the fandom. Back to Supernatural. If they license their series, I think they might balk at even non-porn Wincest (although maybe not) but I’ll bet they’d be okay with non-explicit Dean/Castiel since that pairing gets the show lots of attention.

  2. Joanna Cabot // May 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm //

    Juli, you may enjoy this post by John Scalzi on the new program. He points out some troubling rights issues which may be getting swept under the rug here.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/05/22/amazons-kindle-worlds-instant-thoughts/

  3. At what point does a difference in degree become a difference in kind? What is the extent to which the rights to one story extend to any other stories? That rights holders will consciously err in reaching to far is a given. It is in their interests to do so. Amazon is not helping to answer these questions as they could. On the contrary, they consciously obfuscate the issues because there’s money to be made playing both sides of this street.

    There’s also some fascinating fair use issues here. At what point could a fan fiction writer claim that their work is parody?

  4. Juli Monroe // May 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm //

    @Joanna, thanks for linking to the Scalzi article. He makes some worthwhile points, especially on the contract. Those contract terms blow. In my quick read of the announcement, I admit I hadn’t sat down to think them through. However, I don’t agree with all his conclusions. After I’ve had a good night’s sleep and thought it through a bit more, I think I’ll write a post reflecting on his post.

    Ironic that I haven’t been following this story closely this evening because I’ve been binge watching Supernatural to get to the point where I can read a particular fanfic. 😉 Two more seasons to go and then I can read it.

  5. Susan Lulgjuraj // May 22, 2013 at 11:11 pm //

    I love Supernatural. I may have written or read some Supernaturl fan fic myself. :)

  6. I’m still concerned that this is basically a way to build out a series with far less effort and editorial oversight. Instead of paying all those costly commissioning editors and fielding pushy agents, why not just rely on the fanboys/girls to push the stuff into your lap? Not that I want to see more Twilight/Dungeons&Dragons/etc/etc series covers astroturfing our real and virtual bookstore shelves, but it seems that Kindle Worlds just tries to goose this series marketing approach even further. Get your public to write the work for you and earn your bucks off them at the same time? Hey, if you can get away it, why not? Your readers also become your writers, and you’ve got a nice closed self-sustaining little ecosystem feeding itself with product and you with a fat rakeoff.

  7. Juli Monroe // May 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm //

    @Susan, feel free to email me links to those fics you may have written. 😉

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