Amazon Publishing Introduces Kindle Worlds: A New Model for Fan Fiction

In News by Dennis Abrams

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For a deep dive into the world of fan fiction, see our previous article: “Why FanFics are Like Startups” from October 2012.

By Dennis Abrams

Today, Amazon Publishing announced Kindle Worlds, the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.

Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros.Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its best-selling book series Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, with plans to announce more licenses soon. Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store.

Amazon Publishing 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% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of sales price — rather than the lower, industry standard of wholesale price — and royalties will be paid monthly.

In addition, Amazon Publishing will pilot a new program for particularly short works of between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories, typically priced under $1, Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.

The Kindle Worlds store is expected to launch in June with over 50 commissioned works from authors such as Barbara Freethy, John Everson and Colleen Thompson. At that time, the Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform, where any writer can submit completed work, will also open.

In their press release, Amazon noted that World Licensors will benefit from Kindle Worlds because:

  1. It’s an entirely new way to monetize their valuable franchises.
  2. It allows them to extend their Worlds with new stories and characters and more deeply engage with existing fans, while also reaching new audiences.
  3. Amazon Publishing will work with them to establish content guidelines that balance flexibility and openness for writers with what’s reasonable for the franchise.

At the same time, writers will benefit from Kindle Worlds because:

  1. Amazon Publishing has already secured the necessary licenses to write about any Kindle World.
  2. They can earn royalties writing about established characters and universes.
  3. The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform is easy to use.

“At Kindle, we’re not only inventing on the hardware and software side of the business, we’re inventing new ways to create books,” said Phillip Patrick, Director, Business Development and Publisher of Kindle Worlds. “Our goal with Kindle Worlds is to create a home for authors to build on the Worlds we license, and give readers more stories from the Worlds they enjoy.”

At TechCrunch, Darrell Etherington gave the idea high praise:

“This is a very shrewd business move on the part of Amazon, since it leverages existing popular properties in a way that would never be possible with just one series author (or even a small list of a few running a title), and since it taps into the existing massive market for fan-created fiction that exists on the net. Heck I’ve still got an extremely bad and extremely long Star Wars extended universe manuscript hidden in a closet somewhere. If I can find that, read my childish scrawl well enough to transcribe it, and if Amazon ever secured those rights from Disney, I’d consider throwing it up on Worlds for some easy cash.

“Amazon says it’s in the process of securing licensing deals from a variety of sources, including TV, movie, books, games and music properties. The only question I really have about this to be honest is why did this take so long to happen? If you want a near-bottomless supply of written content, fanfic is where it’s at.”

But at paidConent, Laura Hazard Owen raised some of the issues that authors will face:

“Kindle Worlds is not a self-publishing platform like KDP. First of all, any works published through Kindle Worlds are published by Amazon Publishing — they’re not self-published, so the author doesn’t retain print or digital rights and doesn’t set the work’s price. The website notes that ‘Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.’ Second, Kindle Worlds won’t publish all of the works submitted to it; it will only accept some (though the company says it aims to accept as many as possible, as long as they adhere to content guidelines). Finally, ‘Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories. Most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99.’”

Learn more about Kindle Worlds.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.