Kindle Worlds: Amazon licensed fan fiction

So I just read this press release from Amazon and thought they are up to something pretty neat. Licensing worlds from their creators and allowing fan fiction writers to monetize them, with everyone making a little, sounds like a really cool idea.

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. Amazon Publishing will also pilot an experimental new program for particularly short works—between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories—typically priced under one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.


  1. Isn’t this the program where the fan-fic writer loses all claims to any creations of theirs by granting perpetual rights to the creators? Ie.- You have a great idea for Superman, you write fan-fic, Worlds handles it, DC decides your idea is great and any characters you created are great, and then takes all that and makes a billion dollars off it, and you are entitled to none.

    Scalzi had thoughts…

    1.  They will pay you a pittance, but yes that is essentially that. If anything this is a useful litmus test to see if your writing is any good. If you get picked then there might be a career in writing for you and this is the kick in the pants you were looking for. Other than that it is piss poor deal and Scalzi pointed out.

    2. It really wouldn’t work from their perspective, otherwise.  (The legal nightmare that would occur if fanfic writers started claiming that they’d come up with characters and were owed money would be a dealbreaker.)  Anyone writing in the shared universe gets to use all characters that are part of that shared universe – that’s pretty reasonable.  It’s actually a better deal than standard work-for-hire practices, as you retain copyright to your creations, even if they’re automatically licensed back to the IP holders, even though they can’t appear in any other fiction that’s not part of that shared universe, etc.  In fact, ironically, it’s a better deal than the creator of one of the couple IPs that are part of this program got – she did the series as work-for-hire, and doesn’t own the copyright, apparently.

    3.  I have the feeling that this particular term is non-negotiable in terms of making this sort of legalised fanfiction palatable to the original creators, though.

      I have heard the horror stories of writers terrified of looking at their community comments, lest they open themselves up to future lawsuits from people convinced that some independently invented story element was in fact stolen. If fanfiction writers did own their own creations, kindle worlds could rapidly become a narrative minefield for the creators of the original work, and no one wants that.

      I’m sure that Harry Potter fanfiction writers wrote stories where Snape killed Dumbledore and Ron got together with Hermione long before JK Rowling did, and if they could claim money off her, the court battles there would be very ugly indeed.

      1. Jim Butcher states that he won’t ever read anything involving his worlds for that very reason.

  2. @Astin44:disqus If that is the case, it is disappointing.  A good, legal Fanfic community has long been a dream of mine. 

  3. I’m not sure it really is fanfic, as fandoms are communities with their own conventions and etc, and the terms of what they’re soliciting is pretty limited, so it’s probably more accurate to say is what they’re doing is throwing open the doors to writing tie in novels. But the terms are pretty shitty, which may not be rare, but is really, really, really contrary to the culture of fandom, which is all about remixing and reinventing things, including the fanworks created to remix and reinvent some other piece of media. 

  4. So Amazon has finally jumped on the crowdsourcing/collaboration wagon a la the James Patterson manner of cranking out stories. 35% of revenue for 10k words seems about right provided that you have the time, inclination and believe that 10k words worth of effort & creativity is worth such a cut.  Additionally, the 10k threshhold will weed out the hackjobs.

  5. Now maybe we’ll finally find out if there’s a commercial audience for all that Kirk/Spock slashfic.

    1. Sadly no. Even if Star Trek was on their list, they have this in their terms:

      Pornography: We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.

      And even worse:

      Crossover: No crossovers from other Worlds are permitted, meaning your work may not include elements of any copyright-protected book, movie, or other property outside of the elements of this World.

      So you can’t have Kirk and Spock fuck up a storm and you definitely can’t have them fuck Storm.

  6. The deal, although not very good, is better than the 0% of $0.00 that fan fic writers tend to get paid these days. 

    1. From Scalzi’s piece:

      The argument here could be, well, you know, people who were writing fan fiction weren’t getting paid or had rights to these characters and worlds anyway, so only getting paid for their work once is still better than what they would have gotten before. And that’s not an entirely bad argument on one level. But on another level, there’s a difference between writing fan fiction because you love the world and the characters on a personal level, and Amazon and Alloy actively exploiting that love for their corporate gain and throwing you a few coins for your trouble. So this should be an interesting argument for people to have in the real world.

  7. 35% is not a pittance for a novel. Most media tie-in writers earn a flat fee – and nothing else. Some earn an advance and a small royalty. Mostly, they get a “thanks for writing our novel,” and are shown to the door. 

    In addition, Amazon is opening the market for shorter works that will cost less than a buck and earn the writer 20%.  Short fiction is making a comeback, and you can actually earn money from it. 

    The thing that is compelling about this for a new writer is the fact you would be writing in a series that ALREADY has an audience.  Someone is going to pick up your novel and comment about it.  How they liked your interpretation of the characters and the plot.  That’s gold in today’s world of trying to be discovered online. 

    The goal therefore would be to write a compelling novel featuring the regular cast of characters and settings already present.  Then use the lessons learned from the feedback and create and publish your own series, and write another novel in the Kindle Worlds series.  Back and forth, and so on… building a library and an audience. 

    And let’s not forget the fact that this opens up a tremendous opportunity for established writers with their own franchises to license it to Kindle Worlds and receive royalties for less work.  

    The Henson Co. just opened up their Dark Crystal franchise for people to write a novel in a contest setting.  Threadless, the t-shirt co.  does something similar for their designs which are all crowd-sourced.  This is nothing new and the idea this is exploitation is really unwarranted. 

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