Kindle Worlds: Legal Fan Fiction?

I’m behind, but I’ve just come across the new “Kindle Worlds” – a paying platform for… Fan Fiction?

You can read the announcement here.

At the moment it seems they only have licenses for  Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith. Meaning you could write stories with their characters, publish them on Kindle Worlds and sell them – for royalties – with this program.

I’m all for fan fiction, but I don’t know. This is getting a little… odd. Personally I don’t care if people write fan fiction for my books (I actually have some friends who borrow my characters for fun stuff)  but they’re not making money on it. Of course, I realize that under this program the eligible worlds would only be those Amazon has licensed, so even if they went berserk and got license grants from indie authors it would still be up to the individual author, so it isn’t as though they could “steal” the characters (at the moment – however whats to say a clause as such won’t show up in later kdp contracts) but even so it just sets a bad precedent.  Or maybe not. After all, Star Wars books may be licensed by George Lucas, but they’re really just fan fiction that the authors get paid for and that are “okayed” by the creator of the universe, so it’s the same principle. Or am I just over thinking it? What’s your opinion? (Please keep it nice, folks.)

23 Comments

  1. cjmoseley says:

    Reblogged this on CJ Moseley's Reblog Blog and commented:
    As I understand it the fan-fictioneer and the original author share the royalties, which I can see working.

    However, the fan-fiction author has virtually no copyright protection, so an unscrupulous author (or more likely TV company as they sign up) could steal a fan-fiction idea and release it without referencing or paying the original fan-fic.

    That just seems wrong somehow.

    I’d have thought something more in line with Creative Commons Licensing would have been a better choice. That way the author can license fan-fics, but the fan-fiction remains the fans own copyright.

    Also since the fan-fiction is strictly non-erotic, and as I understand it (poorly, I like inventing my own worlds and characters, that’s the fun for me) at least part of the fun of writing fan-fiction is the “shipping” that the fans can indulge in (to say nothing of some of the established fan-fic universes and slash tropes).

    Certainly “fifty shades of Gray”, arguable the greatest fan-fiction success story, would never have made it under those terms and conditions. Although I am told that there are quite a number of erotica free fan-sites, so maybe there is a market, although who gets the royalties in a cross-over?

    1. “…However, the fan-fiction author has virtually no copyright protection, so an unscrupulous author (or more likely TV company as they sign up) could steal a fan-fiction idea and release it without referencing or paying the original fan-fic…”

      That’s an interesting point, and one I had not thought of!

  2. There are a lot of official fan-fiction novels. You mentioned Star Wars, which is one of the big ones. I don’t know what to think of this either. It will depend on how Amazon handles it. I didn’t think of the contract clause issue. I spent a lot of work on my fantasy world, so I don’t know how I would take to somebody getting paid for playing around in it. On one hand, fan fiction could help bring interest to the actual books. On the other hand, people write some really freaky fan fiction. Would Amazon give an incentive for an indie author to let their world become a playground?

  3. katemsparkes says:

    My initial reaction is “eeeeeugh” and a wrinkled nose. But really, it doesn’t affect me, though I’m interested to see how it pans out. I’d never do it (writing fanfic or licensing my own work), but we’ll see how it goes for other people.

    As for the original authors getting paid, I think everything that’s currently available is licensed from a single corporation that owns the properties; somehow I doubt the actual authors will see any money from it. Again, it will be interesting to see what happens, especially if individual authors who do own their worlds start opening up to this.

    The whole thing about the fanfic authors having their ideas “stolen” is a whole other topic for me, and I won’t go into it here. I do wonder how the legalities of that will work out, though.

    1. “… I think everything that’s currently available is licensed from a single corporation that owns the properties…”

      That was my understanding of it at the moment, too, though I *think* their goal is to expand beyond just that media “group”, but I don;t know for sure.

  4. VarVau says:

    Amazon’s desire for profits come off as tactless to me on this one. In general, Amazon’s involvement in publishing is something I frown upon. The idea of “hey, let’s make it easier for people to get published” is all the time being weaponized against traditional publishing. Every time one of their Kindle Authors gets a front page promotion, the story is always the same: big bad agents, big bad Big Six, big bad traditional publishing–minute all the important details that would show the author wasn’t serious in the first place. In truth, authors should try both as both have advantages But that’s another story. The point of this paragraph is: Amazon’s going about publishing, even without Kindle Worlds, entirely the wrong way.

    Many authors hate fan fiction. They don’t want to see it, they don’t want it written. A few have gone to extremes about fan-fiction. And, some authors are fine with it. The idea of making money on fan-fiction, though, feels completely wrong. The only way it would feel right [to me] is if the fan-writer had done something to get the original author’s attention and that author says, “Hey, I’d like to see what you can do with this!” instead of a world being put through a license system, then the author being very insecure with what a fan-fiction writer wrote (not necessarily porn).

  5. I think the biggest mistake is looking at this as actual “fan fiction”. If you look at it as a way for Amazon to serve as the publishing arm of any property that is looking for media tie-in novels, and the “fan fiction writers” are writing spec tie-in fiction, then it makes a lot more sense. Everything I’ve heard from experienced tie-in authors who’ve read up on KW say that the terms are essentially the same, but royalties-based, without an advance.

    1. “…I think the biggest mistake is looking at this as actual “fan fiction”. If you look at it as… …tie-in novels, and the “fan fiction writers” are writing spec tie-in fiction, then it makes a lot more sense…”

      That’s an interesting point! I do see what you mean. I think the interesting thing is going to be what portion of the tie-ins wind up as cannon vs just alternate universe.

  6. Every time I’ve seen this topic I’ve said the same thing. I think fan fiction is juvenile. I’ve never gotten why someone would write that instead of making up their own worlds. Am I the only one who feels this way? And is Amazon so hungry for money that they now have to do this? Amazon does a lot of things right. I buy from them often. But this…I’m just shaking my head.

  7. I personally have no problem with fan fiction, as long as it’s not with my work. However people getting paid for publishing it through Amazon? Not something I think is advisable. I think it cheats the original authors a little.

  8. Mark1 says:

    Well, I remember reading in “Writers Digest” most sitcoms must purchase at least 2 scripts of episodes from the outside, this was negotiated by the screen writer’s guild to keep membership and opportunities growing for members of the guild. So, like you could right a script for lets say, “Two and a Half Men” using all the characters created by someone else and submit it to the studio for possible purchase and use. So I guess this would serve to broaden the viewing audience and serve the character creators. As long as they get their cut and agree to the terms, seems okay.

    1. Kind of a random comment, but I sometimes get a kick out of TV shows written by various writers because sometimes in the next episode or a few down the road the other writer is almost trying to “undo” what a previous one did, whether character reactions, or what not. I had a Dr. Who example but I got interrupted leaving this and lost my train of thought.

      1. Mark1 says:

        Oups. Sorry -cringe-

  9. I used to write fan fiction, but I still would not use Amazon to publish it. First of all, a lot of people do not understand that fan fiction is original fiction written with someone else’s characters and may include worlds which do not exist in the original. Second, up to now fan fiction has been refused for publication by just about every other publishing service because that opens up a lot of wounds about intellectual properties and copyright. Amazon does not understand what it is doing with this, and is lining itself up for litigation it cannot afford. It is true that it cheats authors out of their due. I used to write fan fiction and gave it away for free. Never realized a dime off of it. I took some of the fan fiction I wrote and used it to build my own world, with my own characters and adventures. But you won’t find me returning to Amazon for anything anytime soon. I have already been burned for both sales and royalties, so for Amazon to offer this program is the height of idiocy for me. It is already in hot water for so many other legal infractions. What’s one more?

    1. “…It is already in hot water for so many other legal infractions. What’s one more?…”

      It’s my understanding that they have purchased the licenses for the available “fandoms”, so I’m guessing they’ve met the legal qualifications on this one, at least.

      I’ve written fan fiction myself, back in the day, and it was fun. In fact one of my vampires is loosely based on an OC I was writing. 😉

  10. LediaR says:

    Amazon could not get the licences without the person who owns the copyright’s approval, so that is the owner’s issue if they give Amazon their OK to have other people write fan fiction with their characters and then publish it for money. I also doubt that Amazon is going to start something that would later come back and bit them legally. That is just plain bad business. Not sure why anyone thinks that Amazon does not know what they are doing in this. They can afford copyright lawyers who, undoubtedly, checked into the legalities before they launched it. I mean, they are here to make money and doing something that would bring untold lawsuits down on them is going to cost them money in the long run.

    1. Yep. From what I understand they have the licenses, in much the same way that some websites purchase a license that allows their users to put a song in a video, or use art or fonts or what not.

  11. I’ve never written fan fiction. I can’t imagine I’d ever want to. I like the freedom of using my own characters. But I’ll be interested in seeing where this latest venture of Amazon’s goes.

    They never run out of ideas for making money, do they?

  12. Lisa Olsen says:

    I have been approached by Amazon to submit one of my fanfics in this program once it goes live. I already have several novel length fics written, so I’ll probably try one or two to see what happens. I figure it could lead to some free publicity to my other books at the least. I don’t think I’d ever do that with all of them, because I love the fanfic community and the instant response you get from them, but I’m willing to try it and see if it takes off.

    1. That’s awesome! Congrats! Please stop back in and let us know how it goes!

  13. Rohan 7 Things says:

    I think this is very cool! I’ve never written fan fiction but have thought about it. I think this is a good incentive and could result in some indie authors being picked up to write “official cannon” for big franchises. Time will tell whether it’s a good move or not, but either way it’s sure to be interesting to watch things develop!

    Rohan.

  14. Kingfisher says:

    I write fan fiction and I use it as a way to improve my writing without it having to be novel quality- it’s a way of de-stressing through my writing for me. However, I don’t like the idea of this at all. It’s making money out of something that isn’t really yours, because those characters and plot aren’t yours. Even if you change the plot and put the characters into a different situation, it just doesn’t seem right to be. Writing should be about creation of something brand new, even if you’re taking inspiration from existing things. I write band fan fiction, which is a little different to writing fan fiction about a novel or film, as the band are real people and not characters. A book was published called ‘The Dove Keeper’ that was once a fan fiction (that I read before it was published and have always loved) and because it is a band fan fiction, it is completely new as it’s Alternative Universe rather than cannon (there are very few cannon band fan fictions) and so the only thing it actually has to make it a fan fiction is the names, which were then changed for the novel. It’s beautifully written, so I agree with that being published, but I don’t like this sort of thing. I feel it’s teaching us to write about things already written, when we should be finding our own stories to tell.

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