Amazon's Kindle Worlds
Amazon’s Kindle Worlds

Kindle Worlds is getting amateurs cash for their slash fiction.

The best ideas always seem the most simple in hindsight, especially in publishing. Tell me you didn’t think of a virgin falling for a bondage loving playboy? Or a cocktail waitress head-over-heels for a vampire? A serial killer who only kills bad guys?

If you did but never did anything about it you’re probably kicking yourself now. Don’t worry – you’re not alone – this is likely how the world’s biggest publishers are feeling after Amazon launched Kindle Worlds last week.

Kindle Worlds is giving fans the keys to the kingdom by letting authors sell fan fiction. The Internet is already brimming with stories ripped from novels, comics, TV shows and films, and fans have been writing and trading them purely for enjoyment.

As publishers are increasingly making decisions based upon built-in audiences, the massive fan fiction community must’ve pulsated like a cheerleader’s jugular. Always an opportunist, Amazon sunk their teeth in.

At the moment the Kindle Worlds store has around 60 works for sale, with writers now able to submit their own stories for publication. For works accepted over 10,000 words, authors receive a 35% royalty rate, with stories between 5000 and 10,000 securing scribes 20%.

Unlike Amazon’s self-publishing service Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), authors don’t retain the rights to their works and cannot set the price. Amazon will price stories over 10,000 words between $0.99 and $3.99, while those between 5,000 and 10,000 will be less than a dollar. Stories published through Kindle Worlds also have to be accepted, rather than simply uploaded like they are through KDP.

Apart from giving a little legitimacy and money to fan-fiction writers, Kindle Worlds is clarifying the muddy waters around copyright. When Vintage republished EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, they rigorously denied that it was the same book as Master of the Universe, which was Grey’s Twilight fan-fiction that originally appeared on FF.net. Of course Vintage couldn’t admit its cash-cow was fan-fiction because Master of the Universe was based on Stephanie Meyers’ characters

With Kindle Worlds, fans don’t have to worry about that, at least with properties that they’ve licensed. Authors will be able to write about characters in popular TV shows Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, licensed by Warner Bros., as well as properties owned by comic publisher Valiant Entertainment (Bloodshot, Shadowman).

The works of established authors will also be up for grabs, with licenses secured for Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga; Barry Eisler’s John Rain novels; Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series; and The Foreworld Saga by Neal Stephenson, with more licenses being sought.

This is one reason the royalty rate isn’t as high as self-publishing through KDP – authors, Amazon and the companies licensing the properties all have to divide the pie, the latter of which they’re calling a World Licensor.

While the 35% royalty rate on revenue isn’t bad for writers, there are a few bits of fine print worth considering before you write the Chuck & Blair experiment with BDSM.

While Amazon states authors will own the copyright to any ‘original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes and events) that you create and include in your work’, they then state, ‘We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you’.

Potentially, this means you might end up creating a storyline for a World Licensor who can then use it to make money. But then you were making money from their idea in the first place, so it’s kind of fair.

Why no publisher has thought of monetising the fan-fiction industry yet is unknown – in hindsight it’s so obvious – like post-it notes or those little plastic tripods that stop pizza boxes crushing the pie.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of obviousness, before you pick up the pen and start sketching out scenes swelling with sadomasochistic sex, be aware that Kindle Worlds won’t ‘accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts’.

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