Amazon’s newest venture, Kindle Worlds, opened to the public on Thursday, launching 50 stories in its first group of fan fiction work.
The initial announcement had three properties writers could consider, but just before launch Amazon announced the addition of other properties, including Hugh Howey’s Silo Series.
Writers can create stories within these worlds using characters and settings as they see fit.
Howey wrote on his blog on Thursday that “The Silo Saga is now open for exploration! You can write WOOL fan fiction and upload it for review. And get this,” he added. “I found out today that a WOOL story was the first through the gates and first accepted! I feel so lucky and honored to have been invited into this program, and even luckier to have talented writers out there who care to explore these worlds. The fact that some of them are now making history is just too cool for words.”
It seems Howey has already dabbled with readers writing their own fan-fiction. In this interview with Jason Gurley, Howey alludes to the fact that he welcomes fan fiction, and doesn’t seem to mind if fanfic writers charge for it.
That leads us to Kindle Worlds. Fan fiction plus money equals (potentially) heavier pockets for writers and rights owners of the different worlds. But the fanfic writers are losing any rights to their work they might have had, despite using the original work of others to create a story.
Kindle Worlds Terms of Service states: Effective as of the date we first make your Work available through the Program, you grant us the exclusive, irrevocable license for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewals), to develop, license, reproduce, print, publish, distribute, translate, display, publicly perform and transmit your Work, in whole and in part, in each country in the world, in all languages and formats, and by all means now known or later developed, and the right to prepare derivative works of your Work.
But … there is money involved. Fanfic writers get a royalty based on the length of their story.
Here’s the breakdown of the royalty fees from Amazon’s site:
E-Book with 10,000 or more words: 35% of Net Revenue
E-Book with fewer than 10,000 words: 20% of Net Revenue
Paperback: 8% of Net Revenue
Hardcover: 10% of Net Revenue
Audio: 10% of Net Revenue
Translations in E-Book format: 25% of Net Revenue
Third Party Sublicensed Rights: 35% of Net Revenue after deducting applicable foreign agent commissions and related fees
On one hand, I find it great that Howey, along with other authors and companies, have allowed writers to make money off their worlds. People have been writing fan fiction for decades, and continue to do so because of the passion they have for a particular story. For some, it’s easier to write about a world that already exists than to come up with entirely new characters and settings.
It’s also great that authors can make money off these pieces of fan fiction.
However, giving up rights just makes me cringe. Obviously there’s a very fine line here, because fanfic writers, of course, are using the work of someone else to create their own … and yet something just feels off about it to me.