Kindle WorldsAmazon’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.

Kindle WorldsThat 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:

Royalty Table:

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.


  1. After glancing through the ‘agreement’ I certainly wouldn’t submit anything to Kindle Worlds before talking to a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property rights.

    Not being a lawyer myself, I suspect a lot of that is standard boilerplate for such agreements but I’m not confident about that.

  2. You don’t assign the copyright to the publisher ( Amazon) but you do give them an exclusive, non-revertable license to your original components of whatever you submit to them through this.

    From their FAQ —

    “You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all of the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you grant Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all of the original elements you include in that story for the term of copyright. This means that your story and all of the new elements must stay within the applicable World, and you can use only this platform to write about them. We recommend that you do not incorporate an original character or elements unless you want them to become an exclusive part of that World.”

    etc. (there’s a lot more than that to it.)

  3. I would point out that you are playing in someone else’s sandbox here, creating stories set in someone else’s established universe. When they let you play with their toys, they make certain rules. If you don’t like those rules, feel free not to play with their toys.

    As Nate’s put this over on The Digital Reader, calling it fanfic is really the wrong way to think about it. It’s more like a giant e-slushpile for tie-in lit. And tie-in lit works differently from original creative writing.

    A lot of professional tie-in lit is written as work-for-hire, meaning that the author doesn’t get any copyright to it at all, but is paid for his work. I expect this slightly tortured “you own the copyright but we get the license” language is to work around the fact that Kindle Worlds is exactly the reverse of work-for-hire—it’s “hire-for-work,” because you submit the work first and then they decide if they want it.

    When you get right down to it, this is a market for stuff that’s arguably illegal to post anywhere else. It’s not as if you could get more favorable terms from another publisher. So either you monetize it with Amazon, or you post it free somewhere else and keep control over your original characters but you don’t get any cash for it and you theoretically could be sued. If it works for you, do it; if not, don’t. It’s no skin off Amazon’s nose either way.

  4. “As Nate’s put this over on The Digital Reader, calling it fanfic is really the wrong way to think about it. It’s more like a giant e-slushpile for tie-in lit.”

    Which makes perfect sense. Except, you know, they ARE calling it fan fiction. Which carries a lot of baggage and expectations with it. Some of which includes the conceit that it is okay to write fan fiction because “we’re not doing it for the money!” (Which belief has always struck me as wishful thinking for a defense.)

    As others have stated, they are probably trying to mine for that “crossover to ‘real fiction’ gold” that generated “Fifty Shades” by creating an artificial breeding ground for such things to happen. I won’t try to predict the future but I have my doubts that this will be successful.

  5. Well, sure, they’re calling it fanfic, because everyone knows what fanfic is. It’s got this huge subculture that they’re trying to hook into. That’s just smart marketing. Nobody’s ever claimed there was a “tie-in” subculture.

    But President Lincoln once asked how many feet a dog had if you called a tail a foot. The answer was four, because calling a tail a foot didn’t make it one. And if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…well.

  6. Some within the fan community think this will fail because it isn’t a fan community. According to friends who are part of this community, much of the fun of writing is getting fast feedback and conversations about the work. Paid work NEVER gets that kind of interaction. You toss your story out to mainly silence, a few nice and not so nice reviews, and stars that mean nothing.

    Once your first story is put on KW, you can never go back to that community with new stories because of Amazon’s grip on your future works.

    If that doesn’t give a fanfic writer pause, then the possibility of what it could mean to a career in professional writing.

    Writers tend to write the same kinds of characters, tropes, and themes their whole careers so there will be plenty of similarities between their fanfic work and their original work. Amazon and the owners of the media franchises have lots of lawyers, and it would be oh so easy to go after a writer who has had financial success. Just the possibility of a frivolous lawsuit would cripple a writer’s financial future and career.

    If Amazon and friends do this once, publishers will be extremely leery of anyone who had dipped their toes into this agreement.

    Personally, if I still wrote fanfic, I wouldn’t put my work into this system.

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