That was my initial reaction to yesterday’s news that Amazon has figured out a way to make serious moolah from fan fiction. My second reaction was … well of course Amazon has figured it out. That smartest minds in the book business these days are hanging all at Amazon. So … what does Kindle Worlds mean? According to Amazon, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, (read, existing books where the rights holders have signed onto the program and who will get a royalty) engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties.
This sounds really simple, doesn’t it? Write a story using characters (or introduce new ones) in the worlds of Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars for starters, fire the story off to Amazon who will then acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright. You’ll get paid monthly, assuming someone buys your story (from .99 to 3.99/sale).
Hmmm … here’s what I think is going on. Amazon says that:
Kindle Worlds is a creative community where Worlds grow with each new story. 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 the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. 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.
Two months ago, Amazon bought another community – one of readers. It’s called Goodreads. Everyone knows that Goodreads is a social networking site for book lovers. 16 million members world wide. Massive. That’s a lot of people to sell books to – it’s a concentrated cyber market where members aren’t going to be distracted by scented candles or groovy kitchen gadgets that you find in big box brick and mortar book stores. Amazon bought a book market. Period.
I suspect the very clever people at Amazon have spent a good deal of time looking at existing fan fiction communities online and realized that aside from being a place where people can write stories about their favorite characters in their favorite books, sites like fanfiction,net possess a social networking component. The persuasion principle of reciprocity lives there – you read my story, I’ll read your story. You review my story, I’ll review your story. Initially, I’d wondered why Amazon didn’t just go out and buy fanfiction,net – Amazon has enough money to buy anything. If Amazon wanted to start bankrolling a space exploration program, they could probably do it and they’re smart enough to figure out a way to draw a tidy profit from such a venture.
But there are more than 643,000 Harry Potter stories on fanfiction.net. There are more than 200,000 Twilight stories. A veritable galaxy of stories based on a multitude of book worlds that would all require contracts and royalties. It simply couldn’t be done. So in creating Kindle Worlds, Amazon gets to control everything and I suspect they’re betting that a good portion of the more than 9000 Gossip Girl and 1700 Vampire Diaries fan fiction writers might like to make a little coin.
Quite simply, if Amazon didn’t already realize there was a market for this stuff, they wouldn’t have proceeded with it. My prediction? They’re going to make a killing. The fan fiction writers won’t for the same reasons that most self-pubbed authors using Amazon’s self publishing platform aren’t earning enough to by a wedge of cheese. It’s hard to sell a drop of water in an ocean filled with H2O. Who will make the money? Well obviously the rights holders will and naturally Amazon will too. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how many drops of water get sold when you own the ocean and you get a cut from each drop.
Smart. Those Amazon people are smart as hell. I’ll be watching Kindle Worlds closely because Amazon has taken innovation to a new level with this one.
Quick afterthought: I wonder what will happen if a published author decides to write a fan fiction story and submits that story to Kindle Worlds? Like … what if I decided I wanted to write Anita Blake fan fiction?