Not just any old fanfic. Your Star Trek/Supernatural crossover high school AU won’t earn you any dough quite yet. But with a new program called Kindle Worlds writers in certain fandoms, with more to come, will be able to publish their fic on Amazon. And earn royalties. Completely legally.
There is no gif that can express what my brain is doing right now. In text form, it’s “??!??!?!!?!?!?.”
Kindle Worlds, when it launches next month, will be teen-heavy, as Amazon has so far only secured the licenses to the Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries book series. For fics over 10,000 words the author will receive the standard royalty rate of 35%, with the rights holder getting a cut as well.
But don’t rush to submit your E-rated Vampire Diaries omegaverse epic quite yet; via the official press release, “Amazon Publishing will work with [the rights holders] to establish content guidelines that balance flexibility and openness for writers with what’s reasonable for the franchise.” Which is only to be expected, of course. If not official, Amazon-published fanfic will at least be official-ish in that they’ll sort of have the stamp of approval of The Powers That Be on them. And, to put it lightly, characters get up to some crazy, non-family friendly stuff in fanfic. There have to be some guidelines. (Please let proper grammar be another one, please please please…)
Writes Philip Patrick, director of business development and publisher of Kindle Worlds:
“At Kindle, we’re not only inventing on the hardware and software side of the business, we’re inventing new ways to create books. Our goal with Kindle Worlds is to create a home for authors to build on the Worlds we license, and give readers more stories from the Worlds they enjoy. We look forward to announcing additional World licensing deals in the coming weeks.”
This whole thing raises a slew of questions, among them how transparent the guidelines to determine what’s “reasonable” will be, whether Kindle Worlds will accept fics already published, how many people will be willing to pay for something that’s always been free, how much Amazon will charge, and if/how the availability of free fanfic will be affected.
I’d also be curious to know how much the rights owners get compared to the writers’ 35%. I can see being cynical when it comes to the money aspect of this; giant corporations (the publisher of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries is owned by Warner Bros.) will be making money off of the labor of their fans. That’s not a viewpoint I share, though, because that’s what happens anyway: Fans put thousands of hours of effort into creating fic, graphics, crafts, etc., expecting nothing in return other than the object of their fandom being good. The fact that some of those fans will now be able to get paid for their efforts if they so choose is amazing. Some already are: Authors stripping fic of its fannish elements and republishing it as original fiction is becoming a more and more common practice. But there is some truly amazing fic out there, and I for one want to see more authors earn money off of it, even if it’s just enough to buy them a photo op at a con. If one of my favorite authors shows up on Kindle Worlds, you can be darn sure I’ll support them by purchasing their stories there.
Granted, though in theory this program sounds great, in practice there are sure to be bumps once it launches. If successful the pay-for-fanfic model will affect fannish culture as a whole, and probably not all in positive ways. One of the best things about fannish works is that they’re free and easily accessible to anyone, after all, which in turn feeds a vibrant fan culture. But I for one am really excited to see where this is going. Please don’t crash and burn before you can license one of my fandoms, Kindle Words.