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Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.

Please note the Content Guidelines for Kindle Worlds:

@cleolinda: THEY'RE BASICALLY STAMPING OUT THE PORN YOU GUYS. Also not allowing crossovers.

Pornography: We don't accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Content: We don’t accept offensive content, including but not limited to racial slurs, excessively graphic or violent material, or excessive use of foul language.

Illegal and Infringing Content: We take violations of laws and proprietary rights very seriously. It is the authors' responsibility to ensure that their content doesn't violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other rights.

Poor Customer Experience: We don't accept books that provide a poor customer experience. Examples include poorly formatted books and books with misleading titles, cover art, or product descriptions. We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience.

Excessive Use of Brands: We don’t accept the excessive use of brand names or the inclusion of brand names for paid advertising or promotion.

Crossover: No crossovers from other Worlds are permitted, meaning your work may not include elements of any copyright-protected book, movie, or other property outside of the elements of this World.

Please also note:

Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.

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.

I think there's a number of things going on here.

1) Note that the first three ~Worlds~ they've licensed are book series that became TV shows--which are, by their nature, a collaborative writing effort. I don't know if they'll succeed in licensing an unadapted single-author series "world." Or a book-to-movie one, for that matter.

@Gambling4Kitten: It sounds more like an easy way to squeeze out pro tie-in authors than anything else.

Basically. Both Amazon and the rights holders can now turn a profit on all the tie-in works they could possibly want (while rejecting the ones they don't), without having to shell out for a pro who would only write one continuity's worth of books. This way, it's like a multiverse of tie-ins that they don't have to pay professional rates for. Depending on how well-known people are in fandom, they could also be cashing in on various fanfic writers' online popularity, as some of the Twilight fic-to-book publishers have.

2) If Warner Bros. licenses fanfic rights to Amazon for these properties, are they then going to crack down on fic writers who don't sell their work to Amazon? They were really cooperative with Harry Potter fandom... after some initial resistance.

3) I suspect that the endgame here is to prevent another Fifty Shades of Grey situation. From a pop-cultural perspective, Fifty Shades was a massive publishing phenomenon/zeitgeist thing, maybe eyeroll-worthy, but something that was clearly filling an existing need. (Much like Twilight itself, in that sense.) From the perspective of the Twilight rights holders (Stephenie Meyer, her publisher, and/or possibly Summit Entertainment?), it was a gigantic rip-off with the serial numbers filed off; they had no control over the quality or subject matter and made zero money from it, despite E.L. James openly promoting it as a former Twilight fanfic. Meanwhile, "thanks to E.L. James' 'Fifty Shades' trilogy, revenue at [Random House] exceeded $420 million in 2012 -- up a staggering 75% from the year before," and James herself has apparently made at least $50 million. Now, if you want to write something clearly inspired by a licensed ~Amazon World,~ you (may) have to do it their way, at their prices ("most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99"), for their profit, and they won't let you write erotica, which is both a staple of fanfic... and the one thing otherwise fanfic-welcoming pro authors tend to disapprove of (if anything). I don't know that this is something Amazon or the rights holders could or would immediately enforce, but I suspect that eventuality is built in.

Ironically, I think the ban on porn is why this will not (might not?) work. Not just because fanfic is largely made of porn--often, "what happened next" or "what if it happened this way instead" fantasies inspired by mainstream works and straight from the id, which tend to run in that direction--but because erotica is such a huge and expanding market right now. So Amazon and its partner(s) have basically said, "What made Fifty Shades so popular? Let's definitely make sure no one does that. But at least we'll be the ones making money off people not-doing that." People writing gen fic might bite, but I suspect it'll be really hard to get other fans to buy it. Part of the wonder of fanfic, to hear people talk about it over the years, is the browsing and discovery process--the very free-ness of it. Given the Sturgeon's Law truism that "90% of everything is crap," asking people to apply that same free-reading process to dozens or hundreds of fanfics at $1-4 a pop to find the ones they'll love, when they can get it for free elsewhere, is a creaky business model, IMO. "Well, that's how self e-publishing already kind of works!" you say. Yes, and you see how hard it is for the majority of undiscovered authors to get any traction in it, and how the romance and/or erotica genre, as far as I can tell, tends to be the most consistently successful. And I think it's actually for the same reason that fanfic itself is popular--both mediums have closely-knit communities of readers who consume higher-than-average numbers of fictional works. ("Start boasting how well-read you are if you finished six books in 2012.") Seriously, I follow a number of romance writers and bloggers on Twitter, and I have no idea where they find the time/energy to read or write so much (she said enviously). This is pretty much the same reason I've observed fanfic as a medium via fandom without reading all that much of it myself: there are only 24 hours in a day. But I try to keep an eye on internet cultures generally, particularly female-driven ones, and this is my perception of what's going on. (See also: the reblogs/comments on my Tumblr post on the subject, which seem to be uniformly "WTF?" in nature.) At heart, it seems like another attempt to co-opt a creative community without understanding how it works in the first place.

And my perceptions could be totally wrong (I am sure you will tell me if they are). But if you want a theory as to what the hell anyone involved is thinking--this is mine.

ETA: A bottom-line comment I just made and will throw in: I see a majority of fandom writers (and readers?) not being on board, but the writers who do publish through Amazon appealing to non-fandom readers. Which may be all Amazon wants after all—a few potential tie-ins, not the entire conversion of fandom for profit. The real problem would come in if whoever decided to stop any fanfic that wasn’t published for profit through Amazon. That would be like herding cats (and then trying to issue them C&Ds), though.

Also, John Scalzi's take on it.

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Sounds pretty on to me!

-The Gneech

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Well, I think it's also no coincidence that the most famous definition of porn is "I know it when I see it." They've left themselves a loophole to be all like, "Well, but *this* is totally artistic, so."

I actually don't think Amazon would have a problem selling fanfic erotica. It's the rights holders who wouldn't want it. And they may want to ban it across the board because some of the fandoms may involve underage teenagers, and they don't want to have to go through on a case-by-case basis and declare which World can or cannot have erotica.

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I think you hit every nail squarely on the head, here. And I don't see how this is going to work out all that well for anyone. Those who submit works aren't going to get the kind of renumeration and exposure they really (might) crave, those who don't might find themselves staring down the barrel of incoming C&Ds/litigation because "there's an official venue for this now," and Amazon & the rights holders get... what? An idea farm?

There's a whole lot of "good luck with that" in all of this.

(Here's one reason why, even though I'm a poor hack frustrated writer, I've never dabbled in fanfic... playing in someone else's sandbox seems fraught with problems all the way 'round.)

...and Amazon & the rights holders get... what? An idea farm?

The licensing agreement seems to imply that the World holders get precisely that. Yeah, Gossip Girl is over (and honestly, if it had been crowd-sourced, it would have made a LOT more damn sense), but PLL and The Vampire Diaries aren't. I wouldn't be surprised that they're thinking they can get ideas that they wouldn't need to pay a lot for. Because OBVIOUSLY any fanfic writer would be over the moon to have their idea become canon, and be so happy with that they wouldn't expect any proper compensation.

The sad thing is? It just might well work.

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My take is that they're not targeting fanfic readers at all, but fans of the primary material who might shell out for tie-in fiction if it existed, which they don't even know they could find free online for the price of a Google search and some eye bleach.

Hm, that is a good point. It could also be an idea farm for future TV show developments, as someone else mentioned.

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I had this initial "THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING" reaction of terror... and then I saw the no-porn thing and it just became hilarious.

What makes this extra devious is that Alloy book series (Pretty Little Liars, etc) are already work for hire - WB owns the worlds, so they're basically all tie ins. Now they get to have fans write new ties for free, and they can even publish the really good ones as much as they like without shelling out a single penny in compensation.

eeee, Cleo quoted my twitter


And didn't they boot the original Vampire Diaries author because they wanted to take it in a different direction, and she'd been hired specifically to write that series, so it was theirs and they could do that? That's the ethic I'm seeing here.

IDK, it may work. I have friends in RL who are huge fans of books/movies/etc and have no idea about fanfiction or fandom beyond maybe a sanctioned website. Those fans may love this and make it successful. Which makes me kind of sad because fandom and fanfic is so diverse, to only see the approved stuff is missing a lot of what makes fandom fandom.

I don't know of many who are already in fandom/reading-writing fanfic who will go for this though. Why pay when we can get it for free? And most do it for love of the subject. I'm also intrigued by the "no porn" rule. I mean, come on. That's such an integral part of fanfic. What would happen if? Here's that missing scene! If so and so loved so and so, here's how it would go down.

I just don't know if it will work.

Yeah, I see a majority of fandom writers (and readers?) not being on board, but the writers who do publish through Amazon appealing to non-fandom readers. Which may be all Amazon wants after all--a few potential tie-ins, not the entire conversion of fandom for profit.

The real problem would come in if whoever decided to stop any fanfic that wasn't published for profit through Amazon. That would be like herding cats (and then trying to issue them C&Ds), though.

The cost issue is going to be interesting. It's kind of like they're trying to make Kindle into iTunes - I was reluctant at first, but now I'm all "Oh, I really love that song, I don't want to go buy a whole album, I'm already on the computer, I'll just buy it here! It's 99 cents!"

But the problem with that is that radio and YouTube and music shares by my friends are the reason I keep listening to new music. I have a connection to the product already, and a pretty good sense of whether or not I want to plunk down my buck. I've never actually bought anything from iTunes and regretted it, except once. Considering how much I've bought, that's a good hit rate.

I mention all that to say that I don't think the pay model is going to work here. You may well get people who have Kindles but don't know about fanfic, but I don't think that Venn diagram is all that pronounced, particularly if you add the ring "would be interested in fanfic". My mother has a Kindle and doesn't know about fanfic, but I promise you, she won't read it.

There's no way to preview it that I know of, there's LOADS of it online for free, there's not been a lot of success in e-publishing for unknowns, and newspapers have real problems with paywalls, particularly the minute someone reposts an article. I don't see it working just for those reasons, and then alienating the ficcers because there's no porn or questionable content - I mean, come on. This is AMAZON. They pulled a bunch of gay and lesbian books what was it, two years ago? Comixology, which as far as I know isn't affiliated with Amazon, pulled an issue of SAGA because of two relatively small panels that showed male homosexual activity, and that not even explicit, because it was "inappropriate".

This is what the fanfic community is built on, people. You can't remove it and assume you have the same product AND an additional revenue stream.

And going back to iTunes - I have the ability to check quality control by previewing the work, which I have the ability to hear in its entirety elsewhere as well. And when we're talking an actual tie-in book, someone, somewhere, objectively said "This is crap, fix it" and the book is better for it. So now I'm not even paying my money for something that has decent odds of being at least readable?

Fuck that shit. All of it. Everything is wrong about this. But the porn thing also has me in the position of just laughing and saying "NICE TRY."

Most Kindle product has a pretty extensive preview available on the Amazon site.

The big problem with this has nothing to do with fanfiction itself. It's this: "Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright."

One should NEVER give all rights to a creative work away without a huge payment upfront. If you can't even retain copyright, walk away.

Basically, and the reason I bolded all of those terms. It's also what John Scalzi's saying at the link I just added.

Rent seekers. Content farm. The corporation is a fuedal lord and they want Fandom to be their serfs. I also suspect the on paper legalese for this one is dizzying and could make copyright law and work for hire doctrine even more ugly.

Because we totally needed that, yeah. They either have the best lawyers or the worst ones, to attempt something like this.

Just how much is Fifty Shades like Twilight anyway? I mean, if you read both, would it be obvious that one is pretty much the other with the serial numbers filed off? I was always under the impression that they barely had anything in common except some superficial and generic character traits for it's main characters. I know FSoG has stated that it started as fic, but I wonder if it could really be called that. 'Inspired by Twilight' maybe? I dunno, I haven't read either so I'm not sure. Dennis L. McKiernan's The Iron Tower trilogy is my standard for "serial numbers filed off fanfic", though. Maybe my bar is set too low.

I suspect it's for cheap idea farming at best. I also think that whoever came up with the idea only did a cursory examination of fanfics. This whole thing has the feeling of something that was read about in a few articles and "researched" on Wikipedia, then presented as a potential next "Big Thing", with little understanding of the appeal of fic.

I think I would feel differently about FSOG if she'd just written a book while inspired by Twilight, published it without first posting it online, and admitted the inspiration as a bit of interesting trivia. The fact that she took (apparently) an extremely popular, well-known fanfic, changed the names, and very specifically promoted it as a former Twilight fanfic (thereby leveraging someone else's popularity) is what burns me. It's like she wanted it both ways--to exploit Twilight's popularity while legally avoiding any repercussions for it. Would people have bothered buying it in the first place if there hadn't been that connection? Because I feel like the Twilight connection was why it snowballed in the first place, and then people were buying it just to see why everyone else was.

Which is what a lot of bandwagon/trend things do, although usually in a less blatant way. Not too fond of that, either.

They can try this, but I don't know how much money they're going to make at it.

Also, even if 50 Shades was marketed as Twilight fanfic, I thought it was the... subject matter that really sold the books.

FSOG is interesting to me as a response to Twilight in the sense of what is (erm) left out or maybe the disingenously obvious subtext of Twilight. It does the kind of thing that fanfic does at its best, which is to do more than be dirty but to fill a gap or expose a ... well to expose something. :)

Anyway, I am not a huge fanfic supporter in general, but I would like to Let Fanfic Be Fanfic! Having corporate overlords is going to change some fundamentals of what fanfic can and does do to original material.

Hmmm... I'm not sure I like the sound of this. I have this feeling that people's fics could be used for plot ideas or something. I dunno. The greatest things about fanfic are that it's free, that there is so much of it, and that you can (once in a while) find some really engaging writing that compels you to leave a comment or review. I've always felt that, if someone takes the time out of their day to tell you how much they liked your story, it's the biggest complement they can give you. Even if it's just one word. Even if it's a critical review—it takes thought and deliberation to read something and tell you what could or should be altered.

So, adding a price to something we can all get for free seems like a "doomed to fail" kind of idea.

Besides, it's been a dream of mine (since I was a little kid) that I could grow up and write tie-in novels for my favorite fandom. When I started reading the Expanded Universe stuff for Star Wars, that's what got me interested in writing. But the freedom of fanfic lets me write all the tie-in stories I want to. And that's the whole idea. It's FREE.

EDIT: There's also the legal language used in the guidelines and so forth that seems deliberately confusing. Like the "you will own the copyright" thing along with "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." You may own the copyright, but your story idea can still be taken from you without you getting paid or having any credit given to you. Not cool.

Edited at 2013-05-22 08:42 pm (UTC)

These are the things I was thinking:

1) What does this mean for all the fanfic already written for Alloy Entertainment properties? Since Amazon now has exclusive rights as licensor (I guess?) to these "Worlds" - do they go after the fanfic already out there, on ff.net and AO3 and tumblr and wherever else it may be?

2) Also it seems to me that if you write Vampire Diaries fic and put your OC/plot device/world-building in it and sell it through Amazon, you can never write or publish Vampire Diaries fic using that OC/plot device/world-building anywhere other than Amazon Worlds - and maybe (I'm unclear on this part) you can't put up Vampire Diaries fic anywhere at all - or you're violating the terms.

3) Like you, my initial thought was that Amazon is trying to get in on the ground floor of the next 50 Shades of Grey so they could cash in on future licensing, like sequels and films, but if they say, "no pornography" how does that work? I wonder if they're going to distinguish between "pornography" and "erotica" to get around that (I KNOW IT WHEN I SEE IT), and anything that Amazon/original copyright holder doesn't like would be considered porn (my guess here is anything other than het "erotica" would be "porn").

4) This is really for the non-fanfic reading crowd. For the people who buy all the awful (and not-so-awful) tie-in novels, and for the readers of 50 Shades. I mean one of the biggest things you hear from fandom about 50 Shades it "but it's BAD porn! There's much better porn in fanfic!" But those readers of 50 Shades don't know about fanfic, don't know where to find it, so this will be bringing it to where they already know to look.

All of the above, cosigned. Rights holders have just peaceably looked the other way for so long that I don't know what them actually trying to turn fanfic to their advantage (and profit) will lead to.

I wonder if they're prepared for the amount of slash that they'll get? I am a lonely gen fan in a world of shippers, and even if they've banned porn, you can bet there will be slashy overtones in at least 90% of what's written and submitted to them. If they are looking for tie-ins, it'll be a tough look to find one if they want to remain true to the World canons. People don't ship what's there, that's too easy.

I'm also really uncomfortable with the idea of anyone working as hard as people do on creating an OC and then having that OC essentially stolen and had money made off of without them getting anything from it.