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.