Getting Paid for Your Fanfic? Here Comes Kindle Worlds!

JunoMagic posted a link this morning to the press release for Kindle Worlds, “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.” (Here are the Kindle Worlds guidelines, again courtesy of Juno.) Yes, yes, you read correctly: Amazon is setting up a means for fanfic writers to publish their fanfic and make money on it.

My thoughts are still new and could change radically as we learn more about this project in the weeks and months to come. My first thought was, “Fanfic for profit?! I’m against that!” Because, in the past, I have spoken out against sites like FanLib, FanHistory, and LotRFF that seek to monetize fandom. But I haven’t been able to get likewise upset over Kindle Worlds. It is a different ball of wax, from where I’m standing.

First of all, the aforementioned for-profit fandom sites sought to harness fans’ passion for a show, movie, or book; their (essentially human) desire to create in that verse; and turn a profit on their energies without compensation to the fan. (I don’t count T-shirts with the company’s name on it to be compensation.) In many cases, these ventures were crafted to look like the non-profit archives fandom participants were used to frequenting, so fans weren’t even necessarily consenting to have their work used for profit. Neither were the rights holders, making these perilous ventures in the minds of many fans, with the potential to tar all fannish activity as a means to profit on someone else’s intellectual property. The mere thought makes me feel greasy.

Kindle Worlds, though, is expressly about granting what amounts to traditional publication to “fanfic,” including compensating authors with up to 40% of sales. In short, authors who pursue publication with Kindle Worlds know that they are entering for-profit territory. They are not posting on what they think is a new archive (or an old favorite … lookin’ at you, LotRFF!) only to discover that their story that has page clicks in the millions? Has been raking in a handsome profit for some business owner somewhere. Also, since the original rights holders are on-board, the idea that the project will draw negative scrutiny to fandom in general is not a concern.

There are some aspects of Kindle Worlds that I am watching with caution. First of all, there definitely appears to be a vetting process, as the press release declares “authorized stories” in the first paragraph. A vetting process is not inherently bad–many fandom outlets do the same, and of course, traditional publishers do as well–but I suspect that much of what is written in fandom will be rendered ineligible. The guidelines explicitly ban “pornography” (which I take to likely mean Adult or “NC-17” stories) and crossovers. What about AU? What about slash? What about crackfic? I could see any of these story falling under one of these designations receiving a rejection simply because of its genre, leaving large swaths of fannish activity confined to non-profit sites, just like at present.

I am downright concerned over the purchase of “all rights”: “Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright” (Guidelines, “Start Writing Now”). For those unfamiliar with traditional publishing, publishing venues like literary magazines or anthologies typically obtain rights in only limited areas directly relevant to that particular publication. For example, an anthology may obtain first North American rights, meaning that it is the first venue in North America to print the story; the author could, therefore, sell first European rights to a British publication. Others may obtain digital rights, anthology rights, reprint rights, or audio rights. All rights, though, includes everything, so while you’re happily making 50 cents per download on your fanfic, Amazon is taking your great idea, making a blockbuster film, and they don’t have to share any of the revenue from that with you, because they–not you–own the film rights. Or they’re using your story for a new episode of the show, also without compensation. They spell that out in the same section linked above:

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.

It is up to each writer, of course, to decide what rights she or he is willing to sell. I made up my mind a decade ago to never sell all rights, but that is my decision and won’t be right for everyone. I just hope that Amazon is communicating fully to writers what exactly they are purchasing. While the explanation above is a step in the right direction, I’d still like to see an FAQ or similar document to spell out exactly what “all rights” means, what a writer can do with her work (can she remove it from the site? post it on a non-profit site? sell reprint rights, assuming Amazon isn’t always the only site purchasing fanfic? distribute copies to friends for free?) and what she will not be able to do. I hope Amazon realizes that fannish culture presupposes a lot of freedom for the author, and that fanfic authors may not necessarily be familiar with the restrictions that selling a work to a publisher entails.

What about the “morality” of making money on fanfic, from the author’s perspective? I don’t have a problem here, actually, although I suspect I may end up in the minority on this one. Would that all artists with talent could make a living–or even part of a living–on their work. I think it’s a shame that we value art so little that a short story that took weeks, months, or years to craft may sell to a literary magazine for little to nothing (yet our society always manages to cough up the millions required to sustain athletic teams. Just sayin’.)

As for its impact on fandom in general, especially the selected fandoms that will participate in Kindle Worlds … I am less sure here. I could see people who ordinarily would not touch fanfic–there is a stigma, after all–becoming enthralled with “official” fanfic and then being more open-minded to its free (and in many cases, probably higher-quality) counterparts on non-profit archives on the Web. I don’t see attrition in the opposite direction: People who participate in existing non-profit fan communities giving up involvement there in order to read exclusively on Kindle Worlds. After all, even less than a dollar per story could result in a dollars-per-day reading habit, which could be likewise accomplished for free on a non-profit site. The community and social aspect of fandom is also not something that I see being easily replicated on Kindle Worlds–or replicated at all–and that is a huge driving force behind fannish participation. Fandom is so wonderful, in a large part, in my opinion, because it is so communal and collaborative.

My chief concern would be a talent-drain among authors in the selected fandoms and especially genres acceptable to the project. If you write stories acceptable for Kindle Worlds, and you can make money on your work and don’t mind giving up all rights, then why would you offer it for free? This could essentially have the effect of removing popular authors from the community aspect altogether or paring down those genres of fanfic most acceptable for a project like Kindle Worlds (i.e., canon-compliant genfic).

I haven’t read a lot of commentary on this yet because I am just home from work, and most social-networking sites are blocked at my school. So this is all off the top of my head. I expect monster-shouting to ensue, but I don’t see reason for panic yet and have described myself as “cautiously optimistic” about the whole thing elsewhere. Even though Kindle Worlds claims to be offering “fan fiction,” based on the press release and guidelines I’ve read, they’re only sampling a very, very narrow portion of what’s commonly written under the heading of “fanfic.” I think a question to ask, before letting the monster-shouting begin, is how many of us write stories that fit the guidelines, were Tolkien fanfic to be accepted? How many of us would relinquish all rights to our work? How many of us would give up the community element? In those who raised their hands three times, we have the impact on our community, were Tolkien fanfic, hypothetically, to join the list of accepted fandoms.

ETA: While I was on hiatus, I started getting a ridiculous amount of spam on this site. I need to invest in better spam protection, but that isn’t something I have time to research and implement right now. (Actually the whole site needs an overhaul, but that’s an epic adventure for this summer!) Anyway, as a result of my trying to at least get spam to not appear on the site, most comments go to moderation. I’m monitoring this, but if you comment and it doesn’t show up, please email or message me, so that I can rescue your comment from all the spam comments about car covers and handbags and dui attorneys in san diego that it is (quite miserably, I’m sure) keeping company with.

ETA2: With the help of my sister, I have activated spam protection and, as a result, have turned off the setting that was causing most comments to go to moderation. Thanks, Sharon! Please continue to email me or message me if your comment does not appear.

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32 Responses to “Getting Paid for Your Fanfic? Here Comes Kindle Worlds!”

  1. Randy says:

    Bottom line, this is going to happen whether we want it to or not. I don’t see this as being quite the same as the flaps over FanLib and LOTRFF, since the copyright owners of the fanfiction that will be allowed have given their permission and will be compensated as well.

    I do not think I would be signing any contract of the nature I see described.

  2. Oshun says:

    They are not asking me to write a TV show in a series, which would give me, in addition to financial remuneration, something for my resume, credits on the TV screen, open doors in other areas, getting people to read new things I write, etc., etc. They are asking me to take my chances with god-knows-how-many other writers (as one of those esteemed fanfic writers) and see if anyone will buy my book for 99 cents and each one of those could give me up to 40 cents, unless they don’t sell, or they decide to sell them for 20 cents or they are used as a free giveaway. Meanwhile, I have sold all rights. If they make a blockbuster movie series based on my ideas, I can tell people about it at the corner pub (sure they are going to believe that).

    It does not sit well with me. Publishers are not going to like it. I doubt if most published writers will like it.

    I posted something about it today, because I had not seen anything only it appeared in a corner of my f-list where most of my fandom friends were unlikely to see it. But I posted a note about it, because it smells funny to me. I am not paranoid or moralistic and I do have aspirations still to getting things published. But not this way and not writing Gossip Girl fanfiction (not that there is anything wrong with that–except they got New York City and its denizens all wrong!).

  3. Dawn says:

    Randy, the thought crossed my mind while driving out for ice cream with my husband a few minutes ago that something like this was going to happen, sooner or later. It’s a huge untapped market, and fanfic is becoming less stigmatized; we weren’t going to be allowed to languish, unmonetized, forever! :) My hope is that the two can coexist. I don’t mind the idea, even if it’s not something I see as being for me.

    Oshun, I agree that the terms suck. However, fandom has a way of getting the word around–just look what less than a day with this gem has done!–and I hope that writers will at least go into it aware of what they’re getting into. I’m not interested in the deal as it is currently written, even if I wrote for one of the eligible fandoms. Beyond that, I trust writers can make their own decisions about what they think is best. Even a few years ago, self-publishing was viewed as a death knell to any chances to seriously publish. It remains to be seen how, five years from now, a writer who takes this chance will be viewed by publishers.

  4. Randy says:

    Oshun, I have to wonder what the deal is on Kindle for self-published original fiction that you see for sale for 99 cents? As I’ve said, this is almost an extension of those media tie-in novels you see of TV shows and movies. From what I’ve been reading today, the creative rights do not stay with the authors of those works either.

  5. Randy says:

    Dawn, the stigma seems to be wearing off self-publishing, especially in e-book form. Fanfiction on the other hand .. .

    I read some pretty snarky remarks on John Scalzi’s blog about fanfiction.

  6. Angelica says:

    Being sceptical, I’d say that this seems like a way of getting fresh ideas without much investment on the part of the original copyright holders. They get authors who love the show, are knowledgable about its world and love to write about it (and some do it really well). In exchange, they pay next to nothing and get all the rights for ever and ever. Great business.

  7. Dreamflower says:

    I don’t like it one little bit.

    There are too many problems this could create not only for those who choose to take part and lose their rights to their work, but for fanfic in general.

    What if the participating media decide that the ONLY fic they want allowed is through their deal with Kindle Worlds? Will they send takedown notices to archives hosting any free fic about their properties?

    Fortunately for me personally, I can’t see the Tolkien Estate ever signing up for a deal like this.

    But it doesn’t mean I’m not concerned for the effect it may have in other fandoms.

  8. Elleth says:

    Thanks for this, Dawn. My own thoughts on this are still percolating, though they definitely trended in the same “this is bad” direction initially. But this model is making me wonder:

    1.) With the apparent attempts to build a ‘verse or continuity (allowing fic writers to build upon each others’ works as in the paragraph you cited) the plans for this seem like a series of tie-ins rather than a selection of unrelated fanfic to be found on any given archive… and given that it’s officially vetted, I’d only still call it fanfic in the same sense tie-in novels of other franchises are material written by fans (Altariel comes to mind; I’d be /very/ interested to hear her thoughts).

    2.) The target audience. I agree that it should absolutely be possible for fannish authors to make money off their works if the copyright holder has no objection (or copyright has expired), but in this case I am very much wondering where they hope to sell their new product. Unless it’s really trending into the direction of supplementary canon, I can’t see much of an audience. Their lack of familiarity with fandom and the social dynamics that have developed looks bright as day from over here. I do hope all they do is heavy advertising if they do anything at all, rather than attempt to “force” an audience by shutting down current fanfic venues. At the moment, though, I’m seeing this as a niche phenomenon, so talent drain seems unlikely…

    3.) “Not if I found it on the highway would I take it.” – That’s my stance with regard to Tolkien fanfic and Kindle Worlds. Given the trends in fandom to view canon somewhat critically, add additional elements, the stylistic differences and different motivations behind Tolkien’s own work and fic, I can’t see our fandom as a viable target to begin with – that’s not to slander the talent of its authors, but given what I remember of Gossip Girl, it seems vastly easier to emulate canon-compliant genfic in a contemporary American style and setting rather than to wrestle with, say, the spiritual repercussions of Lúthien’s mortality on some Ossiriand backwater island. 😉

    (There also is a thought buzzing around in the back of my mind, but I’ll need to dig up lecture notes from a few years back to make head or toe of this, but didn’t Lucasfilm/some other company concerned with Star Wars try a similar model – offering fans the opportunity to write fic and upload it to an officially vetted archive in exchange for giving up rights to original ideas? Googling didn’t yield anything, so it’s entirely possible I’m confusing/imagining this. But if this happened, that’d be an interesting comparison.)

  9. Siân says:

    What about the “morality” of making money on fanfic, from the author’s perspective? I don’t have a problem here, actually, although I suspect I may end up in the minority on this one. Would that all artists with talent could make a living–or even part of a living–on their work.

    I must be in that minority too, then. I agree.

    the idea that the project will draw negative scrutiny to fandom in general is not a concern.

    I am not worried about that at all. I’ve always said I’ll write fanfic, even if it landed me in prison. I feel that strongly about it. Worse-case scenario, the entire fandom gets a C&D. So, I’d write offline, and if any-one was interested in reading the rest of my work I would email it. I hope other authors would do that same.

    The guidelines explicitly ban “pornography” (which I take to likely mean Adult or “NC-17? stories) and crossovers. What about AU? What about slash? What about crackfic? I could see any of these story falling under one of these designations receiving a rejection simply because of its genre, leaving large swaths of fannish activity confined to non-profit sites, just like at present.

    This is the second reason for my lack of interest. I am sick to death of ‘adult’ stories being deemed unacceptable. There’s a lot of violence and sex in G.R.R. Martin’s work, and I don’t see Amazon banning him. There’s even more soft ‘porn’ sold under the guise of historical ‘romance’ – and violence does not even get a mention, which disturbs me far more.

    But – How many of us would relinquish all rights to our work?

    No. Like many people I know, I’ve been working on my series for years, and the last time I counted it was over 1,999,000 words. I’ve created several OC’s, some of whom have large parts in the stories, and they’re mine. I wouldn’t give them up, or self censor. So while I am interested to see whether this will be a success or not, that clause in particular causes me to make a sound like ‘Pffft.’

  10. Independence1776 says:

    I agree with what Dreamflower said. It’s not just the rights part that’s problematic, but the possibilities it’ll have on other fandoms. Also, the difference between tie-in novelists and fandom is that the former (generally) know what their contracts mean, and this reads to me as someone trying to take advantage of the changing legitimacy and popularity of fanfic by going after those who *don’t* know. (And I also wonder if Amazon realizes how many teenagers might take advantage of this, and if they have measures in place to deal with that legal knot.)

    But even if Tolkien was one of the accepted fandoms, I still wouldn’t touch it. The terms aren’t worth it, and if I wanted money for my writing, I’d send out my ofic.

  11. Dawn says:

    Responding in general to comments made thus far …

    The terms suck. But. As Randy points out, the terms of this project are very similar to what authors of authorized tie-in novels agree to already. I personally made up my mind when I first started trying to sell my (original) work to never sell all rights. I agree with the concerns that new and especially young (given the fandoms) writers may not understand what they’re getting into. My hope is that Amazon will develop FAQs and other material to make that clearer; in the absence of that, hopefully Fandom-in-General can pick up the slack (as we always do) in educating our fellow fans. Indy brings up a great point, too, that the age of the writer will have to be taken into account when signing contracts. (Although, as someone who works with older teens, an 18-year-old certainly doesn’t always have the soundest of judgment!)

    I have to admit that I can’t get into a lather over the notion that this will mark the end of “unauthorized” fandoms. I simply don’t see what the benefit would be to Amazon to take that path, and remember, it will be an effortful path. It’s still early (for me, night owl that I am), so forgive the listicle format.

    1. This has been a looming fear for years already in the sense that the rights holders will suddenly try to shut down fandoms; some prominent authors don’t allow fanfic about their universes. At the same time, I’ve heard quite a bit about how rights holders who might object to fanfic are reluctant to take on that battle because it could just as easily–maybe even more so–go in our favor, not theirs. At present, we operate in a gray area, which seems to suit many people just fine.

    2. Amazon does not own the rights to these works. It has purchased a license to publish and sell “authorized stories” about them. While I’m not a lawyer, I can’t imagine that this would give them anything approximating the right to shut down fandoms anymore than my (hypothetical) landscaping company can stop a neighborhood kid from mowing his elderly neighbor’s lawn for free.

    3. Amazon is not Keith Mander or Fanlib. I hope that they have done better research into fan communities than these entities did; certainly, they can afford to do so, and it is to their benefit to understand the creators and customers they are targeting. If they did their research, the names “Fanlib” and “Keith Manders” are probably more familiar to the folks working on the Kindle Worlds project than they are to most fan authors. If they are, they know that pissing off the fan community is not something they want to do, if they want this project to succeed. For every two fans, you might get three opinions, yes, but we do agree and unite quite well behind threats to our existence, and the annihilation of one fandom will result in serious fandom participants never giving this project a second look or actively trying to derail it, even if those fans never even heard of the affected fandom.

    4. That said, if they can court those serious fans? BNFs who already have a reader base in the thousands and who are getting millions of clicks on their stories? These are not the people they want to alienate.

    5. Nor is this an either/or proposition. I’ve seen comments along the lines of a fandom having Kindle Worlds or the current set-up but not both. They can coexist. I believe it is in Amazon’s interest more so than our own that they do.

    6. An existing fan community only bolsters the success of this project. The thinking seems to be, “Why pay for what you can get for free?” It is important to realize, foremost, that selling all rights to a story means that you can’t post that story for free. So Amazon will be the only place to read the stories that they buy. It’s not like you’re given the option of downloading a story for 99 cents on Amazon or reading it for free on ff.net.

    7. Likewise, an existing fan community means customers for Amazon. The Tolkien fandom attests to how fannish activity can sustain interest in a work long after new material is being published. It is beneficial to Amazon that excitement and interest in, say, Gossip Girls remain high, even after the show is off the air. Non-profit fandoms do that for free. Non-profit fandoms will likely be a site for free promotion of published work. Sites like ff.net that accept ads could even become a source for targeted advertising at a group of people known to be interested in the show and fan fiction.

    I truly do believe they will coexist. I believe it is very much to Amazon’s benefit that they do.

  12. Rhapsody says:

    I read the Amazon guidelines, and soon discovered that this programme is for US only. Oh well, I kind of realised that since a Kindle reader is hard to import. So why getting worked up about it? Amazon covered their bases legally, but as a writer who has a dream who wants to be published one day: get legal advise before you even sign up for this. It is this line that makes me cautious:

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

    It appears to be a win-win plan for all, but I don’t think a writer has much rights left: you have to stay within the world, there are restrictions (formatting #nr of words, offensive content) and the whole poor customer experience where they list a lot of things, but not a proper grammar and spell check o-O

  13. Randy says:

    “5. Nor is this an either/or proposition. I’ve seen comments along the lines of a fandom having Kindle Worlds or the current set-up but not both. They can coexist. I believe it is in Amazon’s interest more so than our own that they do.”

    Kindle’s self-published original fiction coexists with archives like FictionPress.

  14. Tristan Alexander says:

    OMG! You actually posted something here!! t has been s long I thought this site was dead! :)

  15. Dawn says:

    Rhapsody: You’re right that “all rights” is a bad deal for writers; however, as Randy notes, it is commonplace for writers of tie-in novels to sell all rights. I am very much in favor of providing the information needed for people to make informed decisions for themselves. I hope Amazon does that, and doesn’t hide behind terminology that writers may not understand. Beyond that, I trust writers are smart enough to make the best choices for themselves.

    Spiced Wine linked to this Guardian article that makes the very valid point that much of what fanfic exists to do will likely be excluded under whatever guidelines they come up with. The “customer experience” rule, to me, reads of wanting to remove a story without having to cite a rule. That’s they’re right, of course, but it does underscore that this is a very different animal than fandom.

    Randy: Good point.

    Tristan: Yes, as my semester draws to a close, I am trying to revive the Heretic Loremaster. It wasn’t dead, just hibernating while grad school took up all my writing time! 😀

  16. Randy says:

    “Spiced Wine linked to this Guardian article that makes the very valid point that much of what fanfic exists to do will likely be excluded under whatever guidelines they come up with. The “customer experience” rule, to me, reads of wanting to remove a story without having to cite a rule. That’s they’re right, of course, but it does underscore that this is a very different animal than fandom.”

    Several points:

    Back in 1981, I wrote in a fandom that had content limitations specified by the creator in return for his toleration of the fanfic. And that was for no money at all, other than the contributor’s copy of a ‘zine. Those rules were no slash ever, no het sex above a soft R, and no gratuitously explicit violence.

    When one writes with the approval of the original creator in order to be paid, as in the case of pro novelizations and now this Amazon thing, there will be some limitations on content. This is why a have always preferred fanfiction to the authorized stuff. The fanfic had more enthusiasm and originality.

    As applies to ‘customer experience’ one can simply hit the back button if a free story is loaded with grammatical errors, typos, and bad formatting. I’d be annoyed to have paid, even as little as 99 cents, and found the same in an e-book. Enough complaints that a story is a piece of ordure warrants Amazons removing it from sale.

  17. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn, of course if you want to be a tie-in reader or being a Kinde World author is what you always wanted, sure sign up. But if you do have a wish to publish a novel, that doesn’t tie into a verse anywhere, I’d think twice to sign up for it. As you know, not many people read a ToS, or an online contract. As I said at Oloriel’s LJ: people click on anything to get quick access to upload their material. So, yeah.. you also have to be smart and read whatever is legalese.

  18. Dawn says:

    Some comments ended up in moderation and I missed them! Sorry!

    Randy: Regarding the stigma of fanfic … it’s definitely still there, although I think it’s becoming less, as there is increased (positive) coverage from the mainstream media. This might edge fanfic over into the territory of hobbies that people feel they don’t have to hide by default from their boss or significant other! :)

    Elleth: I think we’ve been burned by for-profit ventures in the past enough that everyone’s knee-jerk is “NOOOOO!” :) Mine was, and all I saw was an email heading!

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if KW ended up bearing more a resemblance to tie-in novels than fanfic. I’d imagine that those content guidelines established by each “World” will eliminate a lot of what we write. Plus there is the fact that a lot of what we do is built upon conversations and debates in the fandom, or serve largely as character studies (again, also with a degree of a “meta” function); out of context, would this be interesting to the average reader?

    2. I was curious about this as well. Perhaps the fanfic will be marketed alongside products related to the original (DVD sets, etc.). I could also see targeted ads on ff.net or on Google (does Amazon do the creepy thing when they look at what you’re searching for and then try to read your mind? Not sure … but that might target a lot of ads toward people interested in a particular fandom.)

    I don’t see the shutting down of fandoms happening for the reasons I listed in my overlong comment above. 😀

    3. I feel the same way regarding Tolkien fandom. The complexity of our canon alone makes it difficult. Would elements from the movies be allowed? HoMe, when it contradicts one of the Big Three? To say nothing of the fact that I think the Tolkien Estate would sooner agree to be chained to Angband than to agree to this.

    I don’t know about that particular trial balloon in Star Wars fandom, but on the Henneth-Annun list, something along those lines with respect to Marion Zimmer Bradley allowing authorized fanworks was mentioned. I don’t know the background on that, though, or what caused her to stop allowing fanfic altogether.

    Siân: I’m with you, especially on the violence thing. GRRM has far more extreme violence, imo, than sex in his books, yet the sex tends to receive the attention more so than the people being burned and flayed alive. *shudder* It’s typical. It’s a U.S. company appealing to what they probably imagine to be a largely U.S. audience, and we are the country that allows multiple characters to brandish guns during primetime advertisements but blew a gasket when Janet Jackson’s boob (nipple covered) appeared for a split second during the Super Bowl some years ago. (Touchy? Not me! :D)

  19. Dawn says:

    Randy: No objections from this person on the typo-ridden story being pulled. I’ve seen concern that “customer experience”–especially with the caveat that “We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience”–could be used as an umbrella for pulling content that Amazon or the rights holder just don’t like. But, then, we’re also not clear at this point on the vetting process and whether stories will have to be approved prior to posting (my prediction) or whether they will be reviewed only if they receive complaints.

    Rhapsy: I don’t know that someone who wants to publish in traditional venues would be harmed by participating in this. I’d be interested to know more about your thoughts on why this might be.

    On clicking without reading … OMG yes absolutely. Trying to run an SWG event convinces me anew every time that a significant number of people are unwilling or unable to read basic information on the Internet. Introduce legalese and … *cringe*

  20. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn, this line is a huge red flag:

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

    All rights, it doesn’t state whether it is limited to your Kindle World stories only and the way I interpretet that line is that: you signed a publishing contract with them and therefore they acquired all rights to your new stories, whether it is in the Kindle World or not.

  21. Dawn says:

    Rhapsody, “all rights” sucks but not quite that much. :) “All rights” is a publishing term for obtaining all rights (first, reprint, anthology, audio, film, etc.) for the story under contract. (Normally, a publication obtains only a very limited number of these, e.g. first North American and digital rights.) Publishing contracts apply to individual works, not to the entire body of an author’s work.

  22. Oshun says:

    Check out this fanfic in response to the idea:

    http://www.mhpbooks.com/amazon-to-monetize-fan-fiction-he-moaned/

    (Melville House is an independent publisher with offices in Brooklyn and London–distributor Random House Publishing Services.)

  23. Oshun says:

    One point I did not cover here: On the legal side, I worry about stirring up quiescent publishers who have silently exhibited slightly less concern about fanfiction of books they currently hold the rights to.

    All of the writers I know of who like or accept fanfiction of their work do note that their publishers do not care for it. They agree not to read it (or claim not to read it! I am sure some take a peek).

    I would rather fanfiction not be perceived as competing with the book industry on any level. This scheme want to carve out a for-profit corner of fandom which previously existed outside of commerce except to the extent that fanfiction writers are great promoters and consumers of the original works.

    It threatens to change the ballgame in the eyes of publishers and not in the interest of writers or the vast majority of consumers of fanfiction.

    Time will tell. I do not think the scheme will be a cash cow, except to the extent that they are able to milk it for ideas and new material at the expense of gullible writers who give them those for free or practically nothing, a pittance for the first use only. Honestly, that is wrong and I cannot live with be silent about that.

    There is talk about fandom as a whole being too smart to be suckered by this. Well, I only know a part of some of the smartest segments of fandom. The vast masses writing TV program fanfic far from my little corner may not be as sophisticated and savy as the people I know it certainly is a whole lot younger on average.

  24. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn, sure, with a normal contract. But all details regarding Kindle Worlds, your works within Kindle Works are stipulated above that bit of text. There it says how much royalties you will get, that you lose copyright over your creations once others include your stuff in their works and so on. All about what rights you have and don’t are explained above that.

    But this is a seperate paragraph and the way I read it is not about those works you write within Kindle Worlds. That you sign off on your creations within Kindle Worlds, sure, if you are ok with that go for it. But if you peruse your account at Amazon Publishing for uploading your original fic years on, it is very plausible that Amazon says: looks then and then you agreed to this, so all rights regarding this work belong to us. My concern here lies not so much with IP legislation, but more regarding contract legislation and the consequences for later on when non Kindle Worlds stuff are uploaded to the site by using the same account.

  25. Dawn says:

    Oshun, I just can’t make sense of the argument that some rights holders selling licenses to Kindle Worlds will somehow inspire fear in the hearts of those publishers who choose not to participate. As you say, time will tell. With tie-in novels, fan-produced writings have been competing with “original” works for a while now; I see the primary difference as being the writers they’re recruiting. In that, I definitely do share your concern, since the licensed fandoms at the moment seem like they target younger audiences and writers. However, since minors can’t sign contracts, they presumably can’t sell their stories; that leaves the older teens and twenty-somethings. I will not be happy if this project starts offering contracts without making very clear what they are buying from writers and what writers’ rights are.

    Rhapsody, we don’t currently have a contract to look at. However, I can only continue to say that that is not how publishing contracts work, and while not an attorney, I cannot imagine that a contract offered a writer for the purchase of a single story can somehow be used to obtain rights to everything that writer ever produces. You can read it however you want, but that is not realistic, it is not legally tenable, and it is not contributing productively to a discussion about what the actual weaknesses of this project might be–ways that Amazon might actually exploit writers who do not know better–to invent panic over something that does not exist.

  26. Pandemonium_213 says:

    Huh. Well, I’ll repost here as my comment was dangling off on its lonesome elsewhere.

    Having experienced some of the harrowing aspects of patent litigation (having my lab notebooks subpoenaed; fortunately I did not have to testify) when one of my former employers was sued, along with three or four other companies, for patent infringement (our company settled and came to an arrangement with the litigating company) and being ACUTELY conscious of how critical IP is my little world, I remain more that a little circumspect over legal “protection” offered by Amazon in the face of determined litigators.

    Adding for emphasis: Yes, Amazon no doubt has more savvy than others who have attempted the same, and no doubt will be offering legal contracts to those authors who agree to let fanficcers riff off their copyrighted works. But those fan fic writers who enter into Amazon’s business plan should be repeating “caveat emptor.” See my comment about determined litigators. In the aforementioned patent dispute, we, meaning our formidable patent group, thought we were in the clear. We were not.

    I would also venture to say that it is highly unlikely that Tolkien fan fic will be brought under the Amazon fan fiction umbrella, so whether I would write fan fiction for compensation via Amazon is something of a moot point because of my fandom monogamy. But hypothetically speaking, no, I would not. My work-related writing pays orders of magnitude more than the pittance I would garner from Amazon, so I might as well write gratis. Also, the larger reward is, as you have aptly noted, the collaborative and community-oriented nature of fandom. I expect that would be dampened in the Amazon venture.

    [To clarify, I do not mean that other fandom venues like archives, Tumblr, LJ, etc, would be dampened; just that fannish interaction via Amazon’s business plan might not be as strong..0

  27. Dawn says:

    When I speak of legal concerns not being an issue, I am mostly addressing those who, without reading anything about this project, immediately lumped it in with the likes of FanLib and Keith Manders as trying to somehow sneak a profit off of copyrighted works. Amazon is trying to cover their ass legally, and the rights holders are, at this point, on board. I share your skepticism–and appreciate your experience in the matter ;)–that it will necessarily be airtight to challenges from rights holders, especially once they see what those excited fans actually do in their “worlds.” I would likewise imagine that the impact for fans will be that their stories will come down or that the KW project itself will fold. That sucks–especially if the contract they sign doesn’t allow for the reversion of all rights if the work is pulled or KW goes permanently offline, so that the stories can at least be archived somewhere–but I don’t see fans having to defend against lawsuits in court or anything of a life-ruining nature.

    I also doubt that the Tolkien Estate would ever consent to something like this. It would also be a cold day in hell before I’d sign on for it; as I noted in my post, the words “all rights” are an immediate dealbreaker for me. I’ve likewise made a living before on my writing, and this is a hobby for me, a way to hang out with cool people who share my predilection for Elves and such. 😉 I don’t expect Amazon will offer much of a community in line with what we have in fandom either. Right off the bat, the dynamic changes when you have a “paid author” and “customers” versus the more or less equal footing of fans playing the same sandbox and moving more fluidly between roles as “author” and “reader.” I think that immediately changes interactions in most cases, and not for the better.

  28. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn, I think I do look at the all rights issue from a broader perspective than the contract for a work alone. I am wondering about the tos and all rights attached to it when someone does sign up. Usually when you write a story for an anthology/journal, contracts are signed per article/story. But what itches me here is that someone signs up for a service, and the fact that this all rights bit gets a separate paragraph makes me curious as to the why it needs to be mentioned so.

  29. Dawn says:

    That is a good point, Rhapsody. I think it depends, at least in part, on the vetting process. Juno has made the argument (elsewhere) that the staffing needed to approve each story individually would probably be significant enough that they’d use a complaints-based approach, i.e., all stories would be posted, and if complaints were received, only then investigated and possibly removed. I don’t think it will be quite so open; writers who continually produce quality content for them might get broader rights, but I have trouble imagining that books/stories one pays to download will not be vetted in some way, even to make sure they’re not written in gibberish or spam or completely unrelated to the fandom! Because of my feeling that they’re going to take this kind of approach to vetting–and because KW seems to be presenting itself as a legitimate publishing venture–I’d imagine them offering a per-story contract; that would also be a good cya move.

    However, if they do allow the use of a service and contract writers to post on that service, then they will obtain all rights to anything posted on that service, so all of the writer’s KW fanfic. The result is really the same in both scenarios; the difference is that, in the first, the writer signs a contract for each story whereas the second creates an atmosphere more like an archive, which I could see leading to problems, as writers used to an archive model get caught up in uploading stories without thinking through that decision fully. The very action of having to sign a contract, I think, would do much to jog the writer into thinking, “Oh yeah, I am giving KW legal rights to this; I’m not just playing in the fannish sandbox.”

    If KW ends up using the second model, I’d have a problem with that, for reason that I do fear writers would become complicit and not think fully through the decision to post their work, as they would when presented with a contract for each story.

  30. Rhapsody says:

    Dawn, I have been doing more and more reading today. I wanted to point you to the following two links:

    This bit confirms what nagged me:

    People who take part in Kindle Worlds will be signing away a lot of the rights to their stories. Most importantly, the rights you give up prevent you from ever “filing the serial numbers off” of your story (á la 50 Shades of Grey) and selling it as original work.

    This is a tricky thing and I discussed this with my husband. If you ever decide to fly solo, you really have to be aware that none of your new works, even the characters you wrote, story lines you explored or introduced should bear no resemblance to what you wrote within KW. If you stay outside KW and you do what EJ James did, you should be good in a way. It has me wondering about the things you learn as a writer, your style and world views you do develop over the years.

    Also… as for the vetting process, Barbra Annino a Pretty Little Liars tie-in author explained the process of KW here. Looks like things won’t be as free as Amazon portrays it now.

  31. Rhapsody says:

    Yikes, I made a whoopsie with the first link: Kindle Worlds by Flourish Klink

  32. Dawn says:

    Sorry, Rhapsody, you ended up in moderation and spam! Yikes! I rescued your posts and apologize for the delay in having them appear. (Most of these issues should be resolved now. My sister helped me to activate spam protection.)

    Anyway … yep, that is what “all rights” means. I don’t need convincing on this point; I’m just not buying that selling a story to KW has any implications for a writer’s work outside KW than selling any story with all rights does. (And all rights isn’t new to KW. All rights are commonly sought for authorized tie-in novels.)

    Amazon still needs to make it clear what this term means, though; most fandom writers won’t know.

    Flourish’s post was fantastic. Very rational and definitely addressed a lot of the issues that I see as well.

    Thank you for the link to the threads about the vetting process. Actually, this is pretty much what I expected; I didn’t think KW would allow a lot of freedom at all. I suspect the “specs”–when they become available–will be restrictive beyond the general guidelines as well. Although there were some good points made about the possible need to reduce the amount of vetting (Juno mentioned the people power needed to review submissions and suggested that pieces might be removed on a complaint-based system), my feeling was that an editor would be involved, even if just to approve or reject. It will be interesting if there will be editorial involvement beyond that, i.e., can writers resubmit if they make certain changes requested by an editor? Will there be any effort to copyedit?

    And stories will be contracted individually. That should put to bed any concerns with the scenario we discussed above, where writers contract to use a service and might slip into the mindset that they are posting to archives, not selling fiction. I am happy with that piece of information.

    Annino says, “Just like when you submit to fiction mags, the stories go through an editorial process. The author writes it on spec. The editor accepts or rejects the work.” I’m glad to see this confirmed, because this was my original take and, I suspect, part of the reason I couldn’t get lathered up over KW. It’s a publishing venture.

    Things still needed to make me okay with Kindle Worlds: writer education! :) Annino is a professional writer used to speaking in terms of rights and contracts. Most fan writers won’t be. I really do think it’s Amazon’s responsibility to bring them up to speed.

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