It was bound to happen sooner or later.
With so many of us embracing the new age of publishing, it was only a matter of time before something would come along that would, seemingly unintentionally, drive a wedge between some of us. The ironic part is the driving force that we, as self-publishing writers, have embraced is the culprit.
Amazon recently announced a new program, you may have heard of it: Kindle Worlds.
It’s a new arm of Kindle publishing that allows writers to publish fan fiction and collect sales royalties. The first impulse for some was to dig out those old spiral notebooks full of Star Trek and Star Wars adventures we all wrote and start making money. I mean the concept is a fantastic idea.
The catch, of course, is the program isn’t wide open to all fan fic. So far, only Alloy Entertainment has signed on as a World Licensor. If you write Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, or The Vampire Diaries fan fiction, you’re good to go. Anything else, we’re out of luck…for now. Amazon says more licensors are on the way.
So what could possibly be wrong? We now have an opportunity to monetize stories that, previously, would never have seen the light of day. 35% royality on 10K words or more. 20% on less than 10K. Those numbers aren’t too shabby. Although I question Amazon’s explanation for the 20% saying that they have to pay that rate for shorter works because of “significantly higher fixed costs per digital copy (for example, credit-card fees)”. I don’t see where the costs are any different for a shorter work, but even that 20% is at least comparable to traditional publishing.
Part of the problem is the additional restrictions set out by Amazon and the World Licensors. Amazon sets the pricing varying from .99 cents to $3.99. Not sure what criteria they use for that beyond story length. After that it gets very sticky.
Once Amazon publishes your fan fic, they aquire all worldwide publishing rights to that work which is one of this we’ve railed against traditional publishing about and drove us to make the jump to self-publishing. The world licensor retains rights to the elements in the story world. As John Scalzi put it: this means that cool idea or that cool character you created is owned by someone else. They could use it and you wouldn’t see one thin dime. I’m paraphrasing, of course, by that’s what it amounts to.
It gives the impression that Amazon is becoming just another big publisher. But before we grab the torches and pitch forks, we have to remember one important thing about this:
It’s FAN FICTION. You know, those stories we wrote in those spiral notebooks and never thought they would be able to see the light of day.
My opinion is this: If you have written fan fiction in one of the worlds Amazon has a license for and FULLY understand the licensing and your rights, then why not give it a shot. 35% is a poor royalty for a novel on Amazon compared to 70% for an original work, but we are talking about a media property that someone else owns and is allowing people to be a part of. They are going to get their cut. I would give serious consideration to doing it myself if they license the right media properties. I have a great story that has Khan Noonian Singh coming back in a very plausible way to terrorize Jean-Luc Picard and the rest of his crew. Maybe you will get to read it some day.
The lack of control of one’s own work in both pricing and rights is disturbing and more than a few successful self-publishing authors have expressed very mixed opinions on the program. Hopefully, it will not be a model for change in Kindle Self Publishing.