The line between fan fiction and official spin-off merchandise has became a little more blurry with the announcement of Kindle Worlds, a new project launched Wednesday by Amazon in partnership with Warner Bros. Television Group’s Allow Entertainment. The marketplace will let amateur works based on the shows “Gossip Girls,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “The Vampire Diaries” to be released on the Kindle platform.
Amazon described the program as “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games,” so those at home can go from publishing in journals and fan sites to actually making money. “With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties.” The set-up is relatively simple; Amazon’s Kindle Worlds will license existing movies, television shows, and other properties, then use that license to allow fan-generated works to become exclusively available through Kindle.
According to the guide for writers, authors will receive 35 precent of net revenue for full-length works (longer than 10,000 words), and 20 percent of revenue for shorter works, with royalties paid monthly (royalty reports will also be released on a monthly basis). The pricing of the books will be set by Amazon, with most releases priced between $0.99 to $3.99.
Copyright for the works will ultimately remain with the owners of the core properties, although the details of that are somewhat complicated. Officially, Amazon says, writers “own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that [they] create and include in [the] work,” except that that’s not exactly what’s actually happening.
For example, simply submitting your work to Kindle Worlds grants Amazon “an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story.” This means that not only are you surrendering publishing rights to those elements, you’re also surrendering any sense of ownership. The writers’ guide continues, “we will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements.” They’re not the only ones who can play with the new toys without guidance or permission from the creator; any new elements in a Kindle Worlds piece also automatically becomes available to the owner of the original property, who is free to “incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.” Amazon holds the exclusive license to the work and concepts created therein for the length of copyright, for the curious.
There are, as you might expect, specific guidelines on what can and can’t be written in the Kindle Worlds works: No pornography or otherwise “offensive content,” no crossovers from other shows, movies or properties, and nothing that could be considered “illegal and infringing content.” No chance for a “Pretty Little Liars”-“Star Trek” crossover? No pornographic encounters between the cast of “The Vampire Diaries”? Isn’t that what fan fiction cult is all about? We digress.
Amazon says more properties will be added to Kindle Worlds shortly.