Yesterday, Amazon.com announced its newest publishing feat. Although the publishing service doesn't officially launch until June, Kindle Worlds is already creating a buzz on social media. It all started with this press release which briefly discussed this publishing model for fanfiction writers.
Basically, Kindle Worlds will allow fanfiction writers to potentially profit from their work in a fully legal (although that's questionable) way. However, there are a number of catches that give me pause.
The first involves the number of fandoms which can initially profit from this model. As of now, only fanfiction writers who pen stories for Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars can take part (as they are owned by the only company thus far to sign an a-okay for its copyrighted material). It is assumed that Amazon will acquire more licenses from copyright holders, but it isn't clear how many will play ball. After all, all the licensing agreements in the world can't brace us for what's about to come.
What I mean here is that fanfiction is a notoriously sticky situation, falling-- most of the time-- under the "fair use" clause of copyright law. Generally, so long as an author is not making any commercial profit off of a piece, they are left alone. In fact, this unspoken rule is part of the reason why E.L. James has received such backlash from the fanfiction community for her Twilight-turned-original-fic, 50 Shades of Grey.
This leads me into the second catch found in Amazon's Kindle Worlds: if a work you submit gets popular enough so as to catch the eye of the copyright holder, they can take your work and use it for their own purposes-- and not pay you a dime for it.
Thirdly, their content guidelines also give me pause, as do numerous clauses therein. Just read them and you'll understand.
Lastly, I just want to mention that this new publication opportunity for fanfiction writers makes me concerned for those authors who actually write media-tie-in works for a living. They come up with these fantastic side adventures and write them down as work-for-hire, and here are a bunch of writers who offer up their work for free.
There is a lot to consider with Kindle Worlds, and one thing has become increasingly clear: if ever a line has been drawn between writing fanfiction for fun and writing it for money, it is now. That's not to say that those who wish to use this service and profit from their writing shouldn't-- go for it. In fact, embrace and abuse it! Just please do read the final licensing and submission agreements before submitting a single word, and do so carefully. The way things are worded right now do not leave the favor lying in the hands of the writer, I assure you. I'm just trying to look out for you guys (and dolls!) is all :D
As a former fanfic writer myself, I am apprehensive about this publishing model. Amazon has done a lot of things to influence the publishing industry as a whole over the last few years, from releasing a self-publication model to opening up that model to their Kindle store. But honestly, this may be the Big One.
I'd say I can't wait to see how this plays out, but the truth is that I'm watching it from behind the couch as if it were a Dalek and I were a child in the '60s. That is to say, I'm personally pretty not okay with what's going on but I just can't tear myself away from it anyway.