A couple of months back, Amazon announced their “Kindle Worlds” program, which allows any Joe Blow to publish a fan-fiction ebook on Amazon…and get PAID for it!
Kindle Worlds – Legalizing Fan-Fiction
Now you can get paid for writing about characters that you don’t even own…
[RECORD SCRATCH] Wait. Whaaaat??
YUP. Essentially, Kindle Worlds has license agreements with a small (at this time) number of properties from Television, Books and Comic Book series that allow you to write a story set in their world and actually get paid for it. Apparently they’ll be getting the rights to film series as well, but I don’t see available as of yet.
If you’re not familiar with what fan-fiction is, it’s basically unauthorized stories featuring copyrighted characters/settings, etc., and is written by pretty much anyone who’s interested in telling the story. The chief online venue of fan-fiction would be Fanfiction.net.
In the past, it would have been illegal for you to try to make money off of stories featuring any of the characters listed on Kindle Worlds because you wouldn’t have the rights to use that character. Try to sell a Game of Thrones fan-fiction and you’d be quickly sued into the poorhouse (if not kidnapped and kicked down into a well somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again).
What Kindle Worlds is doing is a brilliant move with amazing benefits…for the authors and the copyright holder.
Let’s look at this from the publisher’s perspective…
They have extremely popular properties, with legions of fans out there writing un-authorized stories about their characters. Some of these legions of fans even have their own legions of fans following their work.
Now, what to do? Should they sue all of these people and get the sites closed down? Or maybe, they should open the door just a little bit, and they can make some (more) money off of these fans.
To me, it’s brilliant. The publishers aren’t paying a cent to the fan-fiction creators -the Kindle Worlds authors have to “roll their own” deal. They write a story with the acknowledgement that it’s not accepted as series canon, they have to bring their own fans if they want to get paid. If they don’t make any money, so be it, but if they do…well, the publisher (and Amazon) is right there to get a cut of it.
I have zero problem with this model. It shows actual forward thinking by all parties involved.
Sure, the author is making (about) 30 cents on the dollar, but that’s a hell of a lot more than you could realistically expect to make by writing stories about someone else’s intellectual property.
So if you’re a fan-fiction author who’s spent time writing stories (about any of the available Kindle Worlds properties) that people love and have built up an audience, well now’s the time to direct that audience over to your Kindle books.
The Problem (and Stigma) of Fan-Fiction
I have to admit, I haven’t had much use for fan-fiction in the past.
It never made much sense to me that people would spend their time and effort crafting stories for properties that they don’t own, and couldn’t be financially compensated for.
Yes, there’s something to be said for creating purely for the love of the game instead of looking for money, but I’d rather make up my own characters and stories.
Not to mention that fan-fiction does have a reputation for being somewhat low-quality. Sure, when you have hundreds of thousands of people submitting stories at will, without any editing or other vetting then yes there’s going to be a lot of chaff with the wheat. I will say this: I have a read a few very well written fan-fictions over the years, but it was pretty much by accident. There’s so many, and sometimes you just don’t even know where to start.
At least with Kindle Worlds, you’ll get the benefit of the Amazon review system. It has drawbacks, but you can at least tell who’s bought the book and been happy with it. You aren’t guaranteed quality even from popular top-tier authors, but people putting up their hard-earned cash for something is at least a somewhat decent indicator that the writing was enjoyed.
And now all those people who invest their time and creativity to promote someone else’s product can (potentially) get cut in for a piece of the action. Hey, it sounds kind of like affiliate marketing!
The Vampire Diaries
For those who don’t know, The Vampire Diaries is a TV show airing on CWTV in the U.S. It’s based off a series of best-selling novels written by L. J. Smith.
I never read any of the book, and honestly had zero intention of ever watching the show until I saw the last 15 seconds or so of this scene in a commercial:
So I went back and watched from the beginning. The truth is, this show is meant for teens, and more teen girls than anything, so I’m way outside of the target demographic on this. There’s a lot about this show that I don’t care for -namely the relationships and the heartache and “who-loves-who-but-can’t-be-with-whoever” crap.
I stick with it for the master plans of the bad guys, the background story of the vampires, and the magic behind the problems they have. When they get down to business and stop pining for one another I actually enjoy it a lot. Again, this is a hit show for teen girls, so my complaints should be taken with a grain of salt. For the record, Blade: The Series was my favorite vamp series of all time. Cancelled before its time…
Anyway, my sister Nicole is also a big fan of The Vampire Diaries. Not only that, but she’s a prolific writer of fan-fiction herself -for this show, and many, many others. I’ve often tried to convince her to write her own characters (and she has, at times), but she’d always drift back to the fan-fiction. I guess that’s just where her passion lies.
Once Kindle Worlds was announced, I let her know it was time to write some fan-fiction and actually get paid for it!
Secrets of Mystic Falls
The Vampire Diaries: Secrets of Mystic Falls (Kindle Worlds Novella) (this is my affiliate link, and I’ll earn a small commission if you buy using this link)
Well, Nicole wrote up a story (she works quick!) and we were off! I formatted her story as an epub file, then quickly converted it to a mobi for submission to Amazon (using techniques I wrote about in my How to convert a pdf into an epub article).
Even though Kindle Worlds has a “cover creator” where you can choose from many licensed photos and designs to make a cover, I decided to work up a cover myself. I thought maybe we’d stand out a bit if we had original art, so I went that route instead. Hey, when you’ve got an artist in the family it eventually has to be good for something.
Anyway, I came across a problem. Namely, we were banned from using photos of the cast, so that was out. I emailed back and forth with Kindle Worlds, and even called them to find out if I could draw the likeness of the characters, without using their photos.
Unfortunately, the question was too difficult for them (I can understand why), and eventually after no answers, they just stopped responding. I decided to err on the side of caution and assume that you couldn’t use any likeness of the actors, hand-drawn or not.
That’s how I ended up with what you see here for the cover. The book centers on the character of Bonnie Bennett, who’s a teenage witch of african-american descent (or, as I always say it…Black). I decided a partial face would work here. If you know the show, then it hopefully would immediately suggest to you that the book is about Bonnie, even though it doesn’t look like the actress.
I didn’t use any reference photos either, because I remember the case of the Obama ‘Hope’ Poster artist who used the AP Photo for reference. I figured it’s not worth me going to jail over -so it doesn’t really look like her…oh, well.
Crossing my fingers, I submitted the book, and it went through with no problems. Now, it’s time to rake in the millions!!
A few things to know about Kindle Worlds
- Kindle Worlds accepts doc, docx, rtf, txt, epub, html, mobi files. Click here for formatting tips.
- Even if you provide your own cover, you still have to add it using their Cover Creator Tool. I ended up adding the author name and title right in the image (via Photoshop), and leaving the title/author info blank in the Cover Creator.
- Kindle Worlds will set the price for you based on the number of pages. I was hoping for a little more control over the pricing, but I suppose it’s not the end of the world.
- Amazon will slap their Kindle Worlds logo on the bottom left of any cover your create or upload, so that’s why there’s an empty space on the bottom left of the cover shown here.
- Along those same lines, Kindle Worlds will also add the requisite copyright language to your file, so you don’t have to worry about possibly fudging it up.
- See the Kindle Worlds Blog for interviews and more stuff, and also keep up with them on Twitter via @kindleworlds.
THE WRAP UP
In my opinion, this is a pretty exciting time for creative people out there, and Kindle Worlds is one of the most exciting new paradigms to come along.
While it’s true that the publishers and copyright holders aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts – doing it for money and exposure, while allowing pretty much anyone to capitalize on it, is pretty remarkable. The shift in corporate thinking is huge to my eyes
So if you write fan-fiction, or know someone who writes fan-fiction in any of the approved worlds, this is the time to jump on-board, play with other people’s toys and actually get paid for doing it.
After all, how much money could you make from fan-fiction before Kindle Worlds?