Kindle and WB team up for legal, profitable fanfic

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201305221318 Kindle and WB team up for legal, profitable fanfic
Well my inbox this morning was stuffed with people telling me how big an announcement this is: Basically, Amazon has licensed Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries from WB’s Alloy division, and will allow people to write legal fan fiction based on these properties and sell the result on Kindles. The profits will be split between the writer, WB and Amazon, of course.

Why is this such a game changer? Well, for the first time you’ll be able to make money legally and safely from your fanfic. I’ve reproduced the PR below, as it goes into detail on the royalty spilt and other business detail in a depth unusual for PR. It’s all part of a push for Kindle Worlds, which will sell short — 5000 to 10,000 words — pieces on the Kindle as cheaper “singles.” The service launches with 50 commissioned works, but soon will be open to anyone to submit.

Of course, with WB involved you may be asking yourself if you’ll soon be able to write that Stephanie Brown/Cassandra Cain fanfic you only published on Dreamhost up to now. That’s a tough question. The problem of “brand dilution” is very important to WB and DC’s superhero characters. You’ll note the three properties that were licensed are female-centric and already had a very engaged and passionate fanbase — write your own adventure is perhaps less potentially damaging.

Even more importantly, these three properties are owned and created by Alloy. They aren’t anyone’s special child, and thus no one is getting butt hurt by opening the doors to unvetted writers.

OTOH, crowd sourcing and sharing and social mucking about is the future. As is self epublishing, Fifty Shades of Grey (which began as Twilight fanfic) changed everything. This is also a way for Amazon/Alloy to find hot new writers without even paying an editor.

Speaking of 50 Shades, what about those slash/yaoi and other naughty pairings so prevalent in fanfic? Well, these will still be APPROVED works so…yeah still a gatekeeper.

But if this is a hit, who knows. Maybe there will be licensed Wonder Woman/Birds of Prey/Stephanie Brown fanfic someday. These characters are also company owned corporate brands. It fits into the spirit of female-driven fandom and wouldn’t seem to tarnish brands that WB/DC isn’t really that interested in to begin with.

Game changer? I agree.

Today, Amazon Publishing announces 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. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its New York Times best-selling book series Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith; and plans to announce more licenses soon. Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store.

Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of sales price—rather than the lower, industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.

In addition, with the launch of Kindle Worlds, Amazon Publishing will pilot an experimental new program for particularly short works—between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories—typically priced under one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.

Beginning today, interested writers are encouraged to visit Kindle Worlds (www.amazon.com/kindleworlds) to learn more and get a head start on writing. In June, the Kindle Worlds store is expected to launch with over 50 commissioned works from authors such as #1 New York Times best-selling author Barbara Freethy, Bram Stoker Award-winner John Everson and RITA Award-winner Colleen Thompson. At that time, the Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform, where any writer can submit completed work, will also open.
World Licensors benefit from Kindle Worlds because:

• It’s an entirely new way to monetize their valuable franchises
• It allows them to extend their Worlds with new stories and characters and more deeply engage with existing fans, while also reaching new audiences
• Amazon Publishing will work with them to establish content guidelines that balance flexibility and openness for writers with what’s reasonable for the franchise

“Our books have generated a massive amount of fan fiction, and we see this as an evolution in publishing and a valuable way of broadening our brands and engaging fans,” said Leslie Morgenstein, President Alloy Entertainment. “When working with Amazon Publishing on this scale, we know we’re in good hands and everyone will benefit.”

“Seeing Pretty Little Liars fans adapt and create their own stories is both exciting and flattering and I think what Amazon Publishing is offering through Kindle Worlds is a great way to reward their ingenuity,” said Sara Shepard, author of Pretty Little Liars.

Writers benefit from Kindle Worlds because:
• Amazon Publishing has already secured the necessary licenses to write about any Kindle World
• They can earn royalties writing about established characters and universes
• The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform is easy to use

“I loved writing the characters in this world, the dynamics of the friendship between the four girls as they deal with life-threatening situations,” said Barbara Freethy, writing in Pretty Little Liars. “I also really enjoy the ongoing mysteries and surprising twists that always keep the reader guessing. It’s great that Amazon Publishing has given those who put passion into fan fiction the opportunity to commercialize this work.”
And readers benefit from Kindle Worlds because:
• They can find a stream of new stories in Worlds they love
• They can discover new Worlds and corresponding great new stories
• As with all Kindle books these are “Buy Once, Read Everywhere”—they can read on Kindle or Kindle Fire as well as with a free Kindle app for all of the most popular devices and platforms

“At Kindle, we’re not only inventing on the hardware and software side of the business, we’re inventing new ways to create books,” said Philip Patrick, Director, Business Development and Publisher of Kindle Worlds. “Our goal with Kindle Worlds is to create a home for authors to build on the Worlds we license, and give readers more stories from the Worlds they enjoy. We look forward to announcing additional World licensing deals in the coming weeks.”

Amazon Publishing is engaged with additional rights holders from different areas of entertainment—books, games, TV, movies and music—and looks forward to announcing future deals soon. To get started writing works in licensed properties, visit www.amazon.com/kindleworlds for submission guidelines and updates on licensed properties

Comments

  1. This is also a way to get new writers to work under that great publisher-centric deal of “we own what you did and if we want to make a movie featuring your cool new character or plot twist, you get nothing” approach.

    Some interesting thoughts at:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/05/22/amazons-kindle-worlds-instant-thoughts/

    I’m sure a lot of writers will be interested, and I’d be willing to bet that a decade or two down the road (if not sooner), we’ll be seeing more arguments and court cases about rights issues and ownership, as they find a new way to leverage enthusiasm on one side of the deal into complete ownership on the other.

  2. jacob lyon goddard says:

    Isn’t this how Marvel and DC have always done business?

  3. Synsidar says:

    I don’t see a problem with writing fan fiction, simply because someone who does it is unlikely to think that he’s launching a career as a novelist, or have other outsize expectations. He might be doing it just to have fun, or to entertain fellow fans of _____ by telling them something about the character they haven’t heard before.

    Coming up with an original antagonist for Spider-Man or Superman wouldn’t be wasting an idea, simply because creating a new foe for him isn’t nearly the same as writing an original story that incorporates the idea along with a new setting, other characters, multiple themes, etc. The details of the story matter much more than the single idea does.

    A character as an idea, developed or undeveloped, is overwhelmingly important to people who sell characters, not stories.

    SRS

  4. >> Isn’t this how Marvel and DC have always done business? >>

    Nope.

    The classic way Marvel and DC used to do business was a flat per-page payment for all rights and no future income at all, but even that wasn’t “always” even in the early days. Paying royalties (or their equivalent) came along in the early 1980s. And payment for the use of new concepts in other media has come along too, though inconsistently. Plus, of course, both Marvel and DC publish creator-owned work nowadays, and have published work they don’t own all rights to for many years before that.

    This deal is apparently an all-rights deal for no money up front, and back-end royalties on publishing income only (and whether that extends to all forms of publishing income, who knows). I don’t think Marvel or DC have ever done business that way, though there are publishers who’ve done something like it.

  5. “It fits into the spirit of female-driven fandom”
    –The Beat

    “Whut?”
    — male person who has written and read rather massive amounts of fanfiction over the years

  6. Hikaru says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as Mr. Busiek. This seems like a way for companies to mine for ideas without having a middle man. Hopefully writers who have a brilliant idea will understand the repercussions of letting go of their “golden ticket” since this is such fresh territory where corporate lawyers will inevitably be the architects of its copyright law.

  7. The Beat says:

    Kurt: I don’t see too much difference between what the Kindle World fan fic writers do and what current Marvel and DC writers do, although the BIg Two have varying degrees of participation, most of them better.

    Niels: Alloy is known to target the teenage girl demographic.

  8. >>…although the BIg Two have varying degrees of participation, most of them better.>>

    I’d call that a difference worth noting, since the Kindle World degree of participation seems to be “none.”

  9. I didn’t even realize WB bought Alloy — that was the big news for me. Shows how start-up IP companies are seen as valuable/threatening by the establishment IP companies. It also shows that there’s an opening to compete with them in the same game, which doesn’t seem immediately obvious. Then again, the folks at Alloy were/are exceptional at developing IP.

    Also, I agree wit Kurt; if a publisher sees some financial reward in someone’s writing, they should be offered a traditional publishing deal to negotiate like any other author. I think this preys on the fan mentality of, “Please let me in, I’ll do it for free!” mainly because fanfic writers already are doing it for free.

  10. Adam Tyrrell says:

    “• They can find a stream of new stories in Worlds they love”

    Worlds = brands here. (Probably should have added parenthesis around stories, too.) I don’t know anything about the Big Two’s contracts with creators, but this does seem like WB is taking lessons out of DC in regard to monetizing fandom – and more to the point, how to separate a reader from following a genre/medium to following a brand. In regard to the reader’s perspective, I’m sure if someone likes a particular genre or medium, they can find it easily enough (particularly via Amazon’s search functionality) without it having to be under the banner of an existing property.

  11. Sounds a lot like Bill Jemas’s ideas for EPIC. Maybe he was ahead of his time.

  12. Headline correction badly needed as this is is an agreement between Amazon and Time Warner as Kindle is not a legal party to anything as it’s a media device.

  13. Synsidar says:

    Note that Professor Rebecca Tushnet reads and writes fan fiction:

    In addition to looking at US statutory and case law, I consulted Professor Rebecca Tushnet for this piece. Professor Tushnet is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches intellectual property, advertising, and First Amendment law. She also happens to enjoy writing fan fiction and is a board member at the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit organization that promotes, supports, and provides legal advocacy for fan works.

    Writing fan fiction is no different from any other hobby. If the person enjoys doing it, it’s worth the time and energy.

    SRS

  14. Torsten Adair says:

    Hmmm… This reminds me of Don Rosa. The Pertwillaby Papers were influenced by Barks, and Rosa reused the plots in later Duck stories.

    One can write fanfiction, or one can write analog fiction.
    Change the names and the pictures, and tell a story about what happens when the Justice League takes over the Earth, and Batman must stop them.

    Or what happens when the Silver Age Superman collides with the grim-and-gritty Dark Age.

    Or what a world would be like if the Fantastic Four were evil.

  15. Synsidar says:

    One can write fanfiction, or one can write analog fiction.

    One of the nice things about writing fan fiction is that you can gear it toward readers that know the characters as well as you do, so there’s no need to introduce them to people who have never seen them before, or, if you’re writing SF, dumb down the scientific content to make the story enjoyable for scientific illiterates.

    A story set in the Marvel Universe involving the Cosmic Cube and other cosmic, universe-altering devices, could be done as a logic puzzle with the heroes trying to figure out what’s real, what isn’t, which device is real, which is fake, which device could save the universe, which ones can’t. The story might be too abstract to do in comics form, and would be too intellectual for some readers, but would be fun to do as fan fiction.

    SRS

  16. “A story set in the Marvel Universe involving the Cosmic Cube and other cosmic, universe-altering devices, could be done as a logic puzzle with the heroes trying to figure out what’s real, what isn’t, which device is real, which is fake, which device could save the universe, which ones can’t. The story might be too abstract to do in comics form, and would be too intellectual for some readers, but would be fun to do as fan fiction.”

    I got paid for my version of that! ;-) http://www.amazon.com/X-Men-The-Chaos-Engine-Trilogy/dp/0743497740

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