Amazon's Kindle Worlds, A Potentially Failed Attempt At Monetizing Fanfiction
The Concept Of Kindle Worlds
Late-spring of 2013, Amazon made an announcement about the concept of monetizing fan fiction as a means to make money. This medium of called “Kindle Worlds.” Royalties of such works submitted to and accepted by Kindle Worlds would be split between the authors of the works and the original creator/authors of those same works. To avoid problems in the future, Amazon had laid out very strict ground rules for any work to be considered for submission. The entire concept of fan fiction revolved around this one rule: you cannot make money of it. This is understandable; it is akin to fan-made videos in which the makers are not allowed to profit off the work. It's because that these works are derived from actual licensed works. Trying to profit off of those works infringes on copyrights.
Amazon has acquired the licenses of such works like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and so forth. You can look at the full list on Amazon's Kindle Worlds website. Licenses have been acquired from Alloy Entertainment and Valiant Entertainment for notable works. Currently, Amazon is actively trying to acquire more licenses in the future. In short, Amazon is using Kindle Worlds to pay you for your works of fan fiction. Amazon holds the rights to the stories that the authors submit; but, the authors and original creators would be getting the royalties. Royalties can be between 20 to 35 percent depending on how many words the submitted work contains.
There are strict ground rules that authors need to follow before their works can be considered for submission:
No pornographic material is allowed for submission. That means your work is not allowed to have any graphic sex scene of any kind. That's understandable as you are submitting actual literature and not something that should be sent to the Penthouse forums.
No offensive content is allowed. Nothing with excessive violence and/or profanity will be allowed in any works for submission. That also includes material that supports the spread of hate and intolerance.
Works submitted to Kindle Worlds must not infringe upon copyrights.
All works submitted must have proper format if they are to be considered for submission.
Excessive product placement is prohibited.
Crossovers are strictly prohibited.
Everything seems to be sound in theory and writing; but, in practical application, Kindle Worlds is doomed for failure. Give or take a couple of years, Kindle Worlds could prove to be not profitable in the future. For anybody that truly understands the world of fan fiction, Kindle Worlds will most likely be a monetary failure in a couple of years. Amazon has seemingly overlooked many crucial factors when dealing with the craft of fan fiction. Fan fiction sites have become popular off the sole fact that they haven't tried to profit off the works. On top of that, if they did, there would be legal troubles heading their way.
Reasons that concepts like Kindle Worlds will never work in the long run:
One: The Rules, To A Limited Extent:
While the rules should not be problematic in application, there are a couple of rules that will turn off many writers from Kindle Worlds. The final rule could be a turn off to many writers as crossovers are popular in the world of fan fiction. This is because you can make your own fantasy stories such as crossing over Street Fighter and Fairy Tail in fan fiction as such a concept would never see the light of day as an anime series or a game.
But it's understandable on why the final rule is in place.
Respective creators might not like the idea of their works getting crossed over. It could be out of mutual respect for the other creator. More importantly, Amazon doesn't have the licenses for those other works. If Amazon accepted a crossover for submission, that's asking for a copyright violation suit in the near future. It's unknown if Amazon will ever acquire those licenses. Most likely, Amazon will never obtain those licenses.
Back to crossovers, many people fantasize about the idea of crossovers. That is provided they are well-written and the characters stay in character.
But the licensing issues make it problematic for anybody wanting to do a crossover.
Two: The Actual Notion Of Having To Pay For Fan Fiction
Fanfiction.net comes to mind as the largest database of fan fiction as it encompasses many genres and many works within those respective genres. You have categories for Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Bleach, Naruto, The Hunger Games, and other popular fictional works. As long as you follow the rules, you can submit just about anything to Fanfiction.net. Since Fanfiction.net is free to use and sign up for, you do not have to pay money to read any of the stuff.
Why pay $1-4 for a piece of fan fiction on Kindle Worlds while you can go onto Fanfiction.net and read something similar for free?
The thought of paying to read fan fiction comes off as very ludicrous. That factor alone could inevitably spell doom for Kindle Worlds and anything similar to that in the future.
Would you pay to read someone's fanfiction?
Three: Limited Choices Of Licenses
Currently, the lineup in Kindle Worlds is limited. This is due the number of licenses that Amazon has acquired. It's going to be a long process of legal negotiations in order to obtain the licenses. Amazon has the least leverage when it comes to the negotiations. The success or failure of Kindle Worlds would affect Amazon's leverage and standing in negotiations to obtain new licenses. There's also the strong possibility that Amazon could lose those already acquired licenses in the future.
If the original creators get a better deal, they can opt not to allow Amazon to have the licenses to their works. One can look at Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics and the recent Marvel Comics games being pulled off from Steam and other online stores. As a result, there's a rumor that Disney might have their own distribution service in the making to sell games and so forth. Licensing is one of the obvious major factors that could spell doom for Kindle Worlds. If Kindle Worlds doesn't have enough good licenses, it'll be a turnoff to prospective authors.
Should Amazon lose certain licenses in the near future, it will do a lot of harm for Kindle Worlds. There many writers that do fan fiction for various movies, video games, manga, and anime series.
They're going to be left out.
Four: The Original Authors & Creators
Reception towards the craft of fan fiction has been a little lukewarm to downright hostile. An blog entry on “OH NO THEY DIDN'T” posts a list of authors that are either lukewarm or hostile towards the concept of fan fiction.
Of all the people, the one that is the most supportive is J.K. Rowling who became famous for the Harry Potter universe. She's okay with fan fiction as long as any of it remains PG and that it remains non-commercial. If the story gets X-rated, Rowling would have a problem.
Stephanie Meyer of the Twilight series, like Rowling, has a moderate stance on fan fiction. Her main turnoff about fan fiction are the people arguing about it.
Meyer encourages writers to not “waste their energy” on fan fiction and instead use their energy to create their own original works.
Science-fiction writer Charlie Stross made a reference to “gold and dragons.” Fan fiction is not a problem to him, UNLESS if it infringes upon him making money.
Those are the moderate stances. More hardline hostile stances come from notable writers like Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Orson Scott Card.
Rice considers the concept of fan fiction to be offensive to the original creators and this is a stance she will not back away from. She's sticking to her guns on that one. In that regard, she wants people to respect her wishes.
Martin considers fan fiction to be the lazy method for writers.
LeGuin calls it an invasion.
Card says it's all about the money and he thinks of the idea of fan fiction as an attack on his livelihood.
If a number of original creators are against the idea of fan fiction, they'll most likely be against the idea of monetizing fan fiction. Kindle Worlds is the epitome of being invasive and offensive to the original creators. With that factor considered, it'll be hard for Amazon to obtain licenses in the future. If original creators against fan fiction, even suspect that the licenses for their works could end up in the hands of Amazon for Kindle Worlds, they'll probably refuse and prepare for legal action in the future.
Canon vs. Non-Canon
Would you pay to read content not canonical to the original story's universe?
Five: The Story Canon
People in favor for monetizing fan fiction could argue that these stories can be part of the expanded universe; but, you have to think about who has the say of what gets included in it. The thing is, unless the original creator gives permission, fan fiction will never be considered canon. With a bunch of different fan fiction authors submitting their own works, it's a bunch of diverging paths. But, most people will not pay a single cent to read any story that's part of the story canon. If it's not canonical, most likely people will barely buy it; that's regardless of how good the story is written and told.
This is perhaps the one thing that many people, including Amazon, will overlook. Why pay to read something that that's not officially part of the universe?
Paying fanfiction writers
Should fanfiction be monetized?
Monetizing Fan Fiction, One Of The Worst Concepts:
In the long run, monetizing fan fiction will only lead to new problems. Fan fiction is supposed to be done for fun; add in money, it doesn't seem to be fun anymore. Later down the line, there's going to be the clashing of egos between the fan fiction writers. The entire concept of monetizing fan fiction possesses too many holes to poke through. It seems unlikely that Amazon will able to fix those holes let alone in the near future.
Kindle Worlds will most likely not help those fan fiction writers no matter how well-written their works are, they won't be taken seriously in the future. They'll be branded as people too lazy and not creative enough to create their own original works of fiction. It'll be harder for them to get their original works noticed later down the line.
The only truly legal way that one could be successful at monetizing fan fiction would be going the route of E.L. James of Fifty Shades Of Grey. Before making the book, she was a member of Fanfiction.net under the name of “Snowqueens Icedragon.” The concept behind the story originated as a fan fiction story for Twilight. From there, it developed into Fifty Shades of Grey.
Many notable authors are against fan fiction in general.
Voice actor Vic Mignogna, who voices Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist, addressed the fan fiction of his character and Colonel Roy Mustang (voiced by Travis Willingham) always being portrayed as a romantic couple. Mignogna adamantly said that he doesn't like it one bit. While he supports fan fiction, he's not comfortable with his character and Mustang being a couple.