‘Kindle Worlds’ Allows Fan Fic Writers To Legally Sell Ebooks

Kindle Worlds, a new Amazon program that’s already being hotly debated among both professional authors and fan fiction writers alike, will allow fans to sell ebooks based on certain licensed TV shows, movies, comic books, and various other media. No launch date has been specified, but an excerpt from the Amazon website lays out the compensation rates.

 

  • All works accepted for Kindle Worlds will be published by Amazon Publishing.
  • Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to the rights holder for the World (we call them World Licensors) and to you. Your standard royalty rate for works of at least 10,000 words will be 35% of net revenue.
  • 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 Licensor and will pay authors a digital royalty of 20% of net revenue. The lower royalty for these shorter works is due to significantly higher fixed costs per digital copy (for example, credit-card fees) when prices for the entire class of content will likely be under one dollar.
  • As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of customer sales price—rather than the lower industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.
  • Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.
  • Kindle Worlds is a creative community where Worlds grow with each new story. You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.
  • Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories. Most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99.

Although Amazon’s terms have made a lot of people very angry, I have to admit that I don’t think it’s the raw deal some are claiming. People are angry that the original license holders will be given the right license characters created by the new authors without compensating them. But writers playing in someone else’s world have never had rights to anything they created in a licensed universe; they write the book, collect their paycheck, and then they are shown the door.  Timothy Zahn doesn’t get compensated whenever Lucasfilm (now Disney) uses Mara Jade.

There is also the issue of liability. Say, for example, Supernatural becomes one of the available licensed shows, and I decide to write a story about Jimmy Novak’s kid coming to look for him. Even if the Supernatural writers had already planned on doing an episode just like that for months or even years, they’d now be obligated to pay me for it if the Kindle Worlds program said I had the rights to any original ideas I had for my book, or else risk a huge lawsuit. If dozens or hundreds of fans are rushing to sell ebooks for a given show, they are likely, by simple coincidence, to come up with a lot of plots and minor characters very similar to ones the show’s writers are already thinking of doing. The show would essentially have to pay for all those ideas twice.

Writing in a popular licensed universe with millions of die-hard fans in place and ready to hand over their money is not the same thing as creating a novel from scratch, and I don’t think the copyright holders should be obligated to treat it as such. There are a lot of shitty deals out there for writers, from both traditional publishers and vanity presses. I don’t think the Kindle Worlds program is one of them.

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