May 24, 2013

Kindle Worlds And Fan Fiction

Amazon’s gotten quite a bit of buzz from its Kindle Worlds announcement. Basically, it’s a way for the company to make money of fan fiction, share some of it with license holders, as well as the actual writers.

With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.

Fan fiction gets written no matter what. The people who write fan fiction do so because they’re fans, and thus there are probably no commercial motives. The chance to make a little bit of money by publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds will no doubt appeal to some though, and if Amazon can secure some licenses then this might become a big deal.

A big deal for Amazon and the licensees, that is. Possibly for some writers as well, but much like self-publishing overall, the vast majority will make very little, if anything at all.

What’s the problem with that, you might wonder?

First of all, writing for an established world with well-known characters might seem like a good idea and a way to get ahead in the game, but it isn’t. If you brand your story with a license, only the fans of said license will be interested. Your Gossip Girl story might appeal to a much wider audience than the Gossip Girl crowd looking for fan fiction, but anyone not interested in Gossip Girl will skip it right away.

Gossip Girl really is one of the licenses Amazon’s got for you to play with

Second, fan fiction isn’t the way to go if you want to be a writer. Sure, writing can be for fun, and why not try and make a little something off your scribblings, but that attitude won’t produce quality fiction. Great novels are born from ideas, from the author slaving in front of the screen, and then from the editor’s notes, the beta readers’ feedback, the rewrite, even more editor notes, possibly another rewrite, and so on. Maybe your fan fiction will get this treatment, but I sincerely doubt it, since self-published works overall suffer from lack of editing.

Third, you’re accepting the Amazon leash. I don’t have anything against the killer of brick and mortar bookshops per se (possibly the whole killing brick and mortar bookshops, but that’s progress and not their fault), but I do think it’s a bad idea to throw all your eggs in one basket. That’s why The Writer’s iPad isn’t utilizing the Kindle Select program, which would give me awesome tools to promote my ebook, but would tie me to Amazon while perusing the program. I’m not saying I wouldn’t sign with any of Amazon’s imprints, but that’s hardly the same as uploading my work to one party and tying myself to them forever. Because, you know, the reason you’re even allowed to sell that Gossip Girl story of yours is because Amazon’s negotiated a license for you. You can’t just take it with you to another retailer, Amazon’s got the license, not you.

If you’re writing a lot of fan fiction then I can understand how Kindle Worlds would appeal to you. Do what you want, play around, give it a go, by all means do.

But if you’re a fan fiction writer that are serious about writing, then I’d advice you to take a step back. Consider writing something you own entirely, go through the hellfire and back, get the rejections, do the whole writer thing, and give yourself a shot. If you’re any good, you deserve it.

And before the emails with virtual dog feces start bombarding my poor pristine inbox: Yes, I’ve written fan fiction. I’ve also gotten paid for writing fiction set in worlds I don’t own. That’s a completely different beast though, one we’ll tackle another day.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.