Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. 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.
Point (Megan McArdle):
It’s a brilliant and even fair solution. Some writers are better world-builders than others; why not let them profit off of their imaginations, while also compensating the folks who can do interesting things within that world? Of course, some fan fiction purists may be disappointed in the control that this will give the world-builders over what is done with their work. Amazon will not, for example, publish pornographic or highly explicit fiction. Under those rules, 50 Shades of Grey would never have been published; it started out as slash fiction set in the Twilight universe.
Still, as a writer I’m always glad to see more ways to compensate writers. And as a business writer, I’m excited to see how much innovation is taking place in this new market.
Counter-point (John Scalzi):
…I suspect this is yet another attempt in a series of long-term attempts to fundamentally change the landscape for purchasing and controlling the work of writers in such a manner that ultimately limits how writers are compensated for their work, which ultimately is not to the benefit of the writer. This will have far-reaching consequences that none of us really understand yet.
The thing that can be said for it is that it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all and possibly having to deal with a cranky rightsholder angry that you kids are playing in their yard. Is that enough for you? That’s on you to decide.
My own position is a good deal closer to Megan’s, possibly because my situation is closer to Megan’s than John’s. John Scalzi is, of course, unambiguously tied into the existing writing/publishing system for genre fiction, as his presidency of SWFA and advocacy for the WGA strike might suggest; this does not make him wrong, but he’s not exactly disinterested*. Scalzi, in fact, is acting a little like a union president would at the news that the next state over had gone right-to-work and was planning to open up a bunch of non-union shops; although, to be fair, his reaction is tempered by the fact that we’re talking about people getting paid to do The Vampire Diaries filk.
Let me just sum it up, for me: physical books are getting more expensive while electronic e-book readers are getting cheaper. People like to read; and a lot of the stuff that they like to read is not so much Anna Karenina as it is Android Karenina. They are also increasingly unwilling to buy an electronic book at a physical hardcover’s price; and the American reading public is probably about as sympathetic to people bemoaning the loss of the old merchandising model as they were to the troubles of the kerosine, icehouse, and phonograph industries. All of this means, alas or hooray, that people will in fact choose crap over quality if quality isn’t worth the price and crap does the job. This is part of life; and it could be worse. We could go back to wholesale piracy – which, by the way, has been a recurring problem for the publishing industries for several centuries, so maybe take that into account when judging them, hey?
*It is likewise necessary to point out that I am, in fact, an Amazon.com affiliate for Maryland, which should be taken into account when assessing my opinions on this subject as well. Very few people in this particular discussion are truly disinterested…