Thoughts On Amazon And Fanfic, Part One

So I was about to fly out to Anime North when, as I was waiting to board my plane, Serdar sends news down to the gang behind Fan To Pro that Amazon had worked out a way to publish fanfic on the Kindle – and pay fanfic writers.

Now, if you missed that somehow, the skinny is this:

  • The platform is called Kindle Worlds. It’s a separate platform from the others (and obviously a separate brand in a way).
  • Amazon has secured licenses from Warner Brothers for the properties it can publish fanfiction about.
  • This is through the Alloy Entertainment division. They outsource book deals and are involved in multiple platforms, so it’s a logical alliance to go through.
  • Amazon is paying 35% for works over 10,000 words, and 20% for smaller works. Not as high as some of their rates – but also a way to get paid for fanfic.
  • The 20% pay rate for smaller works is apparently experimental.
  • It opens in June.
  • Amazon is already working on new alliances.

Now when we look at the FAQ:

  • It seems to operate pretty much like the rest of the Kindle publishing – including doing your own cover (I can see some issues pop up there)
  • Amazon gets all the rights to the stories, in terms of republishing, etc.
  • However people will keep copyright of the elements that the author include – the owner of the “World” will retain the rights to their elements.
  • Authors can build on each other’s work – and the World Licensor can also incorporate new elements into their work without compensation. Which seems to confuse ownership further.
  • * There will be some limits, and as you will no doubt not be shocked to find, that includes pornography. I’d add “for now.”

I’ve been chewing over this for awhile. So a few things I want to bring up.

So, here’s my overall take on this:

It’s A Bit Surprising: After all is said and done, I think Serdar is on the money that it’s interesting that a channel has one this. It’s actually pretty smart in that Amazon is looking at a way to monetize fanfic, not surprising they hit on it. What does surprise me is that no one else came up with this earlier – perhaps it’s “steam engining when it’s steam engining time.”

It’s Smart: Amazon is smart here. This model can be expanded, used for other things, etc. Note of course this all increases their profits and power.

A Remastering Of An Existing Model: As cool as this seems (and as cool as it is) this is really just getting fans to write tie-ins, which they were doing anyway. In short, it’s really grafting the self-publishing model onto the media-tie ins model and letting the fans have a go at it. It’s synergies and alliances, not innovation, though I think this is a smart ove.

It’s Limited: Note that Amazon lines up specific licenses and then handles the publication. This is not, or will it likely ever be, a complete free-for-all for obvious reasons.

It Has StandardS: As noted strongly,content will be monitored and reviewed, so there’s no free-for-all here. Oddly, I think the people that have to review this stuff are going to have some of the strangest jobs imagineable (“is that to pornographic?”).

Fuzzy Issues On Ownership: I’m not sure Amazon’s statements make it clear who owns what, especially in what the author innovates and creates. They own some things, but they also may (or may not?) get used. There’s going to be a few questions we need answered, their FAQ isn’t as clear as it could be (or the legalese elements were a bit offputting).

It Seems Inevitable: The idea of getting the rights to use fan writers to produce works for licensed properties makes a lot of sense. So why didn’t we see it before? Who did that we didn’t listen to?

It’s Experimental: The smaller fic publishing is experimental, the properties are limited, clearly this is not somthing that is entirely sure. So much as Amazon is watching it – you can be sure others are watching it too.

As for the repercussions, well, that’s for next column . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at