Thoughts on Amazon and Fanfic, Part Two, Electric Boogaloo

So now that Amazon is going to try and publish fanfic, now that I’ve done my anal-retentive analysis, what do I think it means? What’s going to happen? What are the repercussions?

Now it may surprise you that I’m not going to make definite predictions. I’m going to look at probabilities/possibilities with a little bit of how we can make this positive.

Now, before I go on let me state that in general I am for this idea. I like the idea of less restrictive, more supportive approach to fanfics. I do support help getting people published. I would like to see more engagement in publishing. I can think of plenty of things that are bad and that can go wrong (which I’ll address later), but I am in general, for this idea.

I give this a:

  • Low chance of failure.
  • A medium to high chance of success.
  • A medium chance this becomes a big hit.

I should note I define failure as “not making enough money to be worth going on.”

This is one of the core questions – is it profitable for all people involved? Overall with a pre-existing infrastructure in place anyway, companies that know how this works, and existing fandoms, its not the most expense-laden endeavor in publishing. So it’s probably not too hard to make it pay off, though I am actually concerned that the screening process is going to be the most difficult part of the whole thing.

So I so it unlikely this will fail and pretty likely it’ll be at least a moderate success – its got smart people and liked properties and publicity on its side. It may just not succeed enough for it to be adopted by others.

The possibility this may not be successful enough to produce a wave of fanfic-adaptors, but merely as a limited-scope effort, is something to keep in mind. There may be no onslaught of everyone changing fanfic rules, just because it’s sort of a “meh” proposition.

On the other hand if this does succeed, then I do think the floodgates will open – because there’s money and there’s a model to follow. I give that a medium chance of happening, which is entirey from the gut.

If people want to make this succeed, well, then there would need to be a mass movement to support the model, buy the product, and provide good product. People could even offer to be pre-screeners, ad Amazon could try and hire/credit/pay fan editors. A few tweaks to the model (being able to register as a paid editor as well as an author, perhaps) could increase chances for this to succeed.


  • If this model is very successful (see above) then I give a very high probability Amazon will come out ahead. In short, they’re going to be all over this.

If Amazon proves the model works, they have everything in place for other properties to follow. They would have to make new alliances (and note their current one is very specific) and perhaps add new partners. Of course I see this as something they’re entirely capable of.

So my take is if this works, Amazon will ride it pretty high.

This gets a bit complicated, but will othr publishing companies or new companies follow suit?

  • I see a low chance that others will follow no matter what happens, a calculated risk.
  • I see a high chance others will follow if it’s a success.

Right now this is an experiment, and I don’t think Nook, Penguin, Microsoft, etc. are just waiting to dive head first into the world of fanfic. It’s not easy, it requires knowledge, it needs legal and publishin alliances. But you can be sure people are paying attention, and you can bet this is being analyzed by people in publishing as you read this.

So I see a low, but definite, possibility that others are considering this model and may try something. They’d be stupid not too. In fact, it probably doesn’t matter if it succeeds, at least someone will consider doing it because it seems promising.

On the other hand if this does succeed, you can bet various companies, potential new companies, well-connected individuals, etc. are going to try something like this. Because it’s money and publicity and cheap reliable knowledgeable talent.

If people want to make this happen, then Amazon needs to succeed, and others need to be encouraged to follow suit. Also, frankly, people should entreat authors to look at this model and even consider their own businesses – what if you could kickstarter an authorized fanfic group, for instance? If this model is seen as positive (and to an extent I see it as positive) then it needs to be promoted.


  • Probability is very high because . . . well, yeah, just look at incidents throughout the years.

I don’t care how many lawyers you throw at it, how clear things are, there will be confusion. That’s to be expected between real issues, ignorance, greed, hope, and of course rumors and misinformation. You can expect clarifications, TOS updates, and more in spades, and that this is being carefully watched. I consider this almost guaranteed.

What’s important is that this be handled right, and I’m reasonably certain it will be since there seems to be decent awareness on the part of Amazon et al. Am I totally certain? No, I see a low chance for some kind of meltdown.

To make this work Amazon et al. has to be smart, and leaders in fandom need to be aware and help people stay aware. I expect bumps in the road, the question is how smooth people make them ahead of time.


  • Probability very low, but not so low I’m comfortable with this, because there’s a high chance someone will do something dumb.

A concern I heard expressed at Anime North was that companies that create a “fic liscencing” deal and then use ti as an excuse to go after other websites, hosts, writers, etc.

Now I see this as an incredibly stupid move that would alienate people, wreck potential contributors, and of course look almost cartoonishly villanous. A rational group of people would not do this, but instead focus on the carrot not the sticks since there’s less backfire. Also it’s far more ethnical, in my opinion.

The problem is that not everyone involved may be rational, so the chance for someone to do something so stupid is a possibility. My take is that it’s a low chance there will be an organized/semi-organized/accepted movement towards “liscence fanfic, crush the rest.” However I consider it very likely some legal department, publisher, rights holder, etc. will try and do some kind of “fic purge” and then watch it blow up in their face.

So, low chance it’ll happen, but I’m virtually sure that if this fanfic licensing becomes a big thing, something dumb wil happen. As a side note, imagine the marketing potential of “unlike our competior, we approve of fanfic . . .”


  • Probability very high if it succeeds.

It makes money. People will respect that. I really don’t feel I need more detail here, except to say that even if it fails it probably won’t been seen as a falt of the fanfic community (probably).

This is also riding the fact fanfic is more accepted anyway.


  • Probability is medium, and individual.

So on one hand this gives wrters the exposure they may want and need. It gives them practice. It gives them money.

On the other, it’s fanfic, which is not always well regarded. That will probably change in time – if this succeeds.

Success will still be on an individual basis (both person and property) so I don’t expect any kind of “consistent” helping of writers. But some will obviously benefit.


So that’s my thoughts.  Folks, what have you got?

– 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