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Kindle Worlds Store and Self-Service Submission Platform

27 June 2013

From Amazon’s Media Room:

The Kindle Worlds Store and Self-Service Submission Platform are now open. Customers can enjoy works from dozens of authors including Barbara Freethy (writing in Pretty Little Liars), Charles Sasser (Foreworld Saga) and Anita Clenney (The Vampire Diaries). Kindle World’s Self-Service Submission Platform enables any writer to publish fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so. To browse the store and learn more about Kindle Worlds, visit www.amazon.com/kindleworlds.

Kindle Worlds is a new publishing model that allows any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store, and earn up to a 35% royalty while doing so. Kindle Worlds stories will typically be priced between $0.99 and $3.99 and will be exclusive to Kindle. To learn more and get started writing, visit kindleworlds.amazon.com.

. . . .

“It’s actually a gift to be able to take someone else’s creation and see whether you can take it in a new direction. Watch every show; read every comic book. Honor the canon and honor the fans. There is a reason these stories have become so popular. And don’t feel restricted by the universe that has already been created. It reminds me a bit of writing a haiku or a sonnet. There are rules that must be followed, but within those rules, you can go anywhere. Your imagination is the only limit.” —Carolyn Nash, writer in Archer & Armstrong

. . . .

“Today, we launch the Kindle Worlds Store and the platform that will enable any writer to benefit from writing in one of the Worlds we’ve licensed,” said Philip Patrick, Director, Business Development and Publisher of Kindle Worlds. “We look forward to hearing feedback from readers and writers, and hope to learn and improve as time goes on.”

. . . .

Amazon Publishing has already secured licenses from:

  • Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its New York Times best-selling book series Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and The Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith
  • Valiant Entertainment for Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger and Shadowman
  • Best-selling authors Hugh Howey for Silo Saga, Barry Eisler for his John Rain novels, Blake Crouch for his Wayward Pines Series, and the Foreworld Saga by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo and more

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

This is basically author-approved and Amazon-published fanfic. Both the author of the original book/series and the fanfic authors get paid when a fanfic book is sold.

There are some interesting copyright and rights issued involved in pulling this off. You’ll see how Amazon has handled some of those in the Kindle Worlds Publishing Agreement that governs fanfic authors. As with all contracts, it is important that prospective fanfic authors read the contract carefully to understand their rights and obligations before jumping in.

Indie authors will note the 35% royalty rate for ebooks of more than 10,000 words and 20% on shorter ebooks. On the other hand, sales of fanfic books will receive marketing benefits from the familiarity readers have with the original books.

As you’ll see at www.amazon.com/kindleworlds, fanfic short stories and novellas are offered, so a prospective fanfic author can dip a toe in the water without committing to a novel. Amazon calls the original works the “Canon” and the fanfic pieces are part of “Kindle Worlds.”

UPDATE: For a little clarification on the fanfic publishing agreement, this is not the same as the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions that indie authors are accustomed to.

As one example, under the KDP terms, an author can withdraw some or all of his/her books from Amazon at any time. If an indie author wants to enter into a traditional publishing agreement, this is very important.

Under the new fanfic agreement – Paragraph 4.(a) – once Amazon releases the fanfic work, it has an irrevocable license to that work for the full term of the copyright (the rest of the author’s life plus 70 years in the US and a similar period of time in other countries). In Paragraph 4.(b), the author gives Amazon very broad rights to make derivative works based on the author’s work with no additional royalty payments. There are no out-of-print or reversion rights the author can exercise.

In these and some other respects, the fanfic agreement is similar to some traditional publishing contracts.

Amazon

43 Comments to “Kindle Worlds Store and Self-Service Submission Platform”

  1. So what royalties do the authors get? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

    • My reading is that authors get 35%, “World Creators” get 35%, and Amazon gets its typical 70%.

      The amount charged per book is based on length — .99 for shorts (5,000-10,000 words), 1.99 for Novellas (10,000-50,000 words). Longer is presumably 2.99.

      • I meant, apparently, “World Creators”. Oh.

        No, Amazon would get 30% in that case for longform, more for shorter works.

        I have no intention of writing in someone else’s world. It’s hard enough writing in the ones I invent. And I’m control freak enough to want to own my own work. Go figure.

        • The only world I’d want to enter is Mad Men’s, circa 1985 or thereabouts.

        • Interestingly there is a discussion about this very topic (writing in somebody else’s universe) on another forum I frequent. Most of the authors there write purely for fun and many of them said, “I’d just be so flattered if somebody liked my story enough to want to write more of it.”

          This is actually quite charming, from an artistic point of view. But as for me, I posted that if somebody wanted to do that with my characters, they could publish licensed, they could publish parody, or they could find out how much fun it is to irritate a writer who’s also an IP attorney. (Spoiler: It’s not fun at all.) The last guy who really ticked me off ended up a fugitive from justice.

        • I might consider the concept, but that “life of copyright” thing, for Amazon? Nuh-uh. If I want to do work-for-hire… I’ll sell it to the original rights-holder from the get-go.

  2. (e) No Reversion. Once we first make your Work available through the Program it will not be eligible for reversion.

    15. No Obligation to Make Available or Sell. You acknowledge that we have no obligation to market, distribute, or offer for sale your Work, or to continuing marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may remove your Work from the Program and cease further exploitation at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.

    No, thank you. 🙂

  3. You think that’s bad, you should see the Dark Crystal author’s contest terms.

    http://www.darkcrystal.com/authorquest/

    Basically, they want you to submit your work for nothing, and if you are a lucky winner, well, they’ll tell you what the terms are after they accept your work. The act of entering gives them ownership of your work.

    Pass.

  4. I think this is brilliant on Amazon’s part. It legitimizes fan fiction and makes it a paying proposition for any author who wants to participate and fans who want to write works located in that author’s world. If authors don’t want to allow their worlds to be open to monetized fan fiction, they don’t have to (although it will be be interesting to see if fans pressure writers to participate).

    Ultimately, I see this as win-win.

    • Oh, I just saw PG’s update. Well, THAT doesn’t look good. Contracts for fan fic need to be just as fair as for other writing.

      I’m deeply disappointed in Amazon for copying Publishers here.

      • One thing you have to keep in mind, Mira, is that if you participate in something like this, you are playing in someone else’s sandbox, not yours. They have the right to tell you to go home.

        • @ Suzan, Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean here…. The fan fic writer is ‘playing’ in the author’s playground, not Amazon’s….but it is Amazon’s contract terms I have difficulty with.

          I don’t believe that Amazon (or any other Pubisher) has the right to onerous contract terms for any author, no matter what they write, especially if Amazon is profiting from their work. If you meant something else here, though, let me know. Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

          • So far, the majority of the “worlds” offered are owned by other corporations, such as Alloy Entertainment.

            Alloy Entertainment licensed the Vampire Diaries series to Amazon for Kindle Worlds, but they still own the IP. Amazon does not. If you write a fanfic for the Vampire Diaries, and AE later pulls Vampire Diaries from the program, Amazon CANNOT continue selling the fanfic. You DO NOT own the rights to your fanfic because you’re working with someone else’s IP.

            AE’s contracts with writers are work-for-hire, which L.J. Smith found out the hard way. If anything, Amazon’s T&C for Kindle Worlds is a lot more generous than AE’s standard contracts.

            If you want something less onerous, as you put it, you create your own IP. Don’t participate in someone else’s.

            • @ Suzan,

              I see, but I’m afraid I disagree. I don’t feel an author should be penalized if they are writing for someone else’s world, especially if they are doing it with permission.

              The fact that fan fic writers may have historically been treated poorly does not justify it, imho. What writer hasn’t been? That’s the whole point, right? We’re trying to get better terms for all authors, and I don’t exclude those who write fan fiction.

              I guess I just worry that another prejudice is forming, and I think we should be careful. This reminds me of literary fiction writers telling commercial fiction writers that they aren’t ‘real’ writers. If a person has writing talents that don’t include world building, or they are just so much in love with a particular world they want to explore it, that is still ‘real writing’, and they should be treated with respectful and fair contract terms.

              • Okay, Mira, now you have me confused. Your second post in this thread said you were “deeply disappointed in Amazon for copying Publishers here.” My point was that the terms were more than likely heavily influenced by Alloy and that the terms are actually more fair than Alloy’s contracts. I’m sorry for not being clear. But this program is for licensed work, regardless of it being termed fanfic.

                Fanfic in and of iteself versus fanfic produced for money are two different issues. And you’re right–a lot of writers are influenced by stories they’ve heard/read/seen in their lives. But if you want to make sure you have full rights and control of your work, then you need to create something new, instead of setting your story in the Shire or Mount Doom.

                I’m not putting folks who write fanfic in a different class. Heck, one of the first stories I ever wrote was Godzilla fanfic at age 10. But while what I did as a kid was illegal, Sony doesn’t cares about me writing fanfic only for me and my friends. What they will care about is when I started charging for it. And they have every right to since they own the rights to the character.

                Or to take another perspective on a more recent example, a LOT of fans are upset with Charlaine Harris over the last Sookie book. What if an Eric fan writes the ending he wants and a Bill fan write her ending? They decide that whoever sells the most copies wins the “Who should Sookie end up with” debate. Is this fair to Charlaine who owns the characters and has worked very hard in producing her books over the last fifteen years?

                By the same token, I don’t have the copyright to the three tech manuals I wrote in the early ’90’s. Was I compensated fairly? I think so, but from what you’re saying, I wasn’t because I don’t hold all the rights to the manuals and the company I contracted with only paid me $20/hr.

                Is a tech writer a “real” writer? There’s a number of people besides me who would say yes.

                As a writer, you can write whatever you want, including fanfic. But you need to be aware of your legal rights and responsibilities along the way. I wouldn’t sneeze at 35% for one of my old Star Trek stories because I can’t do anything with it other than privately share it with some friends (most of whom would prefer I didn’t, BTW).

                (On a side note: I pray every day that Dean Wesley Smith doess not remember one of my submissions to him when he edited ST’s Strange New Worlds anthology at Pocket Books. Yes, it was THAT bad. :lol:)

                • Suzan,

                  I see that I misunderstood and thought you were devaluing fan fic. But it sounds like you not only appreciate it, you’ve done it! Sorry for that!

                  You’re right – 35% sounds generous, which is why my first post was complimenting Amazon. But when PG discussed the contract terms, specifically:

                  “…once Amazon releases the fanfic work, it has an irrevocable license to that work for the full term of the copyright (the rest of the author’s life plus 70 years in the US and a similar period of time in other countries). In Paragraph 4.(b), the author gives Amazon very broad rights to make derivative works based on the author’s work with no additional royalty payments. There are no out-of-print or reversion rights the author can exercise.”

                  This is the same B.S. that Trad. Publisher’s pull. License for life of work? Broad rights to make other derivative works? This is the kind of sucky contract terms I’ve celebrated Amazon for NOT doing in the past. And yes, I’m deeply disappointed that they have clauses that are taking advantage of writers. As others on this thread mentioned, this is a way to try to find the next E.L. James and sew her up and own her. I’m used to Amazon being more ethical than this, and I am disappointed they have lowered themselves to the level of trad. pubs. I hope they re-consider – I’m used to be a fan of Amazon’s! And I hope writers seriously re-consider before signing these.

                  p.s. And yes, tech writers are real writers.

    • I agree that on Amazon and the content owners’ parts, this is brilliant. It’s one of the best ideas I’ve seen in twenty years of licensing work.

      As an author, I don’t like it, and I decline to participate in it.

      However, if somebody eats, drinks and sleeps fanfic for a licensed property, this is a chance to make some money and get some experience and recognition (in that order) as an author. It’s not so dreadful I’d tell somebody not to do it (although first I’d ask them “are you sure you can’t change some names and stuff?” about fifty times.)

      • Some folks do. There was a time when I read and dabbled writing in Star Trek fanfic. If CBS/Paramount ever licensed ST to Amazon, I’d be tempted.

      • I think used wisely it could be fun and beneficial to a writer. Write a couple of 5000 word short stories for a property that is in a genre (or compatible genre) for your own work. Maybe you could draw some fans from the licensed work to your own.

        • That’s actually how I discovered Laurell K. Hamilton.

        • I’d rather do another rewrite of Pride and Prejudice, personally… (Though I suppose if I did hork out* just the right 5K word short story, and considered it disposable…)

          * While the term is somewhat crude, it is how certain ideas kind of insist on coming out. All at once, a bit messily, and in a quasi-involuntary haze. >_>

    • This. “Alloy Entertainment licensed the Vampire Diaries series to Amazon for Kindle Worlds, but they still own the IP. Amazon does not. If you write a fanfic for the Vampire Diaries, and AE later pulls Vampire Diaries from the program, Amazon CANNOT continue selling the fanfic. You DO NOT own the rights to your fanfic because you’re working with someone else’s IP.”

      Suzan explained it very well. It simply isn’t Amazon’s call.

      If you were to ghost write a novel, the same terms would apply. Except here, your name would actually appear on the work. Which leads to Josh’s point about drawing more fans to your own work. It’s a win-win.

      • @ Barbra – the contract terms listed above give the rights to Amazon, not to the IP owner.

        So, this isn’t about giving rights to the IP owner or the original author, it’s about giving rights to Amazon.

        I don’t like that Amazon is grabbing rights in the same way that traditional publishers are.

        But, hey, I think it’s a bad deal, however, every author needs to weigh and balance and decide this for themselves. If people understand going in, and they don’t mind signing away all rights in exchange for the exposure, that’s an individual choice. My main concern here is that alot of fan fic authors won’t understand going in that they are signing away their rights to Amazon.

        • Mira, by this logic, would you urge a writer to steer away from a ghost writing gig or a media tie-in work? Because those contracts would read similar if not stiffer.

          We’re talking about a few hours or a few days work writing in a world that’s already been created. You can’t paint this kind of landscape with the same brush you would original work. The canvas isn’t the same.

          This is key:

          “The owner of the intellectual property related to the Original World (the “World Licensor”), has granted us the right to allow you to participate in Kindle Worlds for the Original World.”

          and this:

          “We can only license you rights to the Other Author Elements to the extent they have been granted to us, so the right to use the Other Author Elements is provided to you “as is” without any representations or warranties.”

          So really, it’s much more complicated than “Amazon grabbing rights.” @Bill @Devon and @Suzan have explained it pretty well.

          Amazon themselves have limited rights to the work, so how could they extend more rights than they have?

          You can’t sell a house if you’re just renting it.

  5. Thanks for the Update, PG. It’s getting murkier and murkier in my world… hmm.

  6. This kinda bothers me. I get the feeling it’s not going to be all that popular if only because it completely misses the point of why people write fanfiction.

    Other than that, I just can’t put my finger on why this just turns me off in general.

  7. I guess it’s okay, as long as the author agrees, but this troubles me. Look, we all rewrite books, television shows, movies in our heads. Figuring out how to make money off those fantasies? Been just a matter of time.
    I’m not a fan of fanfic.

  8. It seems like Kindle Worlds occupies a gray area between fanfic and tie-in novels. The terms are a bit harsh but the author IS playing in someone else’s sandbox and I suspect some of those terms were put in place to put the rights holders at ease.

    Authors will need to read the contract carefully and decide if writing what is in many ways tie-ins “on spec” is worth the risk. You give up your rights, but might gain some money and fans.

    I’m curious to see how well this does.

  9. This language prevents an author from going the P2P route if their work takes off (Pulled to Publish) – oh, like EL James did, for example.

    Whoever mentioned that this was Amazon’s way of finding and controlling the next 50 Shades was spot on. 😉

  10. This kind of thing is already happening at Cafepress with fan designs for many different TV shows and movies. Each show has specific guidelines and rules and rates. The one benefit I’ve found from creating fan designs is that people are already searching for their favorite shows etc., and sometimes sales can be quite good for those.

    In regards to Kindle Worlds, the one draw I could see is if they allow the author’s name and ability to add the fan books to an ‘already established’ author central page, where the reader can find the author’s other self-published books, it may be worth it to give it a try. I believe the rules states you can do that. If so, I personally would write at least one or two short stories to submit, and consider it advertising for my other titles. It’s very likely that a reader will find you through these new ‘worlds’ and if they like your writing, could look for more of your work. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t bother, given all the restrictions. Just my two cents. 🙂

    • Thinking more on this, I think this would be a fun little revenue stream to add if a World opens up that you enjoy and would like to contribute to. Write a 10k word story that doesn’t include many new elements and send it off. That way you’re writing in a world you enjoy and want to contribute to, and you’re minimizing the chance that something really cool you introduce gets used without further compensation to you.

      For instance, say you love the BLOODSHOT setting. Write a story involving Bloodshot and any number of the already existing World elements, but resist creating a new villain or character. You can play in the World sandbox with the existing toys, but save your new toys for your own personal settings and worlds.

      So you’d potentially be getting some modest story income, and possibly get your author name in front of more potential readers for your original stuff.

      • That sounds good Jim. It’s possible to earn some decent income with the new worlds, I would guess, judging from using the fan designs as I said, but the added bonus here is using your own name. In most of the designs that we create for Cafepress, as far as I know, we are not allowed to put our own names on them. But books are different. I don’t see how they could get around that. So that is a definite added bonus of drawing people to our other works. Plus, I like your idea of not giving too much away as far as new character creation etc. I’m sure as you say, there is already enough toys to play with.

  11. I see the 4.(b) clause as providing other fanfic authors to use your fanfic as a basis too–that is the world+current fanfic becomes the playground for new fanfic. Fanfic authors can cross-pollinate one another.

    I really don’t see a problem with that as it would be kind of funny for a fanfic author to be claiming some sort of exclusive use of their derivative work.

    I suppose if a fanfic author wrote a masterpiece of fanfic that others wanted movie rights etc. that fanfic author would be out of luck. I’m not sure how else you work it, though. You want to play in the fanfic sandbox, you generally don’t have any rights.

    Myself, the only piece of fanfic I ever wrote was Star Wars fanfic in second grade. Since then, I’ve had no interest in writing fanfic.

    I don’t like 4.(a). I think you should be able to un-publish the work if you want to.

  12. Since I am kind of a Murphy’s Law kind of thinker, here’s a crazy thought: As I understand it (and I am not a lawyer), after 35 or 40 years from publication or transfer, an author can reclaim a copyright from any deal, no matter what its terms and no matter what money changed hands. What happens if Amazon tries to exercise their rights to make derivatives from some fanfiction whose author then goes on to terminate the agreement? (Or even the original creator of the work that establishes the universe could do this, I think.) And what about the Dark Crystal contest? Seems like this could cause some problems for these types of deals if some fanfic author changes his/her mind down the road and if some further books/movies depend on elements of the fanfiction in question. Or maybe that is so far in the future that nobody cares? Or maybe I misunderstand the law.

  13. The interesting thing here is that Hugh Howey was already letting people publish and sell fanfic in his world, with them making 100% of whatever money they earned. There were already Silo Saga works on Amazon and elsewhere.

    So this is actually not an advantage for his fellow writers. His print publishers probably feel more comfy about it, and so do other print publishers, but….

  14. “In these and some other respects, the fanfic agreement is similar to some traditional publishing contracts.”

    Ha. I detect snark.

    Essentially equivalent to work for hire, but with no payment guaranteed and while keeping whatever liability comes along with owning the copyright? Nice deal for somebody.

  15. As Devin said, this is basically on spec tie-in writing. I think that’s a better description than licensed fanfic.

    The terms aren’t any more odious than any other work for hire — you are playing with someone’s existing IP, it doesn’t belong to you, you can’t expect to have control over it. For the critical posters, do you guys honestly think the author of a Star Wars novel should have the rights revert back to them at some point? It’s the same thing; if you want to play in someone else’s sandbox, you don’t get to take the sandcastle home with you.

  16. Ick. Any mention of Alloy Entertainment gives me hives.

    I started writing a lot more when I discovered fan fiction. (I used to write sitcoms for Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII.) I learned quite a bit, but most importantly, I had fun. Then I started focusing more on my own stories, and haven’t had the urge in a long time.

    I think this is a cool idea, but it’s not for me, regardless of the tight contract terms. Still, I think prospective writers should be aware that, as someone mentioned above, if Alloy Entertainment or any of the other licensors were to pull out of the program, your fan fiction goes with them. Amazon is pretty much just playing middle man here.

  17. Two thoughts:

    1) I expect that most of the fanfic communities will largely ignore Kindle Worlds because it doesn’t let you write porn, err… “erotic romance”, and the fandoms in the program are pretty siloed already. I also wonder how much slash/femslash they will allow. It would be a mistake to ignore the largest fanfiction genres.

    2) I wonder if this could spell the end of fanfiction. Part of the argument (however incorrect legally) is that fanfiction is fair use and has no negative economic impact on the creators. If there is now a legitimate market for fanfiction, any outside fanfic would be lost revenue for the creators. I wonder if the more thoughtful fanfic writers will stop, not wanted to harm the creators of their beloved fandom. I also wonder if that will hurt the creators as their fans become less excited and social.

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