Kindle Worlds tries to make fan-fiction pay

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Amazon has launched Kindle Worlds, its latest publishing push, and aiming to commercialize fan-fiction – just as long as the original creators approve. The new division of Amazon Publishing has inked a deal with Warner Bros. to give fanfic authors using characters from Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, or Vampire Diaries permission to sell their titles to Kindle readers, with everyone getting a cut of the purchase price.

Anything over 10,000 words will see the author of the fan fiction getting 35-percent of the net revenue, as per Amazon's existing publishing deal. However, there's also a new tier for shorter stories – anything between 5,000 and 10,000 words – which will pay the author 20-percent.

The three existing Worlds come from Warner Bros.'s Alloy Entertainment division, but Amazon says that's only the start of it. The company is in negotiations with rights holders across multiple types of media – TV, movies, books, games, and even music – to try to encourage them to allow authors to borrow their characters.

For those content rights holders, Amazon argues that it's a no-lose situation, with a fresh way to monetize their characters in addition to reaching out to new audiences. There'll also be "content guidelines" – drawn up with Amazon – "that balance flexibility and openness for writers with what's reasonable for the franchise."

That probably means that some of the more outlandish fan fiction styles out there – particularly those which create unexpected romantic trysts – may not be approved for Kindle Worlds. Amazon has already said that explicit content is not allowed, nor anything excessively graphic, violent, or that includes hate speech of any sort. Interestingly, there's also a ban on crossover between worlds, so you couldn't have characters from Gossip Girl interacting with those from Pretty Little Liars.

Fan fiction has proved divisive among authors, with some appreciating the devotion and imagination the generally amateur writers bring, while others have proved less keen. Orson Scott Card, for instance, author of Ender's Game, has been aggressively anti-fanfic for some time, telling readers back in 2004 that "the time to write fan fiction is 'never.'"

Nonetheless, the opportunity to squeeze some extra cash from a franchise may prove appealing to rights owners, and for the authors themselves it's a chance to potentially make some money from a hobby.