Amazon wants to pay folks to write fanfic

Sorry, no threesome fic.
Sorry, no threesome fic.

There’s a long history of fans monetizing their fanfic – but generally they do it by filing off the serial numbers, changing the names, and repurposing it as ‘original’ work. Fifty Shades of Grey may be the most infamous example, but it’s hardly the first.

Now Amazon wants to cut out all that work to get your fanfic published: They’ve launched Kindle Worlds, “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.”

How are they not getting their asses sued? Well, they’re actually licensing the stuff. First up is Alloy Entertainment, the Warner-Bros. owned book packager responsible for such book-series-turned-TV as Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries. Not your bag of blood? They plan “to announce more licenses soon.” (For what it’s worth, I really doubt that Lucasfilm or Disney would sign on to something like this – at least not this early on.)

Naturally, they’re not allowing porn or crossovers, which disincludes plenty of fandom right from the start, but it’s still pretty troubling – and something that could end up very disturbing precedent.

The first and only rule of fanfic fandom is you don’t sell your stuff. I firmly believe that the line between fanfic and profic is something that should only be crossed very carefully and with great caution. And, let’s face it – most fanfic is awful, porn or no porn.

The idea of actually monetizing fanfic is no real surprise – it’s been tried, and failed, a dozen times over, and the runaway success of 50 Shades made this nigh-inevitable. To have the Powers-That-Be actively involved in fanfic has a real potential to change this very specific fandom activity – and not for the better. Part of the point of fanfic, to my mind, is the complete lack of tether. It rarely pays off, but when it does, those are the moments that make the whole enterprise worth it.

This alone is no great shakes – Alloy and a couple of writers making a couple bucks off some PG smolderfests is not going to change the whole landscape of fandom. But it’s a very dangerous first step that could lead to more corporate policing in the fanfic realm, the making such a thing mundane – and that’s something I am not in the least comfortable with.

UPDATE: Scalzi looks at the fine print… He raises a few good questions, but for our purposes: What does it mean for the ‘official’ tie-ins?

6 Replies to “Amazon wants to pay folks to write fanfic”

  1. I actually think there’s some interesting potential here. The trouble with monetizing fanfic was it’s potential to cut into creator profits. But if the creator is getting a slice of the pie, I don’t think it’s any different than cafepress’s fan portals for design…

    Until you get down to the fine print that Doyle linked… I do agree the language could use refinement. Writer beware.

    I could see some potential with the idea if the legal bit is fixed. I could actually understand the licenser getting to claim new characters/material, since the fanfic writer would get compensation for the specific story sales. I mean Zahn created Thrawn, but I don’t think he owns him because he created him as a project for the Star Wars franchise. Amazon trying to claim the rights is fishy though.

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