June 27, 2013

10 Things You Need To Know About Publishing FanFic on Amazon

Legolas Teg the Urban Elf and Snape Damon have an intense confrontation in this fan fic Kindle Worlds story

Amazon is rocking the publishing world once again with a brand new kind of publishing: legal fan fic. Okay, there have been licensed novels before… Star Trek novels, Star Wars novels, movie novelizations… but this is far more accessible.

It’s called Kindle Worlds. Right now, there are only about twelve Worlds available to write in. Some biggies, like Harry Potter and Twilight, are not on the list. A few are television worlds, a few are author’s own worlds (such as Wool).

However, before you break out dancing and toss your Snape and Legolas slash romance/adventure into the ring, there are a few things you need to know about publishing fan fiction with Amazon.

1. This is not self-publishing, as with KDP.

Amazon’s self-publishing platform, KDP, allows authors to keep all rights to their own works. Amazon takes a cut of the royalties as a distributor, but Amazon is not the publisher. With Kindle Worlds, “All works accepted for Kindle Worlds will be published by Amazon Publishing.”

That said, this doesn’t seem intended to be as exclusive as the Singles program. Amazon wants your content, as long as it’s not something they will be sued over.

2. The steps seem pretty easy.

1. Select a World and read the Content Guidelines, Content Agreement and Quality Guide.
2. Upload your guide-abiding manuscript.
3. Make a cover with their templates.
4. Sign the agreement.
5. Kindle Worlds will review your story to make sure it follows the rules. They accept or reject.
6. If they accepted, your story goes on sale online.
7. You collect monthly royalties.

3. The author gets 20% to 35% depending on length.

According to PaidContent: “Kindle Worlds pays fan fiction authors a royalty of 35 percent for works of at least 10,000 words, and a royalty of 20 percent on works between 5,000 and 10,000 words. The authors of the original properties also get royalties, but Amazon will not disclose how much those are.”

4. There are rules, people. Rules!

You can only write in a “World” which Amazon has licensed. Each “World Licensor” has provided “Content Guidelines” for each “World,” and all works must follow these Content Guidelines. For example, Obidiah Archer doesn’t insult other people’s religions, “despite his upbringing in a fundamentalist family.” And Aric, from X-O-Manowar doesn’t torture little kids “despite being a man from another time.”

5. No crossovers.

Sorry, the timeless love of Snape for Legolas will have to wait. There are strict rules for what kind of fan fic is allowed, and one of the biggies is that, in general, you’re not allowed to mix’n’match. No crossover. I know, I know, that’s half the fun of fan fic. Well, too bad. There are rules, people. Rules!

6. No smut.

Besides, your Snape/Legolas slash wouldn’t be allowed anyway. No pornography. I don’t care HOW popular Shades of Grey was, or if it started as a Twilight riff. It’s still on the no-no list.

7. No crap.

People, if you can’t spell, use proper grammar and consult the frickin’ dictionary when it comes to frequently confused homonyms, Amazon doesn’t even want to hear from you.

8.  Kindle Only

Sorry, Barnes and Noble and Kobo readers. This is a Kindle Party Only. Well, kindle and kindle-friendly. “Stories are available in digital format exclusively on Amazon.com, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps.” Amazon adds helpfully, “We hope to offer additional formats in the future.”

9. You may not re-use your own characters outside the Kindle Worlds.

Remember, Amazon is the publisher, not you, and they own the rights to the story, not you. So, any character, scene, invention, or cool plot idea — what they call “New Elements” that you use in your fan fic belongs to them after you’ve published it with them. So, let’s say that you do introduce a race of elves to the world of Vampire Diaries. As far as I know, that doesn’t violate their Content Guidelines. You have an elf hottie named Tegoloz. After writing several stories with Teg, Damon and Elena, you decide you want Teg to go on his own adventure in an urban fantasy novel set in your own world.

Oops! Nope. Amazon owns Teg now. He belongs to the Vampire Diaries world forever after.

10. Your characters can be used in stories by other authors.

However… and this is where it gets weird, although it makes perfect sense if you think about it… if some other fan fic author wants to publish a new Vampire Diaries for Kindle Worlds that features Teg the Hottie Urban Elf — yes, your Teg! — that author has Amazon’s blessing to do so. Whether you like it or not. According to Kindle Worlds, “You agree that the New Elements are available for unrestricted use by us without any additional compensation, notification or attribution, including that we may allow other Kindle Worlds authors, the World Licensor and other third parties to use the New Elements.”

If you’re familiar with the script-writing world, none of this will seem at all weird. In fact, it makes sense. Amazon is right about this, I think. They want to foster a world which builds upon itself, and it’s possible that a “New Element” could become really popular with readers … so popular other fan fic writers want to include that New Element in their own stories too. Fan fic of fan fic…. That’s what it’s all about, nu?

Tara Maya

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