Writing fanfiction can be a legally murky business. Are you allowed to use Han Solo in one of your own stories published online, let alone have him engage in a saucy meet up with Indiana Jones? It’s a bit of a grey area, but one that Amazon hope to help clear up with their new service, Kindle Worlds. It’ll allow you to not only write and publish fanfiction stories to the Kindle store, but even make money from them.
So how does it work? So far, Kindle Worlds only accepts fanfiction based around three existing properties – Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries – all belonging to Warner Bros.’ Alloy Entertainment, with whom Amazon have inked the deal. Both the rights holder and the fanfiction author will make royalties from the published works, with the fanfiction author getting 35% of net revenue for works over 10,000 words. Shorter stories between 5,000 and 10,000 words will be priced at under a dollar, with authors getting 20% of net revenue.
A sweet deal, right? So whats the catch?
Basically, in exchange for profiting from existing characters, you’re also signing over the rights to any original elements in your stories. Though the Terms and Conditions state that you in fact do retain the copyright, it gives Amazon an exclusive license to your original work, a license that Amazon can trade with all manner of third parties at their discretion – say, for instance, TV or film optioners.
On top of that, it’s unlikely that you’ll be unable to profit from any original characters you introduce in your fanfiction in other non-fanfiction related works. And taboo subjects like pornography are out the window too.
Keep in mind that the now-massively-popular Fifty Shades of Grey series began life as Twilight fanfiction. Had author E L James had the opportunity to use Kindle Worlds back when she began writing her stories, she may well have passed over the rights to her original characters, now worth millions of dollars and courting Hollywood.
Proceed with caution!