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OPLIN 4cast #342: Fan fiction gets real

Posted in 4cast

fanLast month, Amazon decided to try to make some money by legitimizing “fan fiction,” the growing trend for fans of a story or book series to write their own stories based on characters or settings of the original work. While there was some fan fiction written in the 1960s based on science fiction “worlds,” particularly Star Trek, the growth of fan fiction has been most closely tied to the growth of the World Wide Web, which makes it easier for fan fiction authors to gather together and distribute their work. If you’re wondering if Amazon’s monetized fan fiction will have much impact on libraries, just remember that Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan fiction.

  • Amazon wants to sell your fan fiction through Kindle Worlds (Bloomberg Businessweek/Olga Kharif “The company’s Kindle Worlds e-book venture […] is inviting amateur writers to develop novels and short stories inspired by the characters and back stories of the original works. Amazon is trying to tap into one of publishing’s hottest trends. Fanfic websites, as they’re known, include millions of aficionado-penned stories, many dating back well over a decade. One site,, offers nearly 650,000 stories about Harry Potter alone.”
  • Amazon steps into the cloistered world of super-fandom (Time/Lily Rothman) “Although a few famous authors (Anne Rice, for example) have been vocal in their disapproval of what they see as appropriation of their work, most rights-holders turn a blind eye or even encourage fan fiction, so long as it’s an act of love rather than a commercial venture. The legal questions behind fan fiction, or fanfic, are a gray area with no case law, but most fan writers believe it falls under the doctrine of ‘fair use,’ particularly when there’s no money involved.”
  • Amazon sets up system to trade on fan fiction (Ars Technica/Casey Johnston) “There do exist cases where fan-fiction is legal, such as when it is sufficiently transformative or a parody. Even so, those arguments do little to settle the temper of authors who feel their creations are being tread upon. Amazon plans to circumvent this issue by having a cadre of ‘World Licensors,’ rights-holders who effectively give permission to Amazon and other writers to create and profit from fanfic.”
  • Amazon launches Kindle Worlds store, its self service platform for fan fiction authors (ReadWrite/Dan Rowinski) “If you are a fan of the original ‘worlds’ that Amazon has made partnerships with, this type of authorized fan fiction could be of great entertainment. Otherwise, Kindle Worlds may be a little bit too far afield for most people. At the same time, it is an interesting concept in the world of publishing and something that has not really been done en masse before.”

Royalty Fact:
Amazon will pay Kindle Worlds fan fiction authors a 35% royalty if their work is at least 10,000 words; 20% if it’s shorter. The authors of the original works also get royalties.