Earlier this week Amazon launched a new platform to publish fanfic. It's called Kindle Worlds, and while at first glance it appears to be aimed at creating a market for fanfic SF author Tobias Buckell thinks Amazon could have :
Interesting, everyone is responding to this as a way to monetize fan fiction, but that’s slightly off. It’s really a way for Amazon to disintermediate media tie in novels, where packagers and publishers approach authors to write in an established media universe.
Amazon is using some elements of fan fiction to do an end run around the existing publishing structure of it.
As such, I think it’s probably more worrying to tie in writers and publishers than fan fiction writers and other writers. Another disruption.
I think he could be correct. When I wrote about Kindle Worlds I described it as Amazon's attempt to disrupt publishing, and that is usually a safe guess for anything new that Amazon does in relation to books.
But I didn't quite correctly identify how Amazon would disrupt publishing. The detail I missed and that Buckell caught was how Amazon might use Kindle Worlds. This is entirely different from the stated purpose of producing fanfic.
Amazon is setting up Kindle Worlds so it will render the in-house publishing depts (like Alloy Entertainment, its first partner) redundant. Once Kindle Worlds gets up and running movie studios and tv production companies won't need to deal with publishers anymore. They'll be able to deal directly with Amazon to have tie-in novels written and released.
If you look at two of the largest sources of tie-in novel it starts to make a lot of sense.
Disney currently has a contract with Del Rey and Dark Horse to produce Star Wars novels, while CBS uses S&S to produce Star Trek novels. I think these media giants would definitely be interested in cutting out the publisher middleman and making more money, don't you? (S&S and Star Trek are both owned by CBS, but that's no guarantee that CBS wouldn't outsource the Star Trek tie-in novels if they could make more money.)
And it's not just the tie-in novels that could gain from this. Authors who have been thinking about inviting others to write in their universe might also end up signing with Kindle Worlds. Buckell goes on to add that:
As for myself, I’ve spoken on a couple podcasts about my desire to open the Xenowealth world after my fifth book. So far it looks like Amazon is trying to control this whole thing, it’s not quite as ‘open’ as I’d like. I’m struggling to see the mechanism where I could go on there and say ‘the Xenowealth is an open IP, here’s how to come in and start writing for it’ and split the royalties, play around.’ So I’m still not sure of how I’d build the Xenowealth opening up. I had been thinking about registering a website, with links to existing Xenowealth stuff, creating a wiki, and then investing some money in buying some stories from people who submitted (similar to what Eric Flint does for one of his own universes).
If Amazon created a mechanism for my simplifying that (by saying we split the royalties), I’d be very interested.
It might be too early to say, but I think Amazon has already created that mechanism. I would bet that Amazon isn't the one exercising editorial control over the fanfic published via Kindle Worlds; I think it's much more likely that the original copyright holder gets to pick which stories get published. The latter party is much more interested in getting the stories right and making sure they fit into canon, while Amazon just wants to make a buck.
But even if that's not how Kindle Worlds is set up right now, changing the permissions structure shouldn't be that hard.
That is far more disruptive than expected, wasn't it?