Amazon Expands Kindle Worlds Beyond FanFic – Signs Authors Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch

Amazon Expands Kindle Worlds Beyond FanFic - Signs Authors Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch Amazon Publishing When Amazon launched Kindle Worlds a few weeks ago almost everyone (including yours truly) thought that it would have a disruptive effect on fanfic, but now it appears Amazon was thinking about how this would play out on a much larger stage.

Earlier this week I learned that Amazon had signed a couple heavy-hitter indie authors to Kindle Worlds, only not in the way you would expect. Blake Crouch and Barry Eisler aren't going to be writing the fanfic set in other people's universes; instead they will be inviting other writers to contribute stories set in worlds they have created.

These 2 authors are going to be the first authors to join Kindle Worlds and take on a role similar to that of the creators of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries.

Blake Crouch tweeted earlier this week that his horror novel Pines would soon join Kindle Worlds. If you're not familiar with the novel then you might not know that a pilot based on this novel was picked up by Fox with the title Wayward Pines. The series is scheduled to debut in 2014, starring Matt Dillon and produced by M Night Shyamalan.

Barry Eisler also tweeted earlier this week that one of his character, the Japanese-American assassin John Rain, would also soon be joining Kindle Worlds. John Rain is featured in no less than 7 novels (previously published by Signet, Onyx, Putnam), including one (Rain Fall) which Sony made into a movie in 2009.

As you can see from the couple paragraphs above, neither author is a lightweight. But I am also not sure that they should be referred to as indies - not when it comes to Kindle World. While these authors do have self-published novels on the market, they also have novels with publishers.

I don't have much in the way of details yet, but I did look into the authors and I discovered they have at least one detail in common. Both authors have at least one book with one of Amazon's publishing imprints.

Pines was published by Thomas & Mercer, and the last John Rain novel is also published by Thomas & Mercer.

Two successful authors, with a tv series and a movie between them, both published by Amazon, and both signing up with Kindle Worlds? Something tells me that is not a coincidence.

I don't have info yet about other authors published by Amazon deciding to sign up with Kindle Worlds, but I would not be surprised to find out that they have.

I would say that it is pretty clear now that Amazon had bigger plans for Kindle Worlds than fanfic. That was just the smokescreen; the real story is collaboration. Amazon doesn't just want to make money selling fanfic; they are also building a collaboration platform that has a larger goal.

Or at least that is what Kindle Worlds could become (one can dream); at this point it is neither a community, marketplace, nor a collaboration platform.

Update: I've changed my mind. I now think that Amazon is launching a new content licensing division. Fanfic is just a flashy, attention getting way to promote Kindle Worlds, but I suspect Amazon's real goal could be arranging deals for tie-in novels for TV series, movies, and video games. Sure, Kindle Worlds is focused on short content at the moment, but that doesn't mean the focus cannot be expanded.

Remember, Kindle Worlds is one of Amazon's publishing imprints (albeit one with better than average royalties).

Kindle Worlds is currently being run by Amazon Publishing and not as an independent program. Anyone who signs up (either as a creator or a collaborator) is effectively signing a contract with a publisher. Amazon gets the exclusive publishing rights to the stories, and since there is no mention yet of reversion clauses Amazon more or less gets to keep publishing the stories forever.

It's a pity Amazon didn't decide to build Kindle Worlds out of KDP instead of Amazon Publishing; I would much prefer to see the original creator retain more control. Then KW might have a chance to grow into a real community or collaboration platform, whereas in its current state Kindle Worlds is just another publishing imprint for Amazon.

Do you suppose that Amazon used fanfic and collaboration as 2 layers of the onion (to disguise the publishing contract underneath), or do you think they might eventually open up the platform?

P.S. You can find more detail on the Kindle World page on Amazon.com. And here is a good analysis of the contract terms.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

19 Comments

  1. fjtorres14 June, 2013

    Casting Kindle Worlds as a fanfic channel is looking at it backwards.
    It is about about the licensing.
    IP Licensing used to be something you needed at least an agent and most often a BPH.
    No more.
    This is just another step in erroding the traditional prerrogatives of the glass tower publishers and their gatekeeping power.
    This is just the beginning.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

      Eh. I’m not yet convinced that Kindle Worlds is going to erode anything. So long as Amazon Publishing is involved all that is happening is that one publisher has been swapped for another.

      Reply
      1. fjtorres14 June, 2013

        Compare the terms of going through Kindle Worlds and through a BPH.
        And, remember, Kindle Worlds are crowdsourcing, not going through the establishment.
        Finally, the BPHs tend to put limits on how many books they issue, how often.
        With Kindle worlds there is nothing to stop them from getting new volumes out weekly if they choose to.

        Reply
        1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

          1, The only difference (besides more money) is that the collaborating author doesn’t have to completely give up their copyright, but they still lose control of it including any character they invent. That’s not a big difference.

          2, KW is set up to be the new establishment, so they’re not actually bypassing anything.

          3, You don’t know for sure that there won’t be limitations on volume. Remember, this is handled via Amazon Publishing, not via KDP. That suggests that the content will be published and not simply distributed.

          BTW, flyingtoastr came damn close to predicting everything we’ve seen so far. His comments on the original posts pointed out that KW was a licensing deal, not a fanfic free for all, and not really anything new.

          Reply
  2. Fbone14 June, 2013

    And Amazon controls the copyright for the entire Life+70.

    Reply
    1. Thomas14 June, 2013

      Which is pretty much the same as for someone writing a novel in a licensed property for a big publisher. It’s not like the guys who write Star Trek novels retain copyright.

      Reply
      1. Kay Iscah20 June, 2013

        Well said, but I think a lot of fan fiction authors will be confused by this point. My hesitation is that “Amazon” will retain the rights as opposed to the franchise owner. That’s a weird thing for a publisher to do. It’s fishy.

        I still think it may help some writers get their names out there. I’m keeping an eye on what franchises will be available to see if I think I could write an engaging story for any of them. But I’d be doing it mainly to help draw attention to my original work… so I’d want something not too distant genre/tone wise. Horror and assassins are probably out.

        Reply
  3. David14 June, 2013

    They’ve also both collaborated with Joe Konrath. Maybe he’s the secret master of Kindle Worlds!

    Reply
  4. Heather14 June, 2013

    Jeese. THAT’S really sad.

    I’m a bit behind on all this ebook stuff and had not realize “50 shades of Grey” had a fanfic fanbase, that, to me, pretty much, guaranteed that book doing well. When I heard of the Amazon fanfic idea I was a bit fuzzy as to why they’d done it; then I realized what “50 Shades” fanbase originated from and went wow!

    And you say all these kids will sign up to Kindle Worlds and immediately be signing a contract with Amazon Publishing?

    Man O man.

    I really don’t like Amazon.

    Heather
    wordwan

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

      Pretty much.

      Reply
  5. Thomas14 June, 2013

    It isn’t really a new idea for an author to open up a series like this. Eric Flint did the same thing to his 1632 series years ago. He’s published an electronic magazine (48 issues so far) as well as several print books through Baen Books.

    I doubt anyone would be freaking out about this if it weren’t being done through Amazon.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

      It’s not new, no. I mentioned 1632-verse in my original post about Kindle Worlds.

      But it is newsworthy that Amazon has explicitly turned Kindle Worlds into their own publishing imprint.

      Reply
      1. Heather14 June, 2013

        And you KNOW there will be a backlash of kids who did not realize they were signing their rights away the moment they hit “I agree” to the TOS.

        I like the collaborative concept you have floating through the midst of this though. As horrible as signing away your work sounds, if one were to focus on the fanfic community aspect of Kindle Worlds, you MIGHT just see a lot of really talented writers being found.

        That would be nice. I just wish it didn’t come with that PublishAmerica “we own your work for seven years” kinda tang.

        Don’t any of the good guys have businesses? Where do all the good guys go?

        Heather, not naive about the business world

        Reply
        1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

          I got the idea from Tobias Buckell:
          http://the-digital-reader.com/2013/05/24/amazon-brings-disintermediation-to-the-tie-in-industry/

          I like it a lot, although I’m not sure Amazon is planning to head in that direction.

          Reply
          1. Heather14 June, 2013

            Yanno, maybe I should stop worrying about what Amazon is doing wrong and just spin better ideas BASED on the feedback I hear. Especially from people like you. Your comments are very instructive.

            Thank you.

            Heather
            wordwan

            Reply
  6. Angela Booth14 June, 2013

    Interesting. It doesn’t seem to be as much about collaboration as it does about crowdsourcing, and social interaction. AND of course, Amazon promoting the books of Blake Crouch and Barry Eisler.

    “50 Shades” started out as Twilight fan fiction and then made millions.

    Maybe Amazon’s thinking that they can get in on the ground floor of the next five or ten or one hundred bestsellers a la “50 Shades”.

    I don’t know anything about fan fiction (and don’t want to know — the entire concept makes me cringe), but it’s hugely popular. Kindle Worlds seems to be Amazon taking something that’s happening anyway, and aiming to monetize it. Just like Google monetizes everyone’s content all over the Web…

    Re cringing. I HATE all the Jane Austen fan fiction that’s published — endless books building on Jane’s world.

    Kindle Worlds looks like a lot more of the same.

    (Shudder.)

    Reply
  7. Tom Semple14 June, 2013

    The movie based on Barry Eisler’s novel was called “Rain Fall (2009)” (Eisler renamed the novel “A Clean Kill In Tokyo”, as he explains on his Author page on Amazon). The movie “Hard Rain (1998)” is entirely another creation. Most of his Kindle editions are in Prime Lending Library, all for $3.99 or less.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder14 June, 2013

      Thanks for the fact check.

      Reply
    2. Rob Siders14 June, 2013

      The movie version of Rain Fall was released to theaters only in Japan. It’s since been released on DVD and available for streaming here in the US (with subtitles).

      Reply

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