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?