Amazon Expands Kindle Worlds Beyond Fanfic (Hint: Fanfic is Just the Smokescreen)
Amazon has just officially confirmed the story I broke last week.
They’re expanding Kindle Worlds beyond fanfic, and in addition to signing Blake Crouch and Barry Eisler they have also signed 2 other well-known authors and a publisher of graphic novels.
The publisher in question is Valiant, and they have licensed a number of series to Amazon including Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger, and Shadowman. The press release say they’re planning to add more later.
Amazon Publishing has also signed new licensing deals with Hugh Howey and Neal Stephenson. AP is looking to writers to contribute stories set in Howey’s Silo Saga and in Stephenson’s Foreworld Saga. (Are you familiar with a book called The Mongoliad? That’s the Foreworld Saga.) And of course I introduced Blake Crouch and Barry Eisler last week (two successful authors, with multiple bestselling novels and a tv series and a movie between them).
There’s not much in the press release today that I didn’t already report last week, but some of the half-truths are rather interesting. Amazon is trying to spin Kindle Worlds as an open program, when in reality it is closer to being one of their publishing imprints. For example:
Kindle Worlds is the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.
Yeah, that’s only half true. While any writer can create stories, they’ll only be paid if the story is accepted.
When Kindle Worlds was announced a few weeks ago, I took the position that Amazon had legitimized fanfic. One of my readers took an opposing view, and I think it’s worth repeating:
I draw a major distinction between what Amazon is doing and fanfiction. Fanfic is by definition not approved by the creators, it’s fiction in the same universe written by fans. What Amazon is offering is for self-published authors to submit their fanfiction to be approved by the rights holders and then be published – the exact same process that normal licenced works go through. Authors have always been able to do so without Amazon’s involvement, all they needed to do was contact the publisher or rights holder with their pitch (manuscript) and get approval.
So it’s not fanfiction publishing, it’s publishing licensed works.
If Amazon had a blanket licence that allowed anyone to publish in-universe fiction and make money off of it this would be different. But as it is this is simply another publisher getting into licensed works.
I don’t usually agree with flyingtoastr, but in this case I think he is right. That approval step changes this from being a fanfic free-for-all to simply being yet another licensing deal. Rather than bypass existing publishers and enable more writers to be paid, Amazon is setting themselves up to be a publisher.
That puts Kindle Worlds in the same category as Kindle Singles, Amazon’s other stealth foray into publishing. Kindle Singles is pitched as a type of content, but it is a publishing imprint in all but name. The same can be said for Kindle Worlds.
Edit: If you need more proof, go check out the Kindle Worlds page on Amazon.com. It has been updated to include quotes from 10 writers who are contributing to one KW property or another. Guess what? All have at least one novel under their belt, putting them a step above your average fanfic writer.
Of course, we probably should have figured that out from the very beginning. Kindle Worlds was built out of Amazon Publishing, not KDP, and that should have suggested that Amazon was thinking like a publisher, not a distributor.
Amazon Brings Disintermediation to the Tie-in Industry | The Digital Reader
Where Words Become Worlds | Hugh Howey
Q&A With Philip Patrick, Head of Kindle Worlds | The Heart of the Matter