Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amazon to launch fanfiction platform

Fan fic on the kindle? Critics of the idea of "pulled to publish" fanfiction will probably have a lot to say about this.

Recently Amazon announced that they're opening up a new publishing platform Kindle Worlds. The platform would enable fanfiction authors to publish their works for a profit without having to actually change anything in the works themselves, supposedly. All with the approval of the publisher/company that owns the rights to the books or shows in question. Of course the author won't get the lion's share of the money charged per book. Authors of longer works (10,000+ words) will receive 35% of the price for their books while ones who have written less than 10,000 words will only get 20%. According to Entertainment Weekly, the pricing will be between 99 cents and $3.99.

So far only one company has decided to play ball with this new format, Warner Bros, and only for three very  specific book turned television show series: Gossip Girls, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. This limits the amount of fanfiction that can be published, as not everyone wants to write fanfiction for these shows, but it'd be interesting to see if any other companies would come aboard if this does well.

There isn't a set time as to when this will drop, but I'm of mixed emotions about this. There's no doubt that some fanfiction authors work very, very hard at what they do and put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their specific works stick to canon or if not, would read as believable to their audience. Part of me thinks that there's nothing wrong with rewarding them by giving them money in a format that has the approval of the official copyright holders.

Then again, part of me is a little antsy about this because for some reason this just seems a little well, wrong. One of the core things about fanfiction is that it's written by fans, for fans for free. Technically there's nothing against the law about charging for fanfiction if the publisher has signed up for fanfics to specifically be published for profit. I can't even say anything about the very real inevitability about someone putting out a work that's not even worth ten cents, because we already get this with both self-publishing and the mainstream publishing world.

So I can't quite put my finger on why this bothers me so much. Maybe there's just a worry about this going from someone exploring their love for a show/book/movie to where it turns solely into something they're doing for profit. Or maybe I'm just afraid that people will only publish fanfiction and not create their own worlds. Both are possibilities, but the second has always been a fear for fanfiction and the first is something that goes on in the publishing world already. How many times have we seen authors pump out garbage because they know it'd be a guaranteed sell because of name recognition? Neither are really feasible reasons to not publish fanfiction for profit because that'd be punishing a lot of authors who either aren't interested in putting out non-fanfiction work and/or have no interest in actually getting rich-rich off their work. (But don't mind getting a little money.)

Or perhaps I'm afraid that this might be a way for publishers and companies to start actively cracking down on fanfiction authors. I haven't heard of any whisper of censorship for the works, but it's a possibility. It's well within a publisher's right to request that certain things not be published under their banner, although I will admit that I doubt that they'd refuse to publish things such as slash fanfiction. I can't even say that the publishers can now go after people who aren't publishing under their banner, because that would probably take more money and time than it'd be worth- although it'd be interesting to see if Warner Bros would seek for to remove fanfiction for the three shows mentioned above.

I guess all we can do is just wait and see.

Further Reading:
*Amazon to launch fanfiction platform (Entertainment Weekly)
*Amazon to allow e-book fan fiction sales in US (BBC)

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