As described by The Guardian’s Alison Flood, Amazon announced yesterday that it had secured licences for the bestselling Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar, for Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars and for LJ Smith's Vampire Diaries from Alloy Entertainment. The licences will allow fans to publish authorised stories set in the different fictional universes as ebooks for the Kindle, with royalties paid to both the original author and the fan fictioneer.
According to Christian Science Monitor’s Husna Haq, Kindle Worlds will officially launch in June with more than 50 commissioned works from authors like Barbara Freethy, John Everson, and Colleen Thompson, according to Amazon. Amazon Publishing will set the price for the works, with most priced at $0.99 to $3.99.
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However, as The Guardian’s Mathilda Gregory observed, the royalty offered is a lot less than Amazon's normal cut for other self-published authors who use their own characters. Franchise owners will be getting a chunky cut and authors also won't own the copyright to their ideas. If the owners of the characters you play with produce something similar and earn squillions, you'll apparently have no comeback, it seems.
Telegraph’s Catherine Scott wrote Even for writers who are happy to sign up to these conditions, there remains a major question. If E L James made a fortune from unlicensed fan fiction without having to cede any royalties to the original author, why would anyone voluntarily credit and pay the author if they do not have to? Fan fiction writers may prefer to sell their work independently of Amazon, and simply gamble on the assumption that the original author won’t take legal action.
In the Toronto Star, Malene Arpe wrote Of course, one of the joys of fan fiction is the ability to play with the characters like little literary puppets. But once you step in into Kindle Worlds, there are strict guidelines to be adhered to. MSN was more blunt: But here comes the bad news — the fan fiction cannot include any sexually explicit material. Do they not know what fan fiction is?!
But, according to PC Magazine’s Chandra Steele, when asked if Fifty Shades of Grey would violate the "no pornography" clause, an Amazon spokesperson said, "Fifty Shades of Grey involves consensual sex between adults and does not violate our content guidelines." So how Amazon defines pornography is definitely somewhere outside the "I know it when I see it" dictum.
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Finally, though his blog is outside the usual scope of these roundups, several of these articles reference it, so I will too: John Scalzi laid out his initial response to Kindle Worlds in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts.