Do you enjoy glossy teen soaps based on bestselling book series, like Gossip Girl or The Vampire Diaries? If you do, you might be especially interested in the barrage of new content soon to be coming your way. Amazon has launched Kindle Worlds, a platform where writers can publish “official” fanfiction based on the original characters and fictional universes created by established authors.
So far, Amazon Publishing has acquired licenses to three immensely popular properties (Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries), and hopes to soon secure more. Under these licenses, writers will have the opportunity to make their fanfiction available to a wide audience, and earn up to 20% in digital royalties (significantly less than the amount offered to Kindle Direct Publishing authors who use their own characters).
Mathilda Gregory at The Guardian has commented that fanfiction worlds can range from the mildly transgressive to the outright bonkers, and “you can’t package up a place like that and sell it.” However, possibly in a bid to restrict controversial content, a wide range of strict rules will be imposed on the plucky pen-wielders who wish to make their own mark on their favourite franchises, going against the “anything goes” ethos of fan-created stories. Not to mention that fanfiction authors will not hold the copyright to their idea, meaning in theory, the original creator could swipe their concept and make a killing.
The debut of Kindle Worlds (which will also offer revenue opportunities to authors of short fiction) is the latest in a number of recent instances which have demonstrated the growing credibility of fanfiction. The bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy infamously started out as a piece of Twilight fanfic entitled Masters of the Universe before author E.L. James changed the names of her central characters. And literary novel The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which charts the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, has been referred to derisively as historical fanfiction – but that didn’t stop it winning the 2012 Orange Prize.
Increased visibility and legitimacy have no doubt influenced Amazon’s decision to showcase content written by fans, for fans. Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch is all for it: “If you want a near-bottomless supply of written content, fanfic is where it’s at.”