Fan-fiction -- amateur books and stories based on established authors' characters and worlds -- is a hugely popular pastime among people with too much time on their hands. Sites like Fanfiction.net regularly receive thousands of submissions a week ranging from Dr. Who/Transformers crossovers to the further adventures of Anne Frank (no really). Now, Amazon wants to pay fanfic writers to publish their derivative "creations" on the Kindle Store. That's right -- your Gossip Girl magnum opus is about to be legitimised.
Photo: Summit Entertainment
"Today, Amazon Publishing announces Kindle Worlds, 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," Amazon explained on its website.
"Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store."
Initially, Kindle Worlds submissions will be limited to the TV Shows Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries, with more fictional universes planning to join the fray in the coming months.
Amazon will pay royalties to both the fan-fiction author and the rights holder of the work that the story is based on. Authors will receive 35 per cent of net revenue for works over 10,000 words.
There's also an opportunity for lazy writers, with "short works" (between 5000 and 10,000 words) netting 20 percent in net revenue. Rights holders, meanwhile, we receive the same amount in digital royalties, which will be paid on a monthly basis.
Before you go nuts though, there are quite a few stipulations in place that you need to be aware of. Firstly, no cross-overs are allowed, which means you can't toss Edward Cullen from Twilight into Vampire Diaries or have Carrie Bradshaw hang out with the cast from Gossip Girl. Pornographic content is also forbidden, which basically knocks out 90 per cent of existing fan fiction.
However, the main caveat to be mindful of is as follows:
When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story.
In other words, any additional characters or plot devices you create will belong to Amazon to use as it sees fit. This seems like a huge price to pay for a bit of ebook revenue. The phenomenally successful 50 Shades Of Grey series actually started out life as Twilight fan fiction -- if the author had gone down the Amazon Worlds route she wouldn't have seen a dime outside of the 35% net revenue. Food for thought.
It's also worth noting that many authors are outspokenly against fan fiction, including Game of Thrones creator George R R Martin. If you've caught the writing bug, our advice would be to focus on building your own characters and worlds. Or if you're writing in the fantasy genre, just change all the character and place names once you've finished -- nobody will be able to tell.
You can find out more about the service at the official Kindle Worlds website.