Commercialization of Fans

  • OTW Fannews: Everyone wants the fan market

    By Claudia Rebaza on Thursday, 12 September 2013 - 4:45pm
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    • Publisher Random House launched Suvudu Universe, a community generated content site. Writer Justin Landon explained what a bad deal it is. "Here’s how Suvudu Universe works. The content creator signs up to be a part of the program, ‘subscribing’ their RSS feed to Suvudu Universe. If the content creator wants to share it with Suvudu Universe there merely tag the post 'Suvudu'. The 'editors' review that content and assuming it meets their criteria they repost it to the Suvudu Universe feed." The rights to that work though? Not only do contributors have no right to be paid, they grant a wide range of rights to Random House in perpetuity. "What Suvudu Universe is offering is no different than the underhanded rights grab Random House attempted as part of their eBook only imprints."
    • Negotiating rights for fanwork often doesn't turn out well. "When is a fan page not a fan page? When it's a Facebook page caught in a battle between its fan creator and a corporation desperate to turn it 'official.' That's the story behind BET's attempted acquisition of a Facebook page for its series The Game. The ongoing contest between the corporation and the Facebook page's creator, Stacey Mattocks, culminated in a lawsuit...Mattocks claims the struggle for control eventually resulted in a takedown notice from the site because she wouldn't allow BET to wrest the page away from her."
    • The YouTube site Machinima "wants to raise $80 million to create an online video subscription service" further monetizing machinima content. "'The fanboy viewer is crazy, engaged and ravenous,' Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise told Reuters in an interview. 'We intend to raise capital to be a company in the spirit of HBO and AMC, but in an over-the-top world,' he said. 'Over-the-top' refers to viewers who watch TV shows online, bypassing traditional cable or satellite services."
    • A press release on PR Web announced that LiveLuvCreate Inc Adds Fan Fiction Facility to Site. "Specialist image creation website, LiveLuvCreate Inc, is now offering its website visitors with another means of expression after adding a fan fiction section to the site. The new facility has proven extremely popular, with more than one thousand fan fiction additions being made to the site in the space of just one week."

    What fan marketing or property rights stories have you come across? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Fanfic and publishing models

    By Claudia Rebaza on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 - 6:07pm
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    • Digital Book World examined the motivations for including Kurt Vonnegut in the Kindle Worlds program and concluded that fanfiction = marketing. "The backlist works of iconic authors fundamentally need exposure and marketing. That’s how fans of one book choose to read others by the author, and how new readers discover the work. The marketing budgets of large, traditional publishers are overwhelmingly focused on their frontlist offerings, so the backlist is forced to 'sell itself.' This is not the practice of the movie, music or textbook business, but it is the practice of trade publishers."
    • OTW legal staffer Rebecca Tushnet also addressed Kindle Worlds in an article on Airship Daily. “Amazon’s doing an experiment, and the good thing about not paying advances is there's not a huge amount of overheads,” she explains. Groups like OTW are pushing back at Amazon’s exploitation of their genre. “It’s just another business model representing another way of Mechanical Turk-ization the world of literature."
    • Fast Company had an interview with Philip Patrick, director of business development and publisher of Kindle Worlds, who claimed Amazon wanted fanfic of properties that were already selling well on its site. Asked what "makes one author’s work more 'fan fic-able' than another?" he replied "Really it comes down to great storytelling, compelling characters, and vibrant geographies that writers are excited to explore. Some Worlds are more current or popular than others, of course, but there are many iconographic works and characters that Kindle Worlds writers are going to love, like Billy Pilgrim."
    • A writer at the Huffington Post described what may be the new reader pattern: Finished Your Favorite Book/Show? Try Fan Fiction. "Despite stereotypes to the contrary, fan fictions can be quite entertaining and of very high quality. It is not uncommon for fan fictions to be better than their source material. Continuity and fluctuations in tone are less of an issue with fan fiction than you might imagine. Consider that your favorite TV Shows are written by a large, revolving group of writers. The multiwriter nature of TV Shows makes many works of fan fiction seem perfectly at home within the rest of a series. In many cases, the only difference between a fan fiction and a canonical manifestation of a fictional universe lies in its creators' willingness to pay for official rights to the brand."

    What stories about fanfic and publishing do you know of? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Who's claiming fanworks?

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 23 August 2013 - 7:03pm
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    • Momentum Books covered the usual concerns about authorship in the fanfic age. But they also cited the case of "Jordin B. Williams’ novel Amazingly Broken that has sparked accusations of intense plagiarism of multiple best sellers, identity fraud, and all-round skullduggery when it came to promoting the book. Readers were furious to find Williams’ book had directly plagiarised large passages from other authors of a similar genre, and the author has since been confusingly linked to a previous fanfiction story with a duplicate plotline...Perhaps these examples are a cautionary tale for aspiring authors looking to utilise online communities, or a warning to publishers to be wary of unknown writers."
    • Who owns fanworks may become a controversial topic, especially if media properties distribute it without saying if they got permission to do so. Collaborative writing projects have been online for a long time with open-source characters. These days successful projects may be closer than ever to fan-created works. Projects such as Wikia's collaborative writing offer is deliberately asking for fan participation. But there's no discussion of contributor rights in their announcement, or what agreements fans might have to sign.
    • Fanfic's ability to generate money is creating more open discussion about a project's fannish roots. But as this post at Today.com (which quotes TWC editor Karen Hellekson) mentions, who will benefit the most from this openness is still unknown. Says Henry Jenkins, "'The gender politics are very real here. The majority of fan fiction is written by women who are telling stories that don’t reach the public, because Hollywood has a hard time telling stories about women's lives.' He hopes that Amazon has women on its Kindle Worlds advisory board who understand the role women play in creating fan fiction 'or they’ll get serious pushback.'"

    What ownership disagreements have you seen surrounding fanworks? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Post-Kindle Worlds Writing

    By Claudia Rebaza on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 7:29pm
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    • Amazon's move into fanfiction has launched more than one exploration of "what it all means." Time Magazine summed it up with "Amazon Steps Into the Cloistered World of Super-Fandom". "[F]or professional writers, getting in on it from the beginning makes economic sense, says author Barry Eisler, whose John Rain novels are part of the program. 'Some people just do not like the feeling of other people writing stories with the characters they created,' he says. ;Publishing for me is a business, not an ideology. When I sold the Bulgarian rights to my book, I was very excited to sell them—and this is just another subsidiary rights offer.'" OTW Board member Kristen Murphy "points out that this isn’t the first time a non-fan organization has stepped in to try to turn fan devotion into a business. 'I think a lot of fans are very suspicious of what looks like attempts by outsiders to come in and commodify the community and make money off of us,' she says. 'There’s always going to be, I think, some of that suspicion.'"
    • In Publishing Perspectives Anna von Veh discusses how Amazon's move is disappointing for everyone. "Kindle Worlds and the form of the ebook itself fulfills a gatekeeper role for the World licensors, rather than being also an online vehicle for writing, reading and building community for the fans, which is what one might have expected of a fanfiction-based publishing venture." Pointing out the importance of community, she adds "[O]nline writing sites, even the most basic, enable and enhance one of the most important aspects of a fandom: the sense of belonging, of community, created through the opportunities for immediate and direct interaction and feedback with readers and followers" and "also provides the means for writers to include all sorts of external pop and culture references, and hyperlinks, which can be managed by even an amateur techie."
    • The importance of the online community is cited by many a fanfic author turned pro, exactly the people Kindle Worlds is meant to attract. Writer Carolynn Gockel mentioned this advantage and more in her post "How Fanfiction Made Me a Better Author." "In the process I made fans, and more importantly, made fans who enjoyed my work but could be honest and critical. They helped me keep my characters true and my stories humming along...I would argue that my work which combines action, romance, fantasy and science fiction might have been hard to find a writers group for. By writing fanfiction in my chosen genres–sci-fi and fantasy–I was able to meet like minds." What's more, she was able to track the responses of readers to stories in progress. "I can see how many people are reading my stories, what stories they’re reading, what chapters in the stories perked their interests, and when I let them down. I can tell which stories are well read, but aren’t getting a lot of reviews...People who don’t review still buy stories."

    What do you expect to see in fanfiction post-Kindle Worlds? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Cultural objects

    By Cynthia on Sunday, 23 June 2013 - 6:32pm
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    • The Barnard Center for Research on Women's blog proposed feminist remixes as the next step to combating negative media representations. "Through our studies, work, and activism, many of us have learned to be critical of these images, to deconstruct them in order to understand the assumptions and messages behind them." Remixes can then create something new out of the deconstructed work. Emeritus OTW Board member Francesca Coppa teamed with Elisa Kreisenger to present at this year’s Utopia conference. "Kreisinger encouraged Utopia attendees to try their own hand at remixing as a way to take back their identities from corporate commoditization and depict women in ways that do not revolve around heteronormative relationships and procreation. Her mantra and advice to fellow feminists: 'Don’t blame the media, become the media.'"
    • The U.S. Department of Defense site Armed With Science wrote about how fandom objects are also historical markers. "From the swirls and statues of the ancient world, to the banners of the mid-evil armies, to the crests of colleges and sports teams, to iconic superhero emblems, to even the branding of large companies, humanity is filled with identifiable signs that mark the trail through our history." Discussing the impact of Star Trek in culture, the post cites how its creations "are often seen as agents of scientific and social change."
    • While some fandoms like Bronies don't lack for people willing to step forward and declare their allegiance, many in furry fandom reacted poorly to media presence at Furlandia. "Attendees started to wonder what was going on when production teams and cameras began to show up. It didn’t take long for someone to announce that MTV had arrived. According to the PR director, an announcement had been made at opening ceremonies; no written notification had been given." In comments to the post, one reader pointed out "From a television producer's point of view, furries really are a nightmare scenario" because "you have a producer who's expected to get exciting footage trying to get said exciting footage from a group of hard-to-find, reluctant, camera-shy people who may only agree under very specific and limiting conditions (which almost ensure that nothing crazy will happen), all the while letting you know that they will be scrutinizing your every movement and most likely hate anything you say about them." The poster concluded that "if a good documentary about furries is going to come from somewhere, it's going to come from within the fandom, and it's probably going to be targeted toward furries (it just won't have the appeal or the resources to make it to the mass public)."

    What fandom objects do you think will have an impact on general culture? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Project spaces

    By Claudia Rebaza on Thursday, 20 June 2013 - 8:56pm
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    • In the post Fandom as Inhabitation of Negative Space, Tumblr blogger Saathi 1013 addressed the common question "Why don’t fanficcers write original stories instead of fanfic?” She uses the poetic concept of enjambment to explain the differences in thinking between fanfic and original writing. "[O]ne of the cool things about enjambment is that the break is...essentially a half-second of playing conceptual mad libs before your eye tracks to the next line and you finish the sentence...the way the author wants you to. But the thing is, good poets build that moment of unknowing into the meaning of the poem...It’s not just a pause for breath or for emphasis, but it can also be the thing that gives room for the poem to do something special: to ignite from the essential spark of the reader’s imagination, to turn and twist like a living thing, never the same twice."
    • Boston Metro's take on fanfiction was decidedly different, as it described an Erotic Fan Fiction competition. "The thing is, though, that while we’re sure a fair amount of this particular type of literature is penned by pasty, 50-year-old virgins, typing sweatily and furiously in their parents basements at 3 a.m., fan fiction can also be mined for comedic gold. That’s the idea behind comedian Bryan Murphy’s Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, a monthly comedy show (soon to be made into a podcast) he’s hosted for the past two-odd years at the Nerdist Theatre in San Francisco. The premise: eight comics write — and read aloud — short pieces of erotic fan fiction based either upon their own fancy or audience suggestions. The audience decides who has written the most titillating — or just plain absurd — story by a show of applause."
    • The fan practice of remixing TV content to filter out specific storylines is presumably only as racy as its original content, but it was upsetting to at least some creators, regardless. "Mr. Lindelof, who was aware of Mr. Maloney’s chronological re-edit of “Lost,” said he could not quite bring himself to watch it, even if he appreciated the impulses that led to its creation. 'I totally embrace the experiment,' Mr. Lindelof said. 'But part of me feels like, oh my God, if it actually works better in chronological order, what does that say about me?'"
    • Twin Peaks is a show some might say could benefit from plot clarification, but The USA Today instead gave a nod to its fandom's Welcome to Twin Peaks photo project "in which fans submit pics that combine the iconic image from the series' opening credits with a road/scene in their town."

    What's your take on fannish creations? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Pushback on Kindle Worlds

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 8 June 2013 - 5:53pm
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    • The first wave of Kindle Worlds press coverage mostly quoted from Amazon's press release with a few reaction links. Follow-up articles proved to be more critical and more aware of fannish perspective. The Millions asked Will Kindle Worlds Commodify Fan Fiction?. "It is fitting, perhaps, that the same week as the Yahoo/Tumblr acquisition, Amazon announced a project entitled 'Kindle Worlds.' It feels like more of a broader trend than a coincidence, because the Kindle Worlds endeavor is about an organization inserting itself from the top down. 'Worlds,' we learn, are Amazon-ese for fandoms."

      By contrast "There is an enormously freeing diversity in the world of fan fiction. I don’t mean that the writers are diverse — they are mostly female, and surely there must be socioeconomic implications in the ability to sustain such a hobby...The possibilities spin off into exponentially increasing permutations, spurring weird stuff and beautiful stuff, quite often fiction that’s better written than the source material that inspired it, creating fandoms that are so broad and varied and encompassing that a person can usually find whatever they’re seeking within. If not, well, that person may as well just write it herself. If that’s not the most accurate reflection of the rest of the internet — the organic, cultivated internet, grown from the bottom up, with no contracts, no exchanges of cash — then I don’t know what is."

    • The Guardian again tackled the topic, this time declaring How Kindle Worlds aims to colonise fan fiction The "colonization" term seemed deliberately chosen. "Fan fiction writers are, first and foremost, fans: passionate ones, sophisticated ones, and knowledgable about the culture they're writing for and about. And while Amazon's not-very-exciting payment terms might entice a few into the professional fold, many more will continue to write whatever they like online for the joy and social prestige of the thing itself. Nevertheless, the attempted legalisation and professionalisation of one of the weirder and most enjoyable subcultures of the internet marks a significant moment in the history of networked literature."
    • Publishers Melville House decided to tackle the announcement in fanfiction form. "Jeff looked up from his arm screen to find that Damon had leaned in close enough that he could smell the cool death on his breath. 'Glad to see you’re up to your usual business, Jeff—taking a happy and vibrant community and doling out a pittance to exploit and corrupt it.' He placed his long-fingered hand on Jeff’s chest. Jeff heard himself whimper quietly from somewhere beyond his control. 'And what about content, Jeff? I assume there are restrictions? You have to take the fun out of it somehow.'"
    • Geek Empire noted Amazon's true target, professional writers. "In that regard, Kindle Worlds resembles nothing so much as another Amazon service, Mechanical Turk. There, business and developers commission small, iterative tasks that users can perform, often for remuneration as low as a penny. As Amazon would have it, Mechanical Turk gives businesses a “scalable workforce”—to which one might add, a workforce that is cheap and inherently disposable . That’s what Warner Bros. has gotten in exchange for the license to use its characters: a virtually free and disposable workforce."
    • Investing site Motley Fool hosted a post which noted that the move was a way to create a longer revenue stream for content owners. "Partnering with Amazon in its fan fiction program would not only help media companies, which are looking for ways to promote their television shows and movies, but it would also help laggard book publishers such as Scholastic, which need new ways to profit from concluded franchises."
    • An article in Chicago Grid reminded people that books aren't all Amazon may be after. "And do remember that Amazon also has a TV production studio. The language on the Kindle Worlds page that describes the relationship between a Kindle Worlds author and Amazon is conversational; I’m certain that authors will be required to click through something more obtuse and comprehensive when the program goes live next month. But as-is, we can’t dismiss the possibility that Amazon (and its first-look production partner…yes, Warner Studios) is buying worldwide rights to exploit the author’s work across all media for the life of the copyright, for nothing more than the possibility of royalties for the ebook."
    • A post at Tosche Station poked at all the problematic possibilities in Amazon's announcement -- such as rights granted upon submission, not acceptance, no legal protection if there's infringement of non-partner brands, and "The net revenue is based off the customer sales price, not the wholesale price, which tends to be less. That seems okay, doesn’t it? It does until you read this: 'Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories.' Hm. So that means that your royalties and revenue could change in an instant, depending on how Amazon decides to price your story–and keep in mind, Amazon could decide to price it at zero, depending on how your contract is written."
    • Another fannish blogger noted the problem with shared universes among fans -- who really owns fanon? "Lastly, what about plagiarism between Fan Fictions? Fan Fiction writers inside of fandoms can and will borrow from each other. Sometimes an idea is so great that one person reads it in a Fan Fiction, thinks it’s actually canon that they missed, and puts it in their story. I’m guilty of that because the idea that Tycho Celchu was talking to his fiance when Alderaan was destroyed was a beautiful idea and I honestly thought it was canon. When I asked the writer, they also had thought it was canon then realized it wasn’t and unfortunately I was never able to trace back to the person with the original idea. But at least in Fan Fiction, it’s free and we can call enough other out on it without needing legal recourse. Now that we start making money off of the ideas? Oh boy…"
    • The UK's Metro covered the bases with the pros and cons of fanfic as well as where best to publish it. "Tastes may be changing – Justin Bieber and The Hunger Games have made way for One Direction and Star Trek in the past year or so – but demand remains high – fanfic story uploads to the site [Wattpad] have increased by 60 per cent from 2012 to 2013, and this year is only five months old...The other issue is control –- [novelist Sheenagh] Pugh suspects that better writers will opt out to preserve theirs, particularly as Amazon would take ownership of their ideas. ‘I don’t think the best of fic will find its way on to Kindle Worlds,’ she said. ‘If the standard does prove to be low, that in itself will put off writers who care about their work, in the same way that they often won’t put their work on the FanFiction.net website because of its reputation for hosting acres of rubbish.’"
    • The Daily Dot also took note of the varied volume of content among fandom sites. "However, there is also the possibility that Kindle Worlds is aimed at a new generation of fans—ones who are growing up with the assumption that it’s completely reasonable to want payment for your fanfic. While popular Tumblr-based fandoms range from crime shows to young adult novels, and participants range in in age from 12 to 60, many are simply unaware of the seething underbelly of Wattpad-style fanfiction. On Wattpad, a One Direction fic written by a middle-schooler can receive upwards of a million hits. The fiction on traditional sites like Archive of our Own may be more tightly written, but the most popular story there only boasts a measly 360,000 hits. The question is, will the mostly teenage Wattpad audience have enough interest to pay for fanfic when you can already read ten stories on your smartphone every day, for free?"
    • At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky uses comic fandom to suggest that there's little difference between official tie-in works and fanworks. He asks "In terms of creative process and in terms of audience, does it really matter all that much if you're writing about Kirk and Spock's new adventures for free or for profit?" Then he dismisses one obvious difference with "Admittedly there's not a whole lot of gay sex in super-hero comics... but that seems more like a genre distinction than an existential one." Instead he suggests "If "fan fic" was the name of a genre and a community, it can now be the name of a marketing campaign and a marketing demographic. You could even say that Amazon is turning the term "fan fiction" into fan fiction itself, lifting it from its original context and giving it a new purpose and a new narrative, related to the original but not beholden to it. Dreams come out of the corporation and go back to the corporation, fungibly circulating. Your brain is just another medium of exchange."

    What other discussions have you seen about Kindle Worlds? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • What Fans Should Know About Amazon's Kindle Worlds Program

    By Curtis Jefferson on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 5:39pm
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    There's been a lot of talk about Kindle Worlds lately, and the OTW has received some questions about its legal implications. The OTW has long maintained that noncommercial fan fiction is fair use, and Amazon's new program does not change that in any way. It also doesn't change anything about the AO3's continued mission to provide a permanent platform for noncommercial fan fiction. (And don't forget, works on the AO3 are readable on the Kindle and other handheld platforms.)

    So should fan writers put their works on Kindle Worlds? That is, of course, up to you. We believe that every author should make up their own mind about whether they want to publish their work on a particular platform. However, we also believe that every person should have a full understanding of the terms they are agreeing to by doing so. We've reviewed the information Amazon has made available to date, and have tried to explain the practical implications in this post.

    In the professional publishing world, the terms of the contracts (agreements) between authors and publishers are heavily negotiated by the authors' agents. It appears that Amazon expects to use a "one size fits all" contract for Kindle Worlds. They haven't yet made that full contract available for potential submitters to read. But here are some terms of the Kindle Worlds contract that are mentioned on their page of which you should be aware:

    • "Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to the rights holder for the World (we call them World Licensors) and to you."

      This means that whoever holds the copyright to the underlying work will be making money off your stories, as well. How much? We don't know.

    • "Your standard royalty rate for works of at least 10,000 words will be 35% of net revenue."

      The key phrase to be aware of here is "net revenue." This means that your royalty will not be calculated on the price of the book (so, for a $1 book, 35 cents a copy), but rather on whatever's left after all of Amazon's costs, which are undefined, are accounted for. Depending on how aggressively Amazon defines its costs—and Hollywood, for example, is famous for calculating them very aggressively—that could mean you get little to nothing.

    • "Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright."

      This appears to be intended to be an exclusive license on all forms of the story.

      What does "exclusive license" mean in this context? It means that no one else can make any other use of the story—including, quite possibly, you yourself. For that reason, it likely means that Amazon wouldn't let you include your story in both Kindle Worlds and a fandom site.

      Why does "all rights" matter? Well, what if Amazon likes the story and wants to commission a graphic novel adaptation of it? This language implies that they can do so…without any additional payments to you.

      Also, "for the term of copyright" means that Amazon claims the right to your work until many years after you've died--so for all practical purposes, forever. (Although you may, because of U.S. copyright law, be able to terminate this agreement after 35 years, but even that is a long time.) If, in the end, you decide you don't like the deal you're getting from Amazon, you may well not be able to withdraw your stories from Kindle Worlds, even if you are willing to give up any further royalty payments.

    • "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. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. […] We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you."

      So, not just Amazon, but the copyright holder to the underlying work, as well, has rights to what you create. Write the story that the underlying copyright holder wants to use as the basis for the summer blockbuster version of the story? You've donated it.

      Also, "your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World" implies that, if you happen to create a popular OC or other idea, you can't use it in other stories not published with Kindle Worlds.

    Finally, there are a number of contract terms that are important in publishing but not yet discussed on the Kindle Worlds page. For instance, editorial control—Amazon has provided "Content Guidelines" for works, but there's a lot about them that's unclear. They include prohibitions on crossovers, on "offensive content," and on "offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts." It's hard to know exactly what these mean, and whose standards will apply. We cannot predict how consistently these restrictions will be enforced or how fan-friendly the enforcement process will be. It's also not clear whether Amazon will claim the right to do anything more than reject a work for failing to meet those guidelines (like edit it against your will). And the terms may change depending on what happens next and whether the program expands. There is also mention of a Cover Creator, but no mention of whether it will cost you anything to use it, or whether you will have permission to use images from the show in question. Presumably, more of these will become clear when Amazon publishes the actual contract.

    As we said at the beginning, whether you want to participate in Kindle Worlds is up to you. If it meets your needs, great! We hope this post has helped you make up your mind in an informed fashion. Regardless, the OTW will continue to provide a platform and advocacy for noncommercial fanfiction.

  • OTW Fannews: Kindle Worlds edition

    By Curtis Jefferson on Sunday, 26 May 2013 - 8:57pm
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    • Amazon's announcement earlier this month that it would be launching Kindle Worlds as a way to capitalize on fanfic writers didn't just get a lot of attention among fans and online discussion sites it also launched dozens of related articles ranging from tech publications, business publications, publishing sites, entertainment sites, journalism sites, fan-oriented media and mass-market media, in the U.S. and internationally, as well as individual responses by authors. We thought we'd take a look at some of the issues raised in this coverage and what the media was focusing on.
    • One of Forbes' articles on the topic pointed out that the content restrictions imposed by Amazon's terms mean that the juggernaut hit that was Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn't have been able to be published through this program. Writers using this program won't be making that much either. "The revenue split is considerably less generous than authors who use their own characters enjoy, with Kindle Worlds writers keeping 35% of the net. That’s for works over 10,000 words; for shorter ones, the rate is an even lower 20%. Ordinarily, writers who self-publish e-books through Amazon keep 70% percent."
    • Author John Scalzi also looked critically at Amazon's terms and what a bad deal it is for fanfic writers. "Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves. I mean, the official media tie-in writers and script writers are doing work for hire, too, but they get advances and\or at least WGA minimum scale for their work."
    • Scalzi's comments about how Amazon's move was more likely to replace writers of tie-in novels with cheap, unedited writers, tied into Forbes contributor Suw Charman-Anderson's comments about how Amazon's move was yet another example of a slow-moving and risk-averse traditional publishing industry. "How many more business opportunities are Amazon going to create from things that the publishing industry has ignored or rejected? Publishers cannot allow themselves to be pushed constantly onto their back foot by Amazon, they can’t let outdated attitudes towards copyright, licensing and creativity define their future. They need to do what Amazon does only too well: Find under-served communities and then give them the tools to write, to create and to make money from their work." Megan Carter at The Daily Beast also looks at the matter from a publishing perspective, saying "The interesting thing about the Kindle Single is that it isn't just changing how long people write, but how people write. The books can be written much faster--you say as much as you have to say, and then you stop. Then if they do well, they get turned into a hardcover, which can be revised and extended based on the commentary the ebook received. "
    • Some, such as Matt Carter, are concerned about what this will do to professional writers. "The joy of fan-fiction for some has always been the pleasure of writing for the sake of writing, and then sharing among like-minded friends. The concern here is twofold in that the original author of, say, a “Vampire Diaries” script could feel slighted if a fan-fiction author suddenly pulls in more money than them, and that there will suddenly be authors who will actually take to writing fan-fiction rather than trying to create original worlds of their own, thus setting a limit on future creative projects."
    • Carina Adly MacKenzie at Zap2It pointed out what Alloy is. "It should be noted that Alloy is a book packager, so the three available properties aren't the brainchild of specific authors, but of a sort of brain trust of creative types and marketing geniuses. Alloy has a team of people who sit down and come up with plot ideas that they believe will make profitable franchises, mostly directed at young women. Then, they hire an author to write their previously outlined stories. This means that Alloy retains the creative rights to the "world" in which the books are set, because Alloy came up with it, which makes something like Kindle World a lot easier. Whether this sort of system would work with content that emerged in a more traditional way -- from the mind of one writer or producer -- is yet to be seen."
    • TechnoBuffalo raised a concern likely on many fans' minds -- what comes next. "One lingering question from this project, however, is if the studios that license the properties will continue to allow fans to publish their works for free around the Web. In theory not much should change, but there is now a financial stake in this sub-section of fandom where companies can earn money from the work of others, so there might be an incentive to drive people towards the pay version of fan fiction. We reached out to Warner Bros., the parent company of Alloy Entertainment, for comment on the matter, but had not received a reply by publication time."
    • One concern about the Worlds program may not be as restrictive as people think. "Fan fiction has never been about money. Inhabiting a beloved world and bonding about it with other fans is what's kept people publishing thousands of words for free. Doing so for dollars but being limited by Amazon's terms (one of which is no pornography, of which a sizeable amount of fan fiction is comprised) may turn many off. However, 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."
    • However, others are more concerned about what this development will mean for fanfiction communities, though the less they know about them, the more likely the think of Kindle Worlds as a great development. "Most fan fic authors would jump at the chance to legally write for their beloved franchise, but with a possibility of getting paid and perhaps even recognition from the creator? It's going to be an instant, phenomenal success." Others are less sanguine: "Fan fiction is a place of wing fic...and Mpreg...You can't package up a place like that and sell it. And telling and retelling stories, however we want to, is bigger even than a giant like Amazon. Fanfic existed before the internet and it will still be around when we live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. After all, it's created enough of them." And one commentator proposed the idea that Amazon spaces will become community forums for fanfic writers. "'I think it just builds the network effect, which is one of the cornerstones of Amazon’s competitive advantage,' said R.J. Hottovy, senior ecommerce analyst at Morningstar. 'The more people use (the platform) and discuss, the more powerful it is for people who sell things.'"
    • Some outlets contacted the OTW for comment, such as Wired: "Indeed, given the limited licenses, draconian content guidelines, and dubious contracts, it’s hard to imagine fans abandoning open platforms for a far-from-guaranteed paycheck. While Kindle Worlds is sure to attract a fair number of fan writers excited at the prospect of working under official license and maybe even making a buck or two off their stories, for many, the most appealing route to publication will remain the one taken by Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James: just file off the serial numbers."
    • At least one likely outcome to widespread media stories on fanfiction will be the continuing practice of spreading confusion about fanfiction terms and practices due to a lack of fact checking or research, including being able to accurately determine the number of Vampire Diaries stories at Fanfiction.net. But at least fanfiction readers can rest easy that fanfic's already been easily available for their Kindles since 2010.

    What additional views on Kindle Worlds have you seen? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Fandom's role in creation

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 - 12:31am
    Message type:
    • At Slate, Tammy Oler lauds writer Hugh Howey's approach to dealing with fans in a piece discussing the success of his self-published sci-fi novel. "Most intriguingly, Howey has encouraged readers who want to develop their own Wool stories to self-publish and sell their works. In an interview, I asked Howey about why he’s not just encouraging fan fiction but actually endorsing it. 'There’s room for readers to become writers and play in this world,' he said. 'I view fan fiction as the opportunity to teach readers how much joy there is in creating worlds instead of just living in them.' Right now—much to Simon and Schuster’s chagrin, one has to imagine—the first two of what are sure to be many Wool-related fan fiction stories are available for sale on Amazon."
    • BookRiot hosted a guest piece by writer Jill Guccini who pondered how to evaluate professional/fan collaborations. "So here’s the question: Is this unbelievably cool and innovative? Or is it simply, as the AV Club called it, 'a dizzying cycle of mutual promotion and self-promotion?' Can it be both? Fandom is a more sprawling, often intimate, force now than it ever has been before in every variety of the arts, including books. I used to know authors simply by, you know, what books they wrote; I now gauge a lot of them in my head unwittingly by their social media personalities. And sometimes they reblog the same things I reblog; sometimes they follow me back; and they become weirdly closer, somehow, to That Guy I Went to High School With, as opposed to The All Mysterious Author. Essentially: the fourth wall has already been broken. So does authors reaching out to fans enrich the literary world? Or does it cheapen it? Alternately, does a corporate-sponsored, preconceived interactive project still count as 'reaching out'?"
    • Aja Romano over at the Daily Dot is also concerned about how fans are valued in these interactions, and writes about the way they are spoken of in SXSW panel blurbs. "[F]andom itself is growing to be synonymous with geek culture as a whole—both of which are seeping inexorably into the mainstream. That’s a huge reversal from where things stood even a few years ago, and not everyone is quite on board with this change. We can see this anxiety in the very language two of this week’s SXSW panels use to summarize the fan/creator relationship." Questioning the panelists on 'Frenemies: Fanning the Flames of Fandom' and 'Creators vs Audience: Next Chapter in Storyteling', she notes "the introductory angle that both panels take seem to pit fans and creators against one another, rather than as potential partners in a relationship built around shared love for a story."

    Share your own stories about fan and creator collaborations on Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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