Exploring Kindle Worlds
Amazon is slowly starting to make some inroads in the world of authorized fan fiction.
Modern fan fiction has been around for 15 to 20 years now as fans of movies and television shows wrote short stories and novellas involving their favorite characters.
The stories would circulate on Internet forums and the television and movie studios, for the most part, turned a blind eye to what was — let's be honest here — the theft of intellectual property and a violation of copyright laws.
Then E.L. James wrote 50 Shades of Grey, based on the novel Twilight, and became a millionaire virtually overnight. Amazon took notice and realized there was money to be made in legally licensed fan fiction and created Kindle Worlds.
There's about forty worlds right now, ranging from Toby Neal's Lei Crime Series to Hugh Howey's Silo Sagas to TV shows like "The Vampire Diaries" and "Veronica Mars."
But major book publishers are keeping their distance so far, no doubt wanting to create their own fan fiction publishing divisions. Kindle Worlds also needs more worlds in the areas of romance and mystery — especially cozy mystery — in my opinion.
Neal, whose nine novels in her Lei Crime Series are set in Hawaii, was excited to see how other authors could take her characters in new directions. She sent out an email to her writer friends and eight of them turned in stories.
Neal then read the manuscripts, offered suggestions, and the group put together a launch plan. The authors in the group also critiqued each other's stories.
"My readers, cautiously trying the works, have mowed through all the offerings and left wonderful reviews and are eager for more," she said. "I'm recruiting writers as fast as I can to jump on the bus."
Corinne O'Flynn liked the freedom that came with an already-established world that she could explore in her story Half Moon Girls.
"I love the idea of letting loose in world I didn't create myself," she said. "Toby Neal's Lei Crime world is lush with detail and history, so it was a lot of fun to build my story there."
Julie Gilbert wrote a story called Never Again for the Lei Crime Series. "Some of the group suggestions and support took Never Again from a good story to a whole new level," she said.
When Rysa Walker asked author friends if they wanted to contribute to her Timebound community for Kindle Worlds, David Estes wrote a 16,000-world novella called Time Burned. It's sold 3,000 copies since last October.
"Not only has the novella added a substantial source of income (not thousands, but hundreds), but I've received a significant amount of exposure from fans of Rysa's series," he said. "My experience has been fantastic so far."
Catherine Chant, who wrote The Vampire Diaries: Pursued by Evil, was pleasantly surprised with how much freedom Kindle Worlds allows authors.
"Fan expectations are probably more strict than anything in the Kindle Worlds guidelines," she said. "The submission process is very efficient and easy to follow."
Royalties are 35 percent for novellas longer than 10,000 words and less for shorter works. Mary Doyle, who wrote Hidden Poppies for Lei Crime Series, notes that real-time sales aren't available for Kindle Worlds so there's a 60-day wait.
But for Doyle, that's a small negative in what has been a very positive experience so far.
"I knew I wanted to try writing fan fiction," Doyle said. "I didn't know it would be so enjoyable."