Another Day, Another World of Amazon

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Today, Amazon announced that they’ve set up a new program for writers called “Kindle Worlds.” Scalzi has a lot to say on the subject and really, it’s quite rare when I don’t agree with his business assessment, so I’ll link to Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts here.

Now that the dust has settled in my brain, here’s the thing folks: regardless of how this program is marketed and to whom, this is NOT fan fiction. This is, however, a form of work-for-hire. Writers get paid a royalty by Amazon when their stories sell. Amazon pays a licensing fee to (in this case) Alloy Entertainment. Alloy farms the best ideas (if they opt to do that) and may repurpose them elsewhere. It is not guaranteed that the writers will get credit for those ideas nor get any further compensation.

However, this program is not what I would consider true fan fiction. It isn’t. This is a program designed to tap into the fan fiction communities, but it’s not the same thing for many reasons, one of which is that there is money exchanging hands and fans cannot consume these stories for free. (Or, to put it another way… 4theluv) And really? Amazon Worlds is inventive and it’s quite beneficial to licensing arrangements because it’s another way of having an existing community, on Amazon, that all parties involved can get fiction sales data for. I’m assuming this will be yet another way to discover a break-out hit like 50 Shades of Gray. Good for them.

Will I participate? No. Did I have a knee-jerk reaction? Yes. Because if this works, this affects the perception of how media/tie-in writers should be treated and paid. Or, in other words, it’d make my life a hell of a lot harder — even though writing-for-hire is not my only path. I did sign a contract for Redwing’s Gambit and many other properties that I’ve done work-for-hire for. (I own the rights to that story, by the way.) I had an arrangement with the publisher. I was edited. I had parameters. And my job was to best represent the property according to the needs of the owner married to what I could provide. That’s what work-for-hire writers are for. The company is hiring you do to a job. Long-term, I *have* to think about my copyright and what I have to show for all this work I’m doing. I cannot financially afford not to. If I didn’t? I might as well stop writing right now.

Couching any program like this as an opportunity to make money or get noticed is akin to becoming an intern for a larger firm or American Idol. Instead of the company reaching out to you, you’re reaching out to them. Show ’em what you got for the promise of money, fame, and fortune. Well, if 1,000 writers do this all at once, then it’s the company who primarily wins no matter what. They get 1,000 fresh ideas and can pick the best of the best of the best to monetize risk-free. The writers, on the other hand, bank on a “chance” they’ll be picked for a larger project and royalties. Even if the company chooses a writer’s *idea,* that is NOT something that’ll further your career. Talk is cheap, but in this case, even “unpopular” or “poorly edited” stories could spark fresh concepts for those who can make money off of what you’ve done. This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re not the one writing up your own idea.


I wish everybody involved the best of luck. If it works, cool. If it doesn’t? It doesn’t. There will be another initiative, another program on the horizon. This is inevitable.

However, I would hope that every publisher and writer sits up and takes notice of one, simple fact: the times my friends, the continue to be a-changin’. I have said this many, many times but I firmly believe this: get a five-year business plan together. If you love to write as much as I do, you need to figure out how you will be resilient in the face of so many changes — whether you take advantage of a new initiative, program, method or not. It may not sound sexy. It may not sound like it should be part of your platform. But with these many changes floating about, it cannot hurt you to have a back-up plan and know Business 101 so you can make your own decisions.

Or, to quote an old fish wives’ tale. For the love of Nyarlathotep, do not put all of your cultists in the same town.

Over and out.


Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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