Two years ago, I wrote about an interesting new project called Kindle Worlds. In short form, they are an official Amazon Kindle program that allows writers to publish and profit from fanfictions of existing franchises that they’ve acquired licenses to, like G.I. Joe, Pretty Little Liars, Veronica Mars, and Gossip Girl. Two of my favorite veteran sci-fi authors, Kevin J. Anderson and Timothy Zahn, have written fanfictions for Kindle Worlds as well.
Two years later, I’m still dreaming of the day when I can write and sell fanfictions too. The primary reason why I haven’t yet taken advantage of KindleWorlds is that they have yet to offer a World that I’m into. I could, of course, “get into” any of the franchises they currently offer, but none of them particularly interest me. And with each new acquisition, I’m getting more discouraged.
I’m noticing a decrease in quality and wholesomeness with regards to the newest “Worlds” they’ve added. Most of them appear to be obscure, adult-oriented, romance series. I don’t know what part of the fanfiction community they’re appealing to – I bet there are more of us who’d rather wreak writerly vengeance on Kylo Ren, continue the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, or write the sixth season of Stargate: Atlantis than write about … what the heck is a Hot Seal, anyway? I’ve counted at least four Worlds which use some dude’s abs as their promo image, and there are a ton of Worlds about vampires and/or shapeshifters. Even if they aren’t cliched, most of the Worlds are still stuff nobody’s heard of.
I’m going to assume that most of these Worlds are based on books published by Amazon’s print-on-demand self-publishing platform, CreateSpace. I know that the World of Sand Saga by Hugh Howey is a CreateSpace self-publication. In theory, it’s a great way to get your works “out there,” within the Amazon family we know and love (or hate but utilize anyway). People will have to read the original book before they can write for that World, after all. And if most of the Worlds are based on self-pubs you’ve never heard of, you don’t have much choice but to read them. Plus, we self-published authors are kind of desperate for promotion, and would more readily give Kindle Worlds permission to use our books’ worlds than say, Tolkien’s estate, Scholastic Publications, Lucasfilm Ltd., or MGM. If that’s the reason so many obscure series are being made into Worlds I think it’s a theoretically nice idea. I just wish Kindle make more wholesome selections.
I self-published because it’s too much of a hassle to go mainstream. Plus, I would be undeterred by the combination of high and low standards that mainstream publishers impose. For starters, I really don’t like being required to shoehorn romantic elements into my stories, so why not be my own publisher, where I have complete control over the content of my books (typos and all)? Other self-published authors, it seems, are on the opposite side of the spectrum – they can’t publish their books with mainstream companies because the contents are too explicit.
Surely it’s difficult and expensive to acquire licenses to mainstream franchises, movies, and series, but I think Kindle Worlds could reach a much wider audience of fan-readers and fan-writers if there was more of a balance between mainstream and indie offerings. Until then, it looks like what could be a really awesome program is headed down a very disappointing path.