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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A way to sell fan fiction on Kindle


I would like to be able to write and sell Star Trek fan fiction on Amazon.com, and I have an idea how I think fan fiction in general could be sold on Amazon.

Here is my idea for how the process would work:

Paramount Pictures agrees to license Star Trek and all its characters for use by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Anyone who wants to write Star Trek fan fiction does so, and then uploads their story/novel to KDP. Amazon takes a 35% cut of each story/novel sold, Paramount takes a 35% cut (a licensing fee deducted from the author’s sale), and the author takes a 30% cut. Or whatever percentages are deemed fair for all concerned.

No up front licensing fees. Just a percentage deducted from each sale. Paramount is happy, Amazon is happy, and the author is happy.

One problem I foresee is that there is already so much Star Trek fan fiction out there that people could simply start scraping fan fiction sites and publishing stuff they didn’t even write, thereby stealing from the original authors. I mean, you can’t copyright fan fiction, and a lot of fan fiction was put up under weird pseudonyms like StarMaster, etc. So a creator would have a hard time proving that he/she was the actual author of a particular piece. Anyone could publish a piece and claim it was theirs.

To get around this, Amazon and Paramount would have to insist that all work uploaded was either written after the KDP licensing program was initiated, or that the piece uploaded had not been previously made public. Amazon already checks everything published for possible copyright infringement, so this wouldn’t really be a big change.

I can’t see why Paramount wouldn’t want to do something like this. People have been writing fan fiction for decades, and that’s never going to stop. Why not let everyone involved make a little money from it? I think Amazon and Paramount could make hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars per month from such a program.

The stories/novels could be clearly labeled as fan fiction, and not official series canon. You could make the argument that Paramount wouldn’t want to “taint” Star Trek by endorsing unofficial fan fiction, a lot of which would be complete crap. But not all fan fiction is crap, and there’s a lot of it out there already, so the danger of “tainting” the show’s image isn’t really a danger at all. If it could be done, it would have been tainted by fan fiction long ago.

Besides, Paramount has licensed Star Trek characters for use in GoAnimate’s application, where any user can make their own Star Trek shorts. So apparently the “tainted image” thing is not really a concern.

There’s no valid reason why a licensing program like this shouldn’t be put in place, other than that it might be too difficult to implement. The only loser might be Pocket Books, who currently holds the exclusive license to publish Star Trek books. No doubt their sales would plummet if Paramount threw open the gates to everyone. But if Paramount was able to make at least the same amount from licensing to individual writers instead of to Pocket Books, then who cares if Pocket Books lost money from the deal?

I mean, if the walls of traditional publishing are being torn down by the ebook revolution, why not tear down the walls of exclusive licensing too?

Such a program where studios license rights to individual authors through Amazon would work for any series or movies, not just Star Trek. I’m only using Star Trek as an example because I used to write Star Trek fan fiction, and I would love to write more, particularly if I could make a bit of profit from it.

Other shows that would be perfect choices for licensing:

The various Stargate shows
Firefly
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Space: 1999

Just throw in the title of you favorite series, and it would work.

It seems to me that it would be as simple as talking to the major studios, getting a licensing agreement in place that authors would agree to when they published on KDP, open up accounts for the major studios to which the author’s fees would be sent, and then open up the gates.

Does anyone have any idea how to get the ball rolling for something like this? Has this idea already been put forward and rejected by the higher powers?

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