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Postcards and laundromat visits: The Texas Tribune audience team experiments with IRL distribution
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May 22, 2013, 10:59 a.m.
LINK: thenextweb.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 22, 2013

Fan fiction — fan-written stories featuring characters drawn from pop culture properties, like a tale in which Chewbacca and Boba Fett become star-crossed lovers in 1950s New Jersey — is a huge phenomenon. On one end of the scale, the Fifty Shades of Grey books started out as fan fiction and became the publishing success of 2012; on the other, hundreds of thousands of people put their favorite characters into unusual situations in stories posted free on hubs like Archive of Our Own and FanFiction.Net.

The problem with fan fiction as a publishing business is that it’s of questionable legality. The creators of those characters — the writers of movies, TV shows, and books, or the corporate entities that control their rights — don’t want people selling new stories involving them. (Chewbacca’s love for Boba Fett was always a forbidden love.) And making the licensing arrangements necessarily to publish fan fiction for a profit was generally too much of a bother for anyone to pursue. The result was that turning fan fiction into a business has been somewhere between impractical and impossible.

Amazon took a big step toward slicing that Gordian Knot today by announcing it had made licensing agreements with three fanfic-popular properties — Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries — that will allow fics for those properties to be published for the Kindle, with revenue split between the author and the rightsholder. More deals are on the way.

The new Kindle Worlds platform will enable any author to publish stories based on these characters and then make them available for purchase through the Kindle Store. Amazon will then pay royalties both to the author of the fan fiction and the original rights holder. The standard author’s royalty rate — for fiction that is at least 10,000 words in length — will be just over a third (35 percent) of net revenue.

This has major monetization potential — if fan fiction communities used to getting their fix for free (and in an open, episodic environment) buy into the idea of paying for it (or others getting paid for it).

Family self-promotion alert: If you’re interested in the subject of fan fiction, you should look into Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by University of Utah professor Anne Jamison, which will be published later this year. (And edited by my wife, Leah Wilson.)

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