Poking around Amazon for some unrelated purpose, I found the Kindle Worlds page. I’d read about it on John Scalzi’s blog a little while back, but it never made any real impression on me, perhaps because the last time I had any real impulse to write fan fiction was in middle school (and even then it was my own characters in a not explicitly but nonetheless pretty obviously D&D-oid setting, wherein the Drizzt love was not explicitly but, again, pretty obviously running rather hot). But it’s interesting to look at and think about. The royalties are worse than you’d like (35% on most work, less on work under 10,000 words, versus potentially 70% in KDP), and Scalzi’s misgivings about the rights situation are spot-on, but the value proposition is potentially interesting—if these worlds can exercise the kind of quality control that supports a fan base, the exposure angle might be enough to justify the lower royalties and vulnerability to idea-pillaging. That seems like a big “if” to me… but, again, I’ve never really been involved in fan fiction, and I know there are thriving communities where people voraciously consume all sorts of stuff, with no QC at all beyond upvotes by readers.
I suppose this once again highlights the usefulness of always having something else to sell. You don’t want your Foreworld Saga fanfic to be the only thing you have to offer the world; you want to use it as a way to direct people toward the work you control and can make a proper profit on. And, of course, a Kindle Worlds submission is a double down on Amazon, which has its ups and downs.
The only worlds I’d currently be interested in are the Foreworld Saga, the Silo Saga, and Valiant Comics; I don’t really know how to write horror, thrillers, or mystery, and I’m not sure I’d be up for teen drama. But I haven’t read THE MONGOLIAD, WOOL (beyond the first story), or any of the Valiant Comics, so I’d need to do some up-front investment before writing in those universes anyway. That puts more pressure on the value proposition for exposure—so it probably won’t happen any time soon.
It’s pretty interesting to look at the different “Additional Content Guidelines” for the different universes. Valiant Comics has so many stipulations on what you can and can’t do with the characters that it comes off almost as a voluntary Comics Code—various characters must be culturally sensitive, chaste, morally upright; “The Kindle Worlds work must present the protagonist(s), supporting character(s), and antagonist(s) in-character.” (Interestingly, though, it doesn’t specify that the work has to be a comic. I imagine it does, but I’m almost tempted to submit a prose piece and see what happens.) By contrast, see Hugh Howey’s guidelines for Silo fiction. The timeline and events of the universe are up for grabs, and slash is explicitly condoned; “other than [not using anything that’s unique to a derivative property], the world is yours to play in as you see fit.” You can guess who I’m rooting for there, but perhaps more to the point, it’s interesting to see how the stipulations for a world echo the history of the original work’s form.