Fan fiction by any other name still reads wonderfully fresh.
Fanfic as it is called refers to stories produced by fans based on existing plot lines and characters, often taking pre-existing story worlds in new directions. The grey area has always been the rights-holders point of view -- people using characters and situations in ways that probably violate copyright.
With Kindle Worlds, Amazon seems to aim at a platform to publish fan fiction, a digital publishing platform where writers can publish fan fiction under official licenses and possibly make money. Right now, the deal is limited to Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries -- all from Warner Bros.' Alloy Entertainment -- but it promises more to come.
The content guidelines for Kindle Worlds, clearly states Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story, you also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.
As an author--my spider senses tingle on reading this.
But as a marketer I wonder if this concept is not a bold, experimental move?
With Kindle Worlds, Amazon has created a powerful content marketing, amplification platform. At a time when marketers are pulling their hair out over innovative ways to keep viewers/ readers/ film goers/ gamers engaged with their brand--well here is a platform not only completely dedicated to that, but which actually officially enrolls its most vocal evangelists, as brand ambassadors to write about the characters.
Here is a community where these high affinity content generators feed off each other, building on each other's ideas and elements, taking up the plot lines where the others leave. A vibrant creative world, set around the show or game or movie of that world, which grows with each new story, generating new ideas for the original content producer or studio.
Remember though, the World Licensor has the license to use these new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to the author.
If and there are many big ifs here: If the community is nurtured carefully, if despite the fact that the content generators have to err on the side of caution with respect to pornography, offensive content -, though the thrill of fan fiction is that it is illicit and can take characters and make them do things that fit your personal fantasy in the first place--they yet stay motivated to continue to write; then it's an innovative experiment in getting the core fans to actually live and breathe these characters, and generate massive, self-propagating, word-of-mouth traction. The kind which delivers huge franchises, and ultimately big money.
Kindle Worlds--the way it is positioned today as a platform for new stories inspired by books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games people love--is a marketer's brainwave and should be seen in that light.
To view it as purely an editorial platform with the sole purpose of providing a voice for budding authors, is muddying the waters, though the connection with Amazon squarely places it there.
Either way, one more barrier towards content generators becoming content marketers has fallen, and the landscape of content marketing has changed forever.
Follow Laxmi Hariharan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laxmi