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So a couple of weeks ago Amazon announced that they are allowing the sale of fan-written fiction (fanfic, fanfiction, fic, ficcies1, etc) for select fandoms through their site. Here is the announcement: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001197421

A lot of people have talked about this. I found out on f_fa, thought that someone was pulling my leg, but nope, it's true. Here is Scalzi's thoughts on it, which come from the perspective of someone who has been published and knows a little about contracts for writing, more than fic writers probably do: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/05/22/amazons-kindle-worlds-instant-thoughts/

Right, so I'm not even going to touch the fan side of it, except to boggle: I can't believe it's happening! Just like I was surprised at the mainstream-ing of Fifty Shades of Grey, I can't believe that fic is getting out there like that. Holy cow!

No, my main thought is: who's buying2?

SUPPLY AND DEMAND AND EVERYTHING, you know, blah blah Adam Smith, but the upshot of business is that no matter how hard you try to "push" products or services, there's got to be some kind of demand for them. There are lots of industries that do a lot of pushing, especially through marketing, like death insurance companies (you really want to think about that subject?) But there's got to be value, or the illusion of value, or else you're just producing stuff that no one is buying. And that's called bankrupting yourself.

The demand is what I don't get about Kindle Worlds. I think someone at Amazon has definitely recognized that there are a lot of people involved in fandom, a lot of people writing and also consuming fic. There are numbers. But in general, attempts from fic writers to monetize their stuff gets shot down pretty badly; even charity auctions skirt the line. There's also filing off the serial numbers, but that doesn't always go down too well either, unless it's very well disguised and totally unrecognizable unless you're told (*cough* dragons).

But suppose writers accept the terms they're given, write fic that follows Amazon's guidelines, and put it up for sale.

I suppose you can argue that well-known authors might try to get their already-built fanbase to buy their stuff--there are examples of authors writing original fiction and talking about it to their fans of their fic about it (e.g. Captive Prince). But original fiction is a different thing, namely: why pay when you can turn around and read anything on the internet about that fandom, for free? Selling fic through their site does nothing to the thousands of sites where fic is up, 24/7, for anyone to read. And many of them are 'anything goes'--a much broader selection of story subjects (most restricting are probably Amazon's no-pornography, no-excessive-swearing-&-violence rules).

You can argue that Amazon is doing a light version of gatekeeping, like editors and publishing houses. One of the rules says
We don't accept books that provide a poor customer experience. Examples include poorly formatted books and books with misleading titles, cover art, or product descriptions. We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience.

Sturgeon's law aside, I'm not sure how they're going to go about this, and secondly, if you've been in fandom any time at all, you've probably learned how to find good fic, where "good" means "to your taste". Rec lists and lists of favourites by authors you like are the most obvious; ditto for communities or blogs dedicated to reccing as well as fellow fans. Many archives also have ways to sort by characters, pairings, tropes, which is useful if one of those mashes your buttons and you don't mind shortcomings in other areas as long as you've got that one trope or the like, which helps too. But after awhile you also get a really good sense of what the fic is probably going to be like by the summary. When I see things like "this is a way off version of [redacted] and it's an intro but plz leave a review" (actual verbatim summary I just found on fanfiction.net), I know I probably won't enjoy it. Sometimes you get duds, but after awhile you know what's probably going to be enjoyable and what's just not going to be your taste. It's telegraphed.

I think in this regard, Amazon might do well for fans just wandering into fandom--maybe people who don't yet know how to navigate and find what they want, but do know and trust Amazon. Maybe people who are outside of fandom might use it, perhaps as a gift giving strategy (I know you like Gossip Girl, so I bought you a Gossip Girl story instead of merch.) I'm just not sure why fans involved in fandom now will ever buy stuff from there. Amazon can't do anything about the rest of the web, especially since they don't own the rights to the canons.

Because by putting through the deal, I don't think Amazon will effect change immediately. Maybe over time, this will change--Amazon is, if nothing, setting a precedent. But for now, I don't understand their business model. Do they expect the mass of fandom to suddenly switch to buying their fanworks? Haven't they noticed fans pirating their beloved canons, which they have much greater emotional attachment to than fic?

---

1 *giggle*

2 In case you ever wanted to know, yes I do spend a lot of time learning/thinking/talking about economics.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/132107.html.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
sherrilina
Jun. 8th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
Yeah I still don't really get how that is supposed to work...I mean legally for one thing, when the characters belong to someone else! :/ How can you make money off of copywritten material?

It's weird and annoying, and another reason to dislike Amazon, personally.
silverflight8
Jun. 8th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
Amazon has worked that out with the rights holders. I think it's kind of like an estate allowing sequels (authorized sequels) or licensing, like letting Mattel make dolls of your characters.

I'm not impressed with Amazon either. I admit I'm about one step in and one step out of the Fandom Fight Club mentality; I'm really not sure I want it to go that mainstream. But it'll do what it does, not much I can do :P
keppiehed
Jun. 8th, 2013 10:38 am (UTC)
Whoa! I am blown away by this. Thanks for the link to Scalzi; he always has a great article. This is really food for thought.
silverflight8
Jun. 8th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
It's a shock, isn't it? I totally thought it was a joke for a while.
kmo_lj
Jun. 8th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
i had the same thought. i mean, i could see some fanfic writers deciding that the terms of Kindle Worlds were acceptable to them and trying to sell their fic through Amazon. But I honestly couldn't imagine who on earth would *buy* fic from Kindle Worlds. I mean, if you can get the fic you want for free on ff.net or ao3, why would you buy it?

Malinda Lo speculated on her blog that this is less about Amazon and their partners monetizing fanfic than outsourcing licensed content. Popular series like star trek, etc, have always had tie-in novels. now rather than pay a "professional" writer, they can have fanfic writers produce the same type of works for much cheaper.
silverflight8
Jun. 8th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's good for the seller but no real benefit for the buyer, which isn't a very successful strategy...

Malinda Lo speculated on her blog that this is less about Amazon and their partners monetizing fanfic than outsourcing licensed content.
Oh, that's a really interesting point. I thought that Amazon's cut to the authors wasn't bad, but you're right, it's certainly not anything like what a professional writer hired to write a tie-in might get.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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