By Toby Neal, author of the Lei Crime Series
Whatever you feel about Amazon, they are cutting-edge as a company, and one of the most innovative programs they’ve come up with in publishing is Kindle Worlds. According to Nick Loeffler with Amazon, “Kindle Worlds is the first commercial publishing platform to enable any writer to publish fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters while earning royalties for doing so, and sell them in the Kindle Store. Until the launch of Kindle Worlds, selling stories based on copyright-protected material had been difficult.” Not to mention, illegal!
Kindle Worlds has changed all that by contracting with authors and other writers to legalize use of characters in a “World,” and providing parameters within which other writers can play. All benefit from this—writers get to entertain through known settings with their own stories, and readers get more of the characters they love.
Developed in 2013, Kindle Worlds includes graphic novels, TV shows, and of course, bestselling book lines. Kindle Worlds is licensed fan fiction, in a nutshell, and it captures the urge of writers since the dawn of time to write about characters they’ve fallen in love with as readers, and for readers to be able to enjoy storylines and characters they’ve become attached to long after original creators have stopped writing a popular series.
The Kindle Worlds site provides a quality assurance process that protects authors, and an easy review process that helps readers find the best of the bunch. I was nervous when my Lei Crime Kindle World launched in April, wondering if readers would be willing to try new works by others using my characters—but I needn’t have worried. The Lei Crime Kindle World novellas, varying in genre from mystery to magical realism, have become some of the top-rated works in Kindle Worlds. It’s been a blast to read the expansion of colorful minor characters (as well as my main ones) into stories that I would never have imagined or had time to write.
Melissa Foster, whose romance Kindle World The Remingtons debuted recently, puts it this way: “When I decided to open my Remington series to Kindle World authors, the idea of other authors putting their own spin on the world I’d created both scared and excited me. I hoped readers would enjoy the stories, but of course there was no way of knowing what the reaction would be. I’m thrilled that readers are loving the Remington Kindle World stories! They can’t get enough of them! What makes them unique is what makes each Kindle World unique—the world itself that these new stories are inhabiting. All the worlds are different, and since no two writers have the same visions or the same voice, the stories are unique, too.”
Here are some powerful ways readers benefit from Kindle Worlds:
- Readers get to keep reading about characters and a world they love. With such long waits between books from favorite authors, I know I’d love to see a George RR Martin or Diana Gabaldon Kindle World! It’s especially wonderful to be able to keep reading stories in a World whose original creator has stopped writing the series, as in the case of Hugh Howey’s Silo World.
- Readers are the boss. One of the concerns readers have voiced is that the writing won’t be as good as that of the original content creator. That is a risk, and one Amazon has dealt with by pricing the books in the World low and having high content standards for submitted works. Readers are also relied upon to review the works to help others find stories to their liking. According to an Amazon company source, “The reader response to Kindle Worlds so far has been great. Since launch, Kindle World stories have held a consistently high customer review average, ratings indicating the time and effort the authors are putting into story preparation.”
- Authors joining an established World want to show their stuff. This is an excellent reason to try a story or novella in Kindle Worlds—these authors are hoping you’ll love their spin on the established World so much that you’ll give their other works a look, too! Russell Blake, whose action/thriller Jet World went live in July, says, “Amazon Kindle Worlds offers readers a chance to read other authors’ spins on their favorite worlds and characters, as well as the opportunity to try their hand at writing, should they be so inclined. I think it’s a hoot, and would remind any doubters that the biggest-selling book of the 21st Century, 50 Shades of Grey, started out as fan fiction! Fan fiction has definitely come of age, to put it mildly, and Kindle Worlds provides an organized system to differentiate the authors’ Worlds and pick your favorite flavor.”
- Everyone gets to read a fun creative challenge. Many of the authors who helped launch the Lei Crime Series Kindle World had never written a police procedural or a mystery before (you don’t have to write in the genre of the original series, but many wanted to try.) They all reported how easy, fun, and inspiring it was to “step into the shoes” of already-known characters, and that the writing went much more quickly than for their own original works. Meanwhile, readers commented that some of the stories were so close to my style that it seemed like I’d written them—with completely new and original plots at a reasonable price.
We hope you’ll check out Kindle Worlds, browse the many interesting spinoffs, and find YOUR favorite flavor.
Toby Neal is a clinical social worker turned writer, raised in Hawaii, whose background in mental health has helped deepen the complexity of her mysteries. From the villains to the brave and reckless detective Lei Texeira who hunts them, Toby says, “I am endlessly fascinated with stories.” Visit Toby Neal’s website for more information on her and the bestselling mystery series that spawned the Lei Crime Series Kindle World.