Many readers have heard that Amazon has canceled the Kindle Worlds program. Since May, Amazon has not been accepting new Kindle World titles, and all the books in all Kindle Worlds will no longer be available for sale after July 15. And then, all rights revert back to the authors of the books—except for some.
Wait—what’s a Kindle World again?
Kindle Worlds are—or were—managed, policed fan fiction. Amazon selected successful series where readers wanted more titles than the author could write in a timely way. The program allowed other authors to write short works based on the situations, settings and characters of those bestselling series. For instance, I wrote four books based on the characters and setting of Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series.
This program benefitted everyone involved. Readers got more stories in the series they loved. The original authors of those series got more connections to their audiences, and a shared of the sales of the new books. And the authors who wrote in other writers’ series got exposure to new audiences, as well as established audiences for the books they wrote in the Kindle Worlds.
It was a win-win-win-win situation. The fourth win is for Amazon, which got 15% of every sale.
Goodbye, new audiences
This affects a number of BestSelling Reads authors. Both Toby Neal and former member Emily Kimelman have prominent Kindle Worlds based on their bestselling series, Lei Crime and Sydney Rye respectively. And several members have published Kindle Worlds titles:
- Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman themselves both published books in each other’s Kindle World. Toby published Rough Road, bringing her Lei Texeira into Emily’s Sydney Rye world, and Emily published Warrior Dog about Toby’s Keiki the Rottweiler. Toby also wrote a book in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World.
- DelSheree Gladden wrote The Catalyst, bringing her Eliza Carlisle from The Instigator into the Sydney Rye Kindle World
- J.L. Oakley has published four books in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Saddle Road, Coconut Island, Volcano House and Hilina Pali.
- Corinne O’Flynn wrote a trilogy in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Half Moon Girls, Tell the Truth and Pay the Price.
- Caleb Pirtle III published Lovely Night to Die in the Special Forces: Operation Alpha Kindle World.
- Scott Bury published in three Kindle World he was invited to: Jet: Stealth in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World; The Wife Line and The Three-Way in the Sydney Rye Kindle World; and four books in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying and Echoes.
But wait! There’s more!
With the cancellation of the Kindle Worlds program, the rights for all the content of the books revert back to the authors of the individual titles. But there’s a complication. The works in the Kindle Worlds were based on the books published by bestselling authors. Which means the rights to their characters, situations, stories, and other elements revert to them.
This causes some issues between the original authors and those who wrote Kindle World novellas. While the authors of the individual Kindle World books now have the rights to what they created, the original authors of the series at the core of the Kindle Worlds retain the rights to their characters and other elements.
Which raises a conflict: where exactly is the line between the respective authors’ rights in a (former) Kindle Word novella?
Why they dunnit
The concept of Kindle Worlds appeared to be a sure thing. Take existing, successful series and release new books for proven audiences. Minimal risk, more sales.
So apparently the sales were not good enough to sustain the program. The complications around copyright were probably also discouraging. Maybe that’s why Amazon never let Kindle World books be purchased beyond its U.S.-based .com site. And never allowed any formats other than .mobi-format for Kindles.
That’s right: no paperbacks, no audiobooks. Readers in Canada, the U.K. or anywhere outside the U.S.—or, more precisely, anyone who had an Amazon account that did not end in .com—could not buy any of my Kindle World books.
The literary world evolves
With the cancellation of the Kindle Worlds, some authors actually have new opportunities. Those who republish their books, meeting the requirements of copyright, can bring these words to global audiences in any format they wish. For many, it’s an opportunity to open up new worlds to new audiences.
What it means overall is that the world of the written word continues to evolve. And for readers, that’s all good.