Thanks to Amazon’s new project Kindle Worlds, fans will be able to publish fan fiction somewhere other than fanfiction.net (though this is a great website). Kindle Worlds will allow fans to publish fan fiction digitally in any domain (books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games) where the owners have given Amazon permission—currently Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries. It also means that writers can now be paid for fan fiction stories. Amazon will pay fan fiction writers up to 35% of the net revenue for stories that are at least 10,000 words and 20% for short stories of 5,000-10,000 words. The rest of the revenue will be split between Amazon and the rights holder.
Kindle Worlds initiates a new world for fans and writers, but it also highlights some of the dangers of fan fiction. As a writer and supporter of fan fiction myself, I have learned that while there are benefits to writing fan fiction, there are some drawbacks to the process as well, especially if it can be published.
First, it is important to remember that writing fan fiction is like borrowing a story from the original author. When fans borrow the story or characters for their own writing, they can sometimes nail the feel for the characters and the tone of the story that the author intended. Sometimes, however, fan fictions ends up being far from what the original author envisioned. This is where publishing fan fiction becomes a problem.
When you are writing fan fiction, if you’re writing for your own pleasure, it is okay if your story isn’t a perfect reflection of the author’s original world (God knows that’s most of my fan fiction). If you publish, however, then you’ve created a misrepresentation of the author’s world and the author has no control over it. That is not fair to the author, who worked hard to develop the story and characters.
Publishing also raises the issue of rights. Amazon has outlined how royalties will be split from the revenue of published fan fiction, but is that really fair? Robin McKinley, author of books such as The Hero and the Crown, The Outlaws of Sherwood and Spindle’s End, says that fan fiction is “a very muddy copyright area at best and furthermore could in some cases be setting precedents that could cause trouble now or later as the whole enormous evolution of the net hurtles on in ways nobody predicted and nobody knows how to handle.”*
Another danger is self-insertion. You do not grow as a writer by writing fan fiction where you simply insert yourself as a character into the story. Neither does writing sex scenes with your favorite character(s) offer any value at all (except maybe that now your OTP has finally hooked up, at least in your head). Fan fiction can be a great help to writers, giving them a framework within which to practice writing and developing characters and plots, but you have to practice more than sex scenes.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of fan fiction. I think there are many benefits to writing it. It is fun to write and to read, but we cannot forget the work of the original author. It is his or her story that we borrow when writing fan fiction. Borrowing is okay for practice, but as fans we must honor the original author.
*Check out more of Robin McKinley’s thoughts on fan fiction.
Also, check out this list of famous authors who are either for and against fan fiction.