…because I’m up to 926 words on this other blog post and I haven’t even started talking about the Twilight fandom’s P2P situation nor this thing with Amazon.
The Amazon thing is interesting, and conceptually, I don’t have an issue with it. My sole opposition to P2P has always been that its nature is to disavow the source, and that it pretends that the characters do not belong to another author, and in doing so, knowingly and intentionally uses those characters and those details without that author’s permission.Which is a really heinous line to cross and still consider yourself an author.
In this instance, the people who hold the rights to authorize derivations are giving their blessing, and the writers are writing in such a way that the ties back to the source will be explicit and intentional—there will be no pretending that “Christian” and “Bennett” and “Gabriel” were never intended to be Edward Cullen. They’ll just be Edward Cullen, and in so being, will pay homage to the source rather than stealing from it and obscuring the origins. (Anyone notice today the unbelievable persistent stickiness of the myth that FSoG is massively edited from MoTU? Say it’s okay that she published it, fine, but don’t try to argue that position on the grounds that they’re different works.That is just factually not true.)
This kind of character continuity, by the way, is what is happening in something like Death Comes to Pemberley—quite aside from the fact that the copyright has expired, P.D. James is also making very clear to the reader that her books are meant to talk back to Austen’s. The source is acknowledged. Austen is given clear credit for her substantial contribution to the book in having created the world.
There are a lot of reasons that Amazon’s scheme doesn’t quite fit with fan culture and fanwork, but laying those aside for a second because it actually is true that fandom means different things to different people, the issue of whether or not a fic could ethically be published (at least with regard to doing right by the source author) under these circumstances I think is totally fine.
I think anyone who would take this option seriously probably doesn’t understand publishing that well.
Media tie-ins are as old as media. Hell, just today we got in the latest “Richard Castle” book for our front table. And the contract Amazon is offering is somewhat similar to a standard write-for-hire, as most media-tie-in novels would be.
Except for one major, MAJOR difference.
The author is shouldering all of the risk and getting none of the benefits.
When I’ve been paid for my writing, it’s all been write-for-hire of some sort or another. In a standard write-for-hire, the author may or may not get credit that’s usable, and they often sign away all rights. The publishing companies I produce things for own all the rights to everything I produce for them, and if I’m lucky, my name appears in tiny font on the copyright page as a contributor.
The big difference?
My pay is not contingent on how much of whatever I wrote they sell. We agree up front that I’ll get $50 per section, or $2,000 for the whole thing, or 50 cents per finished word, etc. I send them writing, they approve it, they send me a check and some contributors’ copies and bada boom, that’s it. I don’t risk that this will be the year no one wants pre-made bible studies, or the year school district Q decides to use a different company’s test prep workbooks. I do work, I get paid an amount we agreed on in advance, and then they own the shit. If it sells well, bully for them. If it doesn’t, my money is still in my bank account.
The shittiness in the Amazon deal is that it’s self-publishing without the benefits of self-publishing, and write-for-hire without the benefit of guaranteed pay. In SP, you shoulder all the risk, but you also stand to reap all the rewards that come. In this, if you want your fic to stick out, you’ll probably need to commission a decent cover ($), perhaps shell out for real editing ($$), and spend time doing promotion (Time=$). And after all that, it’s the copyright holder who holds the rights to adapt and use your words. They have all the rights, you (potentially) have none of the money. What if you create a new character, the character appears on the show, and someone else writes a fic about that new character that does twenty times better than yours did? You have no recourse whatsoever. You’ve signed away your rights with no money in your pocket.
Fan culture aside (and there are a lot of reasons to dislike this from a fan culture perspective), the Amazon deal is a completely bum wrap for writers.
And that, not any sort of feeling that “Fanfiction being free is sacred!” is why I think Kindle Worlds is a pretty terrible idea.