Amazon Slams the Doors to Kindle Worlds
First Amazon shut down the Kindle Scout program. Now, about a month later, they’re doing the same to Kindle Worlds. The issue affects both readers and writers alike, and Hidden Gems has been lucky to have worked with two prominent KW authors in the past. Jen Talty and Casey Hagen are speaking up to share their view and perspective on what exactly went down and what it means to the future of everyone affected.
As the behemoth of the book world, what Amazon creates, it can decimate…
Hundreds of authors with novels and novellas published within Kindle Worlds were notified by Amazon that Kindle Worlds would be no more.
This has a huge impact on both the seed authors, the author whose world was licensed with Amazon, and the authors who gave up time, energy, and their copyrights so they could play in the seed author’s sandbox.
We are not seed authors of the worlds, but two writers who have 40 books invested in this soon to be dismantled line of professional fan fiction courtesy of Amazon. We each have 20 titles that hang in the balance.
See the, It’s-not-you-it’s-me, break up letter sent on May 16th below:
As a valued member of the Kindle Worlds author community, we wanted to let you know of some upcoming changes to the Kindle Worlds program.
As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th; we ask that all Kindle Worlds participants update and validate their banking information, mailing address, and contact information by July 31, 2018 in order to facilitate a timely final royalty payment.
Your final royalty statement will include a proactive final payment for all remaining Kindle Unlimited borrows, including borrows that have not yet met the qualified borrow threshold. We plan to remove Kindle Worlds stories from Kindle Unlimited on May 16th.
Effective as of the date we remove your work from the Kindle Worlds program, we revert the rights granted to us by you in your Kindle Worlds Publishing Agreement. As a reminder, please note that certain rights have been granted to the applicable World Licensor and, as a result, you may not be able to republish your work, use elements from the world, or otherwise exploit the rights you granted unless you obtain the World Licensor’s permission.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For five years, Kindle Worlds has been thriving, engaging writers and readers who enjoy writing in one another’s worlds, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done together. While we are closing Kindle Worlds, Amazon is constantly innovating on behalf of our authors and readers, and we look forward to continuing to do so.
We hope that 2018 and beyond bring wonderful things for you and your stories, and we appreciate your support over the years.
The Kindle Worlds Team
We’ve dedicated most of our energies of the past year into Kindle Worlds with approximately thirty more launches planned out throughout the rest of the calendar year between the two of us. And with one exquisitely crafted notification, Amazon leveled our intricately scheduled works better than a professional explosives team.
In early spring Amazon had added Kindle Worlds books to Kindle Unlimited (KU), a reader subscription service where readers can consume all the books they want in a literary buffet for one low, monthly fee. The program pays the author by the amount of pages read. So, if Nancy only reads forty-five pages of a book and quits, oh well. You only get paid for the forty-five pages, not the entire book. The move sparked a wave of skepticism as to how successful the change would be. Those skeptics were proven wrong swiftly and the royalties rolled in.
Now, with the shutdown of Kindle Worlds looming, Amazon wasn’t even kind enough to keep us enrolled in the program and instead ejected all Kindle Worlds titles as of May 17, 2018 (note the above email was sent May 16th) leaving subscribers and our readers in limbo and crushing the visibility of those books leaving them in obscurity. Sales have almost completely stopped and in less than two months, the books will be pulled from the Amazon website.
We can’t speak much on the world owners/authors and their contracts with Amazon, but the authors writing within their worlds were under the impression their novellas, books, and in some cases, series of novellas within a world would be protected under Amazon’s mighty umbrella where they held our rights. For good. Yes, that’s right. We signed contracts to turn over the rights to these stories, permanently. Because really…what could go wrong? This is Amazon. Amazon would never go anywhere, right?
They held the copyright of all books published in any kindle world. Both the ‘fan author’ and the seed author receive a percentage of sales. 35% to the seed author. 35% to the ‘fan author’ and Amazon takes 30% for their trouble.
We know a lot of authors who were making a fair amount of money writing in more than one Kindle World, including a signing bonus that had once been as high as $500, and more recently had dropped down to a modest $250. In February of 2018, Amazon announced they were discontinuing the bonus for future launches. At that point, we knew something was up…but still we pressed on assuming the reduction was due to the introduction of more worlds and more writers participating in scheduled soft launches.
We never anticipated they would shut their doors.
So let’s talk royalties. Now, let’s say (figuratively speaking) ten authors launch in a world and each author makes 1k a month on those books, that means the owner of the world is making 10k that month. We can’t stress enough these are random numbers to prove a point. Everyone loses a stream of their income…at the whim. Okay, probably not whim, because we’d bet Amazon had been planning on doing this for some time, but just didn’t see fit to tell the little people.
Besides the lost royalties for ALL authors and the end of a program that both READERS and authors valued, this has caused a variety of other issues.
The biggest one: What can we do with our books?
We are not lawyers, so we will avoid discussion of what we think could be the ‘legal’ thing to do and discuss what IS happening.
As a ‘fan author’ we had to connect our books to the Kindle World via character, setting, business, etc. The seed author granted us, via Amazon, the right to use part of their world while we created new characters, places, and stories. The seed author had parameters for doing this. Some were as simple as just mention a single character and then run with it. Others wanted it in their setting. This was in our contract, as were other requirements.
However, that contract will come to an end and rights revert back.
Most seed authors are working to find a way to make sure the stories are republished either by opening their own publishing companies or allowing the ‘fan authors’ to republish the books with the elements of their world stripped, or AS IS, depending on the seed author. To date, some seed authors have not spoken about what they intend to do with the worlds, and others are discussing the legalities with lawyers – issues of copyright, ownership of characters written and created by their fan authors, etc.
Another problem that arises from Amazon’s decision to shut the door on KW is reviews. When the books are unpublished, so are the reviews. Now, in the past, you could link an older, or even ‘out of print’ book to a newly republished title. However, will Amazon allow the previous reviews to be linked in cases where the book had to be altered? If our books are unpublished for a month or longer, it’s possible we lose all our reviews as well. Authors, at least these two, LOVE to hear from readers and we read all the reviews, learning from our readers, and taking that feedback to make our books better. We know many of our readers won’t like having their reviews taken away and not relinked with a book they enjoyed (or hated). Of course, Amazon could say the reviews were part of KW, so we don’t get to have them back. Who knows. Only time will tell with this one.
While this decision has been devastating for both of us, we are lucky to one, have each other as critique and business partners, and two, our publishing plan did not solely rely on KW. There are so many things we don’t control as an author, and Amazon’s decisions is one of them. We do, however, have control over what we do moving forward.