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Industry news: Amazon starts fan fiction imprint, Penguin settles with states, and Borders gift card holders get nothing

May 25, 2013

Amazon launches fan fiction outlet for Warner Brothers TV shows

Fifty Shades of Grey started as fan fiction for the Twilight book and movie series. The next big series based on fan fiction may not have to be converted into another story. Amazon is launching Kindle Worlds, an outlet for fan fiction authors to sell their work–assuming Amazon has secured rights to the property the fan fiction’s based on. For stories published in Kindle Worlds, Amazon will pay royalties both to the rights holder and to the author. So far, Amazon has obtained licensing for Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, and Vampire Diaries, all properties of Warner Brothers. Additional rights acquisitions are said to be in the works. The deal would seem to be a winner for authors and for rights holders, who now have a new revenue stream. And it’s not just pretenders playing. According to Forbes, the first batch of fan fiction published will include works by Times best seller Barbara Freethy, Bram Stoker Award-winner John Everson and RITA Award-winner Colleen Thompson.

What this means to you: Whether you like them or hate them, Amazon is consistently a step ahead of everyone else. Rather than disregarding fan fiction, it has created a product from it and seeks to make money for itself, authors, and rights holders. The Forbes piece also addresses concerns that the move to fan fiction might cause a giant step backward in terms of literary quality. Successful fan fiction must be well written–or at least passably written–but must also ring true to the canon of the “world” in which it takes place. If you make a mistake, even a small one, in a franchise, its devoted fans will let you know. (That’s one reason JJ Abrams reset the time line when he took over Star Trek. Now he doesn’t have to worry about making sure he doesn’t screw up when he implies James Kirk went to middle school in Iowa.) Also, the first batch of writers doesn’t include the kid down the street who watched ever episode of Babylon 5 sixteen times and bangs away at the keyboard, periodically creating complete sentences. As much as I’d like to be a snob about this, it could become another good revenue stream for talented writers–as long as we’re talking TV shows or series where the author has quit writing it or died. Jack Reacher fan fiction, on the other hand, not so much.

Penguin settles e-book suit for $75 million

Penguin has settled its e-book lawsuit filed by 33 state attorneys general for $75 million. The settlement is in addition to an earlier settlement with the Department of Justice. The lawsuit also resolved class-action claims against the publisher over claims that it colluded with five of the other Big Six publishers and Apple to create a cartel to fix book prices. Courts must still approve both this settlement and the settlement with the DOJ.

What this means to you: You might get a few dollars back in some for or another to cover your damages for e-books you bought at $15.99, rather than $9.99.

Borders gift card holders get nothing

If you were hanging onto the Borders gift cards hoping you’d collect from the bankruptcy procedures, you can stop hoping. Three people who held gift cards were denied in their attempt to start a class action lawsuit to collect on their gift cards. The suit was struck down by a Federal District Court in New York State, a decision that was upheld by Judge Stephen Carter. Borders has nearly 18 million outstanding gift cards with a cumulative value of $210 million.

What this means to you: Borders demise was hardly a secret. Even before it liquidated, its fate was debated for weeks–and the writing was on the wall for months. If you’re holding a gift card, you weren’t paying attention. On the other hand, you now have a lovely nostalgic book mark. And you get to watch this clip from Caddyshack.

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