If this tale of Amazon’s latest betrayal to its users – in this case the writers and readers of fan fiction – doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, we’ll end up with many more tears in ours. (WTF did we just say?) Anyway…
by Travis Clark
Desiree Holt, affectionately known as the oldest author of erotic romance at 83 years old, climbed out of a financial plight in 2013 thanks to Amazon.
At the time, Holt was writing romance novels for the the publishing company Ellora’s Cave, which was collapsing and ultimately shut down in 2016. Holt felt her income was in jeopardy. But in 2013, Amazon launched a fan-fiction service called Kindle Worlds, a digital publishing platform that let authors publish fan fiction within certain licensed “worlds,” which at first included properties from Warner Bros.’ Alloy Entertainment, like “Gossip Girl,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
Holt embraced the new platform and said she was making between $3,000 and $5,000 a month on Kindle Worlds, a “huge part” of her income.
But in 2018, Holt suddenly found herself back to the drawing board when Amazon shut down Kindle Worlds. And she’s not the only one. Business Insider spoke to several romance authors about losing out on thousands of dollars in monthly income when the platform closed.
“When Kindle Worlds shut down, it hit me financially,” Holt said. “That’s a big hole in your pocket. It took me a while to build back up to that level again.”
And she’s also borrowed a bit of the Kindle Worlds model to help boost her income.
Holt’s launching a new book called “Unexpected Risk” in her “Phoenix Agency” series on February 28 and she invited 10 authors to write in that universe, with some specific guidelines Holt’s set. All the books will launch the same day to increase exposure — on Amazon’s Kindle.
The reality for many authors is that Amazon is an inescapable force in the publishing industry. And if Amazon were to launch a service similar to Kindle Worlds again, Holt would sign on in a heartbeat.
“I’d say ‘send me the contract right now,”‘ she said. “You have to go into it with the understanding that [Amazon is] the big dog. I got a lot out of it and I’m more successful now because of it. I was really sorry to see it end.”
The story of Amazon’s foray into fan fiction, and how it changed over the last few years, shows how many authors have to play by Amazon’s rules to make a living — and be subject to its whims in how it supports particular platforms or products.