How writers & their readers are surviving Amazon’s closing of a beloved fan service

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.

It was good while it lasted….

Read it all at insider.com

Do Your Characters Make the Best 1st Impression They Can?

Nathan Bransford, one of TVWriter™’s favorite writers – and writing consultants – is here with spot on advice about how all of us hope filled wordsmiths can “nail every character’s first impression.”

Yes, Nathan is talking about writing prose fiction, but TV and film characters need all the help they can get in order to appear real, yeah?

by Nathan Bransford

You know that old saw “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” I don’t know how much it really matters in real life, but it absolutely matters in books.

The way you introduce a character will leave an indelible imprint for your reader. Hopefully. If you nail it.

Here are some tips on how to get it right.

Problematic first impressions

There are two main ways authors get things wrong when they introduce a new character:

  1. They don’t give enough physical description to help us create a mental image for the new character.
  2. They focus too much on “establishing” the character in a static way, with history and backstory, rather than weaving the character into the story.

Rather than just dropping in a character and hoping we fill in the details, at least give us something to anchor to, whether it’s an article of clothing, their presence, or a facial expression. Synecdoches can work and the reader will fill in a lot of blanks if they have a bit of context.

And rather than taking up a whole chapter simply to “introduce” a character and a static (and inevitably boring) way, introduce them in the course of advancing the story. You can provide whatever exposition you need to contextualize their presence along the way.

But even beyond just these basic nuts and bolts, I’d suggest a new way of thinking about introducing characters.

Every time you introduce a new character is an opportunity.

Think cinematically

While I’d caution against overly screenplay-izing your novel, there is definitely one area where I think it’s great to think like a movie director.

Think of some the iconic character introductions of all time:

  • Darth Vader stepping onto the spaceship, his respirator hissing. (along with basically every first impression in Star Wars).
  • General George Patton in front of a giant American flag.
  • Humphrey Bogart in his white dinner coat as Rick in Casablanca.
  • Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West on the bike in The Wizard of Oz.

These moments are vivid and palpable. The characters are doing something, they have a unique physical presence. It’s a moment you remember.

Read it all at Nathan Bransford’s super helpful blog

Check out Nathan’s new book

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY NEWS AUDIO EDITION – 01/23/2020

by Bob Tinsley

Why should you as a visitor to TVWriter™ be interested in making audio fiction? Why should you be interested in making podcasts? Discoverability, that’s why.

The meaning of the word podcast is evolving to include any episodic, audio-only production whether nonfiction or fiction. Agents and major studios have started trawling through podcasts and their creators for new content and talent. 

So here’s the latest news to help you and your podcast get discovered: 

Music from https://filmmusic.io
“The Builder” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)


  • OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS.

Seeking: Audio Drama Scripts.

If you would like to dip your toe into the audio fiction scene without taking on the whole magilla of recording and production, this might be the ticket for you. Hawk and Cleaver is looking for audio fiction scripts in the horror, thriller, and/or sci-fi genre in the 10- to 15-minute range for a new project. Deadline is February 25th.

https://bit.ly/37YcVKm

  • RESOURCES, PART 1.

Podcast Revolution: The Rise And Rise Of Audio Storytelling.

This article by Richard Brooks gives a brief overview of the history of audio fiction shows. Every show he mentions is worth a listen to hear how to do audio right. The best takeaway from this is his list of the most influential audio dramas over the past 50 years, as voted on by radio and podcast drama producers. There is real gold here.

http://theconversation.com/podcast-revolution-the-rise-and-rise-of-audio-storytelling-128356

  • RESOURCES, PART 2.

The Road to Quitting Our Day Jobs with Patreon.

Sean Howard of Fable and Folly Productions has made just about every mistake it’s possible to make on Patreon. As a result, you really need to follow him (@passitalong on Twitter) and listen to what he has to say. The first link is to a PDF slideshow about his journey as a Patreon user. Whatever you can’t find there you can find on the second link to Fable and Folly’s resource page. Particularly fascinating are the links to his ELEVEN PART Medium series about his Patreon growth experiment.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1f6VR4EylqkcFFleuwaHDnCpzr3PsXusC/view

https://fableandfolly.productions/resources/

  • WE NEED MORE LISTENERS.

5-Step Social Media Blueprint To Grow Your Audience.

This article by Traci Long DeForge lays out five ways to increase your effectiveness on social media. One of the things she recommends is the use of Audiograms, something that is turning up increasingly often in advice posts. An audiogram is a “video” that shows a static graphic while your show plays. In addition to the method for production she mentions, you can also create one using Windows Photos.

https://podcastbusinessjournal.com/5-step-social-media-blueprint-to-grow-your-audience/

  • IF YA WANNA WRITE, YA GOTTA LISTEN, PART 1.

Jarnsaxa Rising.

Lindsay Harris Friel wrote and produced this show about what might happen when Norse gods manifest in the present. Sound engineering and music were done by Vincent Friel. Just above the 60th parallel in the Baltic Ocean, a team of researchers arrives at an abandoned wind farm, to investigate some unexplained energy surges. They discover that the wind farm has become sentient. And hungry. Filled with cliffhangers and action, the two seasons of this show are imminently bingeable.

https://jarnsaxarising.com/

  • IF YA WANNA WRITE, YA GOTTA LISTEN, PART 2.

2019 Audio Verse Award Winners.

The annual Audio Verse Awards are the Academy Awards of the audio world. Shows are nominated and voted on by the audio fiction community. There are three main divisions: improvised production, basically live game-play; spoken word production, one narrator; and audio play production. From the website: “2019 marked a change in how Fiction has been recognized in Apple Podcasts, though early iPod adopters know Audio Fiction to have been there since the early days. The titans of modern audio drama have shown themselves capable of not only using audio to create new stories that have emotional impact, but even inspire their listeners to tell their own stories. Not only are more people listening to stories in audio, today’s listeners are becoming tomorrow’s creators.”

https://audioverseawards.net/2019-winners/

Until next week, same Pod-time, same Pod-channel, keep listening and keep creating.

American Gods Revealed: The Mythology Behind American Gods

You thought Mr. Robot was profound?

Clearly, you need to open your eyes to these:

From StoryDive

John Ostrander: The Usefulness of Memory Lapses

by John Ostrander

I have now coasted past my 70th birthday and have acquired the rights of geezerhood, one of which is a variable memory. I forget things. Not everything nor am I making claims to senility (yet). But sometimes some things drop out and that isn’t necessarily bad.

I suspect I acquired both this trait and outlook from my mother. Every year she would re-read Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather and at the time I didn’t understand that. Why re-read a book when there are so many out there she had not yet opened? She told me that, due to lapsing memory, she didn’t always remember the plot and so had the pleasure of discovering the story anew. I have since discovered that pleasure for myself. It’s not simply re-reading books that I like but forgetting some the plot details. Mysteries work well with this; for example, I have read every Nero Wolfe mystery that Rex Stout ever wrote (and a few that he didn’t) and I am currently re-reading them. With some (not all), I have forgotten who-dun-it and that’s okay.

The real pleasure is not in the unravelling of the mystery but in time spent with the characters, especially Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. I’ve really come back for the interplay between them. The resolution to the mystery – indeed, of most mysteries – is very secondary for me compared to that interplay. I would argue that’s true for most mysteries; when Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in A Study In Scarlet, we’re not deeply interested in who the killer is but in how Holmes catches him. I would argue that Doyle’s deepest interest also is not in the killer although he spends a great deal of time in the killer’s backstory. The identity of the murderer and the workings of the plot are there to drive the story and to give us an excuse to visit with our friends, the main characters. 

It is somewhat the same with music; I’d forgotten how much I liked the group WAR until I recently stumbled on to their recording of Cisco Kid

which in turn led to re-discovering Low RiderWhy Can’t We Be FriendsAll Day Music and so many others. The algorithm on YouTube thought I might like The O’Jays For The Love Of Money and it was right and that led to Earth, Wind and Fire’s That’s The Way of the World and the algorithm was even more right there. With all these, there are complicated rhythms and harmonies that I don’t think are matched in today’s music (I told you I was hitting geezerhood; HEY, YOU KIDS! GET OFF MY MUSIC!). I remember the cuts but forgot just how good they were. Re-discovering them doesn’t just take me back. The music buoys me up as it did when I first heard it.

Rediscovery is harder for me to do with movies. The ones that have been my faves I tend to watch again with some frequency. I remember the plots; I remember the details. On some like Casablanca or Waking Ned Devine, I can almost speak the lines with the characters. However, there are some TV shows that I liked when I was quite a bit younger that I have occasionally re-encountered not that long ago. (That’s one of the blessings of TV these days; everything that was ever shown before may be on again.) My favorite TV show when I was a boy was Zorro with Guy Williams in the title role.

Seeing it again I found it still holds up. The same has been true of Have Gun, Will TravelWanted: Dead or Alive and most especially The Rifleman.

They all were half hour shows and what really makes them work is the writing. Not only first rate but a season back then had more episodes than they do these days. More demanding. And they often worked with themes and social questions. Keep in mind, this was back in the 50s and the early 60s – not an era we associate with “social relevance”.  I remember seeing these shows now and then back in the day but forgetting how good they were.

There were shows and books and music that I sort of remember when I encounter them – and hey, they’re as bad as I remember. One of my PBS stations runs re-runs of Lawrence Welk every Saturday and I can hardly bear to see even the commercials. But sometimes selective amnesia is a gift and it can give a great deal of pleasure.

So excuse me while I check back in to a certain brownstone on West 35th street in NYC  to find out what Wolfe and Archie are doing. They may have told me but I forget.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but our favorite editorial scapegoat, AKA Tim Muncher, found this piece, which seems to have been John’s last at the eminent and still trucking blog, PopCultureSquad. You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE