Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jack Daniels & Associates Kindle Worlds

I was invited into the Kindle Worlds program when it got started.

Kindle Worlds allows others to write in the world another author has created.

For example, if you love the John Rain books by Barry Eisler, or the Wayward Pines series by Blake Crouch, or Hugh Howey's Silo Saga, you can write a story using their worlds and characters, publish it, and actually split the money it earns with that author.

I think this is a killer idea, and it is akin to one I has years ago called the Active Ebook. My intent was for authors to allow other writers to use their characters--what has been known as fan fiction--and monetize it.

Fan ficcers get a bad rap. We all learn to write (and speak, and walk) by imitation. Copyright does do some good in protecting intellectual property and allowing a writer to make money from the works they create, but it is also extremely stifling to ideas, creativity, and Art with a capital A. I'd love to write a Spenser book, or a new Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat, or a graphic novel where the Hulk beats the hell out of Superman and Spawn. But I don't own those properties, and though they may inspire me, copyright law prevents me from using those characters.

Then Kindle Worlds appeared, giving fan ficcers, readers, and professional writers a chance to play in another writer's sandbox, and I applauded it.

But I didn't join.

Though Amazon deserves major kudos for creating this opportunity, the copyright terms were still too restrictive for me. Currently, authors on Kindle Worlds take ownership of the stories (and their contents, including characters) that others write.

So I can write a John Rain thriller. But if I create any new characters to put in the story, they belong to Barry. And if I team Rain up with one of my characters, like Jack Daniels or Chandler, those would also belong to Barry.

This was introduced by Amazon as a way to get writers to play together. Kindle Worlds wanted authors to create characters, and then for other writers to be able to use those characters and build upon them.

That makes sense. But it also prevents Rain and Daniels from teaming up in a KW adventure.

So I didn't allow a JA Konrath Kindle World, because I believe writers should keep the characters they create.

Six months ago, I began to talk with Amazon about making this possible.

Now it is.

On March 3, Amazon is launching my Jack Daniels & Associates Kindle World. And thanks to a tremendous effort on the part of the KW team, the rules have been tweaked in the authors' favor.

You can take any of my characters from eighteen of my novels, and write stories about them. I have no rules or boundaries, and you can mix and match. If you want to take the bad guys from Endurance and have Jack Daniels hunt them down, go for it. If you think Tequila and Phin would make great gay lovers, have at it. If you're sick of Harry McGlade's constant wisecracks, kill him off.

And your character can be the one to kill him.

Besides mixing up and combining the dozens of characters and worlds I've created, you can also use your characters in these worlds. Got a science fiction hero? Bring him into my Timecaster world, and you keep your character rights. Think your streetwise detective would be a good match for Jack Daniels? Go for it, and you keep your character rights.

All the characters you write, you keep. Even if you invent a new character specifically to use in one of my KW stories, that characters stays yours, not mine.

This is a cool chance to do mash-ups and crossovers. Your characters and my characters in the same story, no holds barred, and you don't lose the rights to your characters. Ever.

Q: So how does it work?

A: Very much like KDP. You write a story. Create a cover (KW also has a cover creation app). Make sure it is properly formatted. Then upload it.

Q: How much do I make?

A: As with KDP, it depends on the length of the story. You and I split the royalties evenly after Amazon takes its share.

Q: How do I get paid?

A: Same as KDP. This is open to US authors with bank accounts. If you live outside the US, email me and we'll try to work something out.

Q: Do you have to approve of the stories?

A: Nope. You're on your own, without any restrictions from me. Amazon does the final approval, and as long as you stick to the guidelines, anything goes.

Q: What are the guidelines?

Check them out at my Kindle World.
Q: Can I collaborate with you on a story?

A: That would be fun, but I'm swamped with other work and I can't take on any new projects at the moment. You're on your own, and I have total faith in you.

Q: Will you endorse the story I wrote in your world?

A: I can't endorse any stories, because that's like being with a group of friends and favoring one over all the others. But I will link to your story on my website, Tweet about it to my followers (make sure you let me know about it, my Twitter name is @jakonrath), and you can also do a guest post blog.

Q: Why would I want to write in your Kindle World?

A: Maybe because you like some of my characters and always wanted to write about them. Maybe because you'd like to team up one of your characters with one of mine, or have them be enemies. Maybe you know I've sold millions of books, and this will give us both a chance to cross-pollinate our fanbases. Whether you're in it for love, or for money, you have a sandbox of 18 books to play in. That's over a million words of content for you to use, in genres such as mystery, police procedural, thriller, horror, and science fiction. Let your imagination run wild.

Q: You haven't listed any of your Codename: Chandler Books with Ann Voss Peterson.

A: The Codename: Chandler Kindle World is going to launch later next month. It will be separate from the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle world, but you'll be able to use many of my characters in that world.

Q: Why did you separate those worlds?

A: Codename: Chandler is co-written by Ann. We share that IP. By making it separate, we make sure those stories won't get lost in my solo IPs.

If you're interested in writing in the Codename: Chandler KW, we will be looking for launch stories. Email Ann through her website, and she'll put you in touch with Amazon.

Q: If I decide to write in the Jack Daniels & Associates Kindle World, or the Codename: Chandler Kindle World, do you have a list of the characters I can use?

A: I sure do.

The Jack Daniels list is here:

The Codename: Chandler list is here:

Of course, I strongly suggest you read some of my work before you start writing in my world, because my fans will know if it doesn't fit in.

Q: So why are you doing this? Are you selling out?

A: I like to think of it as sharing the wealth. I got lucky with my career, lots of readers know my brand, so why not let other writers benefit from my name-recognition?

Q: If you're such an altruist, why not let people write in your world and make all the money, not just half?

A: Because, though I try my best to be generous, I'm also a capitalist. 

Q: What if some of these stories suck? Won't that tarnish your brand?

A: Does fan fic tarnish Harry Potter or Twilight? Fifty Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan fic. My very first (unpublished) stories had me trying to imitate Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series. If McBain's estate allowed fan fic under the terms I'm offering, I'd leap at the chance to team up Jack Daniels and Steve Carella.

But I didn't answer the question. All stories sink or swim based on their own merits. I expect good stories will make readers happy and bring more people to my brand. If some stories aren't so good, I'd assume reviewers will warn other readers away from those stories.

If you're a writer who wants to write in my Kindle Worlds, I'll give you the same advice I give all writers: Don't write shit.

My Kindle Worlds site officially launches on March 3, and there will be over 30 stories available at launch.

Watch this blog for links to them all.