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. 


christinemarie said...

This is just too cool. Joe, you are quite the man to cultivate new talent and share the wealth. Love this.

JA Konrath said...


This is a beta program. Amazon is going to see how it works out, and then maybe they'll try it with other authors.

I think this has enormous potential. Plus, it'll be fun. :)

Buck Rogers said...

This is way cool, I especially like that you let us play with your characters from most of your books regardless if it Kilborn or Konrath

HStanbrough said...

Joe, will Amazon require anyone who plays in the Kindle Worlds arena to publish exclusively with Amazon? I assume the stories written for KW will be exclusive but will they require exclusivity for our other works in order for us to play in KW? Thanks.

Paul White said...

Joe, one thing that occurred to me after reading this was the issue of congruence with the full Konrath canon. I've read some of your novels in each of your genres, but not all of them. Let's say I wanted to take one of your characters to Honolulu for an investigation. It would be useful to know whether you ever used Hawaii as a setting. I would want to buy that novel and mine it for background material, such as supporting cast. In all your spare time (wink), please think about setting up a Worlds-of-Konrath Wiki. It could be populated and maintained by fans. It wouldn't really need full articles - it could be just a searchable index. For example, if someone entered "New Mexico", Origin would be in the results. If someone entered "Jack Daniels", all the novels containing her would come up, but also a list of cities she's visited.

adan said...

It's a great improvement and opportunity, glad Amazon's testing this out - thanks!

Nick said...

Great that you are (potentially at least) opening up this opportunity to non-US authors as well. As a UK author, I find it hugely frustrating that Amazon is still barring authors from outside the US from writing for Kindle Worlds.

Wicked Christa said...

Thanks for looking out for the rest of us, Joe.

Ian Pattinson said...

I'm intrigued. If I can find a way to have a character drop into the UK for an adventure, I'll get in touch.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Excellent, Joe! I have two stories in KW (one commissioned thriller novella in A.G. Riddle's Atlantis world, and one short in Hugh Howey's WOOLiverse) and I'm currently writing another for Rysa Walker's CHRONOS world. I also have paid WOOL "fanfic" outside of KW that was grandfathered in because Hugh let folks write and publish in his world early on.

A word to anyone doing this--it's lots of fun, but in some ways trickier than writing original material. You have the world built but you have to make it work with everything that came before.

Joe, is this in addition to your earlier plan to let other authors suggest plots and then co-write books with you? Is that still happening?

And though we would still own our own new characters if we wrote in your KW world (unlike with most worlds there) can we carry those characters on to other stories that we sell anywhere?

Thanks for continuing to break down barriers. You're a pioneer.


JA Konrath said...

Joe, is this in addition to your earlier plan to let other authors suggest plots and then co-write books with you? Is that still happening?

It replaces that plan, Patrice. I couldn't keep up with the stories I was getting, which was unfair to the authors.

Jill James said...

So cool, Joe. Thanks for expanding your Worlds.

C.J. Carella said...

This is awesome, and incredibly generous of you, Joe. I've read all the Jack Daniels book, and I've often fantasized about writing something with those wonderful characters. Reading your announcement, my brain is beginning to spin with ideas for a genre-bending mashup. Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity!

Alan Spade said...

I still think that ebooks, which are far less dependant on technology than, say, videogames, should be universally available and not exclusive to one specific platform.

That said, kudos for succeeding in changing the kindle worlds concept in a more profitable way for authors by negociating with the amazon team.

Let's hope that it will entice Amazon's competitors in doing the same thing.

D. C. Chester said...

This is all well and good, however...everyone knows Superman would bitch slap Hulk all over the planet.


Marcus Blakeston said...

The trouble with Kindle Worlds is they're georestricted. I wanted to read the Wayward Pines books written by Steven Konkoly but being in the UK I'm not allowed to.

JA Konrath said...

The trouble with Kindle Worlds is they're georestricted. I wanted to read the Wayward Pines books written by Steven Konkoly but being in the UK I'm not allowed to.

I didn't know that. I'll ask Amazon about it.

JA Konrath said...

Hulk would smash Superman! Doomsday killed Supes, and Hulk is stronger.

If only we could write it...

Mir Writes said...

Thank you so much for, yet again, pushing for author rights. My already high regard for you has grown some added inches. :D

J Pierce said...

Then if the copyright was shared between the original author and the second writer, meaning all profits would be split between the two authors, would that be enough to entice you to participate in the venture?

Anonymous said...

In the comics world Superman HAS squared off with The Hulk, on at least three occasions that I've read.

Belart Wright said...

I love this idea! Ever since me and my nephew used to draw characters as kids we'd dream of crossing them over in a comic book one day. Crossovers are just so cool even when they're crappy (90's Marvel vs. DC). If the movies are doing it, why not books?

BTW, Hulk loses to Supes. Superman and Hulk are about par in strength but Superman also has speed, flight, and a crazy array of other abilities. Doomsday was like Hulk meets Terminator, you just couldn't kill the thing. Then again power levels fluctuate in comics so its a tough match to call.

Anonymous said...

Superman squared off against the Hulk in "Superman & Spiderman," (1981) "Marvel Comics vs DC Comics," (1996) and "The Incredible Hulk vs Superman." (1999)

JA Konrath said...

Superman squared off against the Hulk in

I think my my overall point is getting lost.

DC owns Superman. Marvel owns Hulk. Image owns Spawn.

Since none of these characters are in the pubic domain, the only way to use them is with a license. But that's only one level of restriction. Even with an approved license, licencors will have rules. The Marvel/DC Hulk/Superman fights have been pretty lackluster at best. That's because the rules imposed by the licencor override any creative freedom on the part of the author/artist.

Writers who work for a specific comic company have rule sheets and bibles for what is allowed and what isn't. Unless special exceptions are given, there are boundaries. It's stifling creatively.

I've love to write a comic with Hulk, Superman, and Spawn, and have them beat the hell out of each other for 64 pages, instead of throw each other around for six panels and say stupid stuff. And I'd like to decide who wins, not be restricted or constrained by what the licencors' agree on.

I went into this Kindle World giving writers almost total freedom, with the exception of the guidelines that Amazon imposed (no ads, no porn, no racism). I allow any kind of sexual relationship. I allow writers to kill my characters. I allow writers to bring in their own characters.

Marvel and DC aren't doing this with their IPs, and during the rare times they had crossovers, there were either rules, or they let the fans decide.

Ultimately, my point is that Hulk would tear off the Man of Steel's arms and beat him to death with them. But that story won't ever be written by me, because of copyright.

How interesting it would be if fair use allowed writers to use the IP's of others. Let's say it was a limited use; maybe 15% of the completed protect. It will still be a game-changer.

But as we saw in the music sampling lawsuits through the ages, it ain't gonna happen.

Anonymous said...


You're launching with 30 stories. Is Amazon waiting to see how it goes with these initial stories before accepting more submissions?

Buck Rogers said...

This replaced the collaboration plan but could the possibility arise that you read one of these and reach out to author and ask them to collaborate? (Keeping hope alive)

JA Konrath said...

Is Amazon waiting to see how it goes with these initial stories before accepting more submissions?

No need. It's open to everyone right now.

JA Konrath said...

This replaced the collaboration plan but could the possibility arise that you read one of these and reach out to author and ask them to collaborate?

There's always a possibility.

But I haven't written a solo work in 20 months. My last dozen releases were collabs, and I still have a few more coming up. I think I need to tend to my own garden for a bit.

Lauren Orbison said...

I got my start writing with Star Wars fanfiction. There's good fanfiction and bad fanfiction out there. I think this is a really neat idea. Kudos to you.

Shari Hearn said...

I think it's great you're opening up some of your worlds to the public, and really appreciate you allowing the authors to keep their original characters, which was the stumbling block for many writers who wanted to write Kindle Worlds books. I have a couple of Kindle Worlds books up myself and am currently working on a third, but will definitely look into your world next. Thank you so much for giving us all this opportunity.

Unknown said...

Great news! I've been working on a Jack Daniels crossover short story that interleaves with my paranormal series, and with this incredible experiment underway, I know I'll be able to publish it. Thanks for being such an innovator!

Unknown said...

Now Joe, if you can just get the folk at KDP to allow those from outside the US in to Kindle Worlds, that would be a breakthrough.