Despite being a driving source of interest in books, films, or TV shows, fanfiction faces an uncertain reaction from authors. Some have embraced it, others have tacitly accepted it, and a few have lashed out at fanfiction writers. But so far, virtually no one has done what bookseller Amazon now promises: offered to pay them for writing in other people's universes. "Kindle Worlds," announced just now, is an offshoot of Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program. Fanfiction authors can submit their work to Amazon and, if they're accepted, receive royalties when they're sold on the Kindle Store. To get around the problem of selling works that likely infringe on another author's copyright, though, Amazon will pay another royalty: to the authors of the original work, who have granted a blanket license.

Amazon will pay not only the fanfiction writer, but also the original author, for each work

Depending on your definition, plenty of fanfiction has made its way onto the bookshelves or even the bestseller list. Authors have won the right to publish critical reinterpretations of books like Gone with the Wind, and the notorious 50 Shades of Gray series started out as Twilight fanfiction. But the latter did so only after significant rewrites and the removal of anything that could directly tie the two series together. Kindle Worlds, by contrast, will launch "soon" and allow direct fanfiction written for three Warner Brothers series: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries; more licenses are planned for the future. Fanfiction authors will receive 35 percent royalties on full-length works and 20 percent for shorter ones.

The fact that these works are officially licensed means that there are also stricter guidelines than authors would find on an unofficial repository like Fanfiction.net. Most prominently, there's no way to write crossover fanfiction, which combines characters or settings from multiple works. Pornographic content and anything containing "racial slurs, excessively graphic or violent material, or excessive use of foul language" is also forbidden. As the program advances, other issues will likely arise. After all, even if they're happy to have other writers adapt their work, authors will likely have limits to what they're comfortable seeing in print.