This is kind of an amazing story from the Wall Street Journal. Last year, Amazon announced a new program called Kindle Words, which made it permissible for writers to sell their own fan-fiction of licensed characters owned by other writers and corporations. This is only possible with certain franchises that Amazon made their deal with. Anything owned by Alloy Entertainment is fair game, which includes The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, among others.
I have to admit, I have a generally low opinion of fan fiction. If you really want to write, you'll learn a lot more by trying to tell your own original stories where you have to build a universe out of whole cloth instead of piggy-backing onto someone else's work.
The interesting wrinkle in this is that it has opened the door for a previously-fired writer to continue telling stories in the series where she was replaced. Around 1991, a writer named L.J. Smith was hired by Alloy to create a series of vampire books for a young-adult audience. This was the origin of The Vampire Diaries, which would go on to spawn several books in the series and get a resurgence when the CW created a TV adaptation of the novels.
Then, as the article notes, she was abruptly fired about a year ago. Yet, the series continued under a ghostwriter, with L.J. Smith's name still appearing prominently on the books. I'll let the article take it from here:
After she was let go, Ms. Smith shifted her focus to her other teen series—she publishes three popular fantasy series with Simon & Schuster, which have some three million copies in print—and a new post-apocalyptic novel. But the unfinished plot of "The Vampire Diaries" nagged at her. She missed writing about the characters.
Ms. Smith began publishing Vampire Diaries fan fiction through Amazon's Kindle Worlds in January. Amazon and Alloy get a cut of the sales and control many rights to the stories.
Then, last fall, Ms. Smith's tax attorney and friend, Julie Divola, emailed her about Kindle Worlds and noted that Alloy was allowing fans to sell stories based on "The Vampire Diaries."
In January of this year, Ms. Smith started publishing her fan fiction on Kindle Worlds. So far, she's released two books: a novel, "Evensong: Paradise Lost," and the novella-length story "The War of Roses," for $3.99 and $1.99 respectively. Amazon won't disclose the sales figures for L.J. Smith's fan fiction or any other fan fiction.
"Evensong" picks up after "Midnight," Ms. Smith's last official Vampire Diaries book, and continues the story as though books eight through 12 never happened. It features the same cast of characters: the long-suffering heroine, Elena; her dueling love interests, the sexy vampire brothers Damon and Stefan Salvatore, the werewolf Caroline and the psychic medium Bonnie, among others.
Ms. Smith says that when she began publishing her Vampire Diaries fan fiction on Amazon this past January, she wasn't aware that she was giving up the copyright to those stories, too. Nor did she realize she'd be giving Alloy a cut of earnings from the new stories. But had she known, it wouldn't have deterred her, she says. "It wouldn't have stopped me," she says. "I didn't do these books for money. They're entirely a labor of love."
Amazon's fan-fiction program is allowing an author to make a little money finishing off a series she can't contribute to officially. That's pretty cool.
Now if only we can work out something similar for Revenge so that Mike Kelley can finish out that story his way, I'll be really happy.