LJ Smith, in 1991, published the first book in the Vampire Diaries series. She wrote two more before the CW picked up the property and decided to turn it into a television show. She kept writing for the publishing house Alloy until they fired her for reasons she's not clear on — but she suspects that it was to keep the stories more aligned with the TV show. The new books bear her name in large letters (as well as her NYT bestselling author status!), as creator, and underneath is the credit for the ghostwriter's pen name, Aubrey Clark.
Turns out that Vampire Diaries is one of the properties that Amazon licensed for Kindle Worlds, which allows people to legally sell their fanfic to readers in return for giving up rights to the plotlines within¹. So now LJ Smith is writing and selling her stories there, taking the series where she wants it to go, much to the excitement of the original fans that refused to buy the ghostwritten books.
Can you imagine? It's Firefly or your equivalent coming back to TV. Except she doesn't have the rights, which bites, but still—the stories get out there with her name as author, and a slice of her fandom is beside themselves with joy.
Although the original publishing house intends to end their version of the series in thirteen books, LJ has eight more to go.
¹: Interesting parts of the Kindle Worlds Agreement:
- Every story you publish adds to a World and becomes part of that World. We will allow other Kindle Worlds authors to use and build upon your new elements. Likewise, you may build on other Kindle Worlds stories. A World expands with each new story. Amazon Publishing and the World Licensor may also incorporate your new elements into other works they create without any further compensation to you.
- When you submit your story in a World, you grant Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all of the original elements you include in that story for the term of copyright. This means that your story and all of the new elements must stay within the applicable World, and you can use only this platform to write about them.
- Amazon Publishing and the World Licensors have reserved the right to create movies, TV shows, games, merchandise, and other derivative works based on the stories and new elements published by Kindle Worlds. If a movie, TV show, or game gets made based on your story or elements in your story, you will benefit from the ongoing royalties generated from sales of your work.
- once your story has been accepted and published in Kindle Worlds, we are unable to revert the rights