Selling Fanfic to Publishers

Seaquest2032_aI received an email today from a guy who writes fanfic in "the SEAQUEST universe" and would like to see it published as novels. Here’s part of what he wrote me: 

We see novels based on other universes published all the time. Be they
the Extended-Universe Star Wars novels written by people like Timothy
Zahn or the Star Trek novels which go largely uncreditted by Paramount
studios, and they seem to do fairly well. Do you have any tips on how
I may actually go getting Atlantis published? Obviously there would be
copyright issues that need to be resolved with Universal studios and
so on, but I don’t have the foggiest on where to begin!

First off, your initial premise is wrong: Paramount maintains rigid control over the STAR TREK novels as does Lucasfilm over the STAR WARS books.

I would say it would be impossible to get Atlantis, your SeaQuest-derived work, published and it would be an utter waste of time to pursue it. But, for the sake of argument, you would have to contact Cindy Chang at Universal Licensing in Los Angeles for permission to shop it around. Then whatever publisher you found would have to pay Universal a license fee to publish your work.

There are two ways that licensed novels are usually pursued.

1) The studio offers their TV or movie property to publishers.
2) a publisher contacts a studio and says they are interested in a particular property, what would it cost to license it?

In either case, the studio is paid a license fee, receives royalties, and usually maintains creative control over the property (ie they can approve or reject writers, stories, manuscripts, etc.).
For instance, in my case, Penguin/Putnam had tremendous success with the MURDER SHE WROTE novels (licensed from Universal) and wanted to come up with a companion series that would appeal to the same audience. So they approached Paramount and licensed DIAGNOSIS MURDER from them, then they came to me to write the books (though I had to be approved by Paramount first). I am paid an advance and a royalty. Paramount, in addition to the license fee, also gets royalties.  All my manuscripts are read, and approved, by Paramount before they are published.

My advice to you is to move on. It’s time to write something original…and to put your efforts into getting that published instead.


I was doing research on the cartoon strip "Marmaduke," the huge dog, for my MONK novel (Monk loves Marmaduke), when I stumbled on this entertaining discussion of fandom at Websnark. He illustrates his ideas by describing what Marmaduke fandom might be like:

The Marmaduke fandom, on the other hand, spends a significant amount of time
on the Marmaduke forum (the Marmaduchy, let’s call it). They have many different
discussions on Marmaduke, and on things that have nothing to do with Marmaduke
— to the point that the Marmaduke forum moderators had to create a specific
topic for off-topic posts, and have to kick folks there whenever they stray.
They trade LJ icons and forum avatars based on Marmaduke art. They collect pithy
Marmaduke sayings. They affirm each other and their common love of Marmaduke,
and they find close friends through Marmaduke — friends that mean a lot to them
far beyond Marmaduke. This is what the Marmaduke Fandom has given them, and it
means everything to them.

The idea, for many of the Marmaducets and duchesses (so clever, those
Marmaduke fans — the guys naming themselves after currency and the girls making
a delightful play on Marmaduke’s name), is not so much the individual Marmaduke
strips themselves, but the zeitgeist of all that is Marmaduke. It’s the
attitude. It’s how Marmaduke makes them feel, and how much they can amplify that
feeling in the company of others. It can be terrifically empowering and it can
be terrifically satisfying. Right here, in this little community on the
internet, Marmaduke is the coolest thing around, and by showing your love for
Marmaduke, you’re cool too.
And as for Marmaduke-creator Brad Anderson? The
Marmaduchy provides feedback and, more importantly, validation. It’s damn hard
to be a cartoonist — or a creator of any stripe. It takes effort and ego and
skill and talent, and you spend a huge amount of time wondering if anyone gives
a fuck. The Marmaduchy tells Anderson "yes. Yes, we give a fuck. We give many
fucks. In fact, if you want us to, several of us will in fact have sex with you
if you want, because you have brought so much pleasure to our lives that we
would dearly love to repay you."

The  dark side of fandom, he says, is Fan Entitlement, which he describes like this:

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