The Wall Street Journal takes a look at fanfic writers who have made the leap to the mainstream.
Fan fiction, stories by amateur writers about characters from their
favorite books, movies and television shows, was once mainly a fringe
pursuit. Now, it’s changing the world of fiction, as Internet exposure
helps unknown authors find mainstream success. Some Web sites are
attracting unprecedented numbers of readers and, in some cases, leading
to book deals…
There’s a librarian in Rathdrum, Idaho, who spent 10 years posting her
writings about a character from Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice"
online; Simon & Schuster paid her a $150,000 advance to publish the
works as a three-novel trilogy. In Brooklyn, N.Y., a free-lance copy
editor has become one of the Web’s best-known "Lord of the Rings" and
"Harry Potter" fan-fiction writers, and has landed a three-book
publishing deal for a young-adult fantasy series.
Fanficcers are changing the world of fiction? This I had to read. Unfortunately, the reporter relies more on hyperbole than fact. To support his pronouncement, he chronicles two writers in specific, a Potter-ficcer who has sold a book to "Frank Fradella, an author running his own small independent
book-publishing company, New Babel Books" and a guy who landed a literary agent thanks to his submissions to an officially-sanction "L Word" fanfic contest. That’s, um, hardly rocking the foundations of publishing and broadcast media. (New Babel Books has published six books to date — four of them written by the publisher himself).
More interesting to me was the reporter’s discussion of FanLib, a company that’s trying to mainstream fanfic for promotional use. They are the one who staged THE L WORD competition and they have a new one coming with Harper Collins.
FanLib recently launched a romance-writing contest
with HarperCollins’s Avon imprint. "We’re looking for ways to reach the
real core readers," says Liate Stehlik, Avon’s senior vice president
and publisher. To avoid copyright problems, they had writers create
chapters of a novel from scratch, instead of basing them on one
What I don’t get about this contest is that readers are being asked to write original work, not something based on someone else’s character. So what’s the fanfic connection? From what I can tell, there isn’t any. And in the L WORD contest, writers were given scenarios by a writer/producer on the show…and the winner would be writing with someone on the show… thus site-stepping the fanfic issue altogether. It seems to me that FanLib is only interested in exploiting fanficcers under the pretense of supporting fanfic…which, in fact, they aren’t actually doing at all.
(Thanks to Kete for the heads-up on the WSJ article!)