When is a Tie-in Not a Tie-in?

Word that a sequel to PETER PAN will be written by award-winning children’s book author Geraldine McCaughrean (authorized by Great Ormond Street Hospital, which owns the copyright to
the original characters) got novelist Jeff Mariotte wondering why literary tie-ins aren’t treated with the same lack of respect in the publishing industry as other tie-in novels.

Books set in the world of Peter Pan, or The Godfather, or Gone With the Wind, are works made for hire, based on characters and settings created by other writers.  The originals are loved by millions.  The new books are approved by the copyright holders of the original material.

Every word of that is true of a Star Trek novel or a Conan novel or a Buffy novel.  And yet, the literary establishment embraces one while frowning on the other.  Readers of what are traditionally considered tie-in novels are made to feel like they’re indulging in a lower form of entertainment, on a par with cockfighting or something.

He goes on to say that this kind of bias is why an organization like the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers is long over due. Obviously, I couldn’t agree more. So far, we’ve brought over a 100 professional media tie-in writers together and will soon be announcing more details about our first annual Scribe Awards, honoring excellence in tie-in writing.

UPDATE: Several other tie-in writers/bloggers, like Karen Traviss and Keith R.A. DeCandido have also commented on Jeff’s observations.

7 thoughts on “When is a Tie-in Not a Tie-in?”

  1. Given the tone of the various discussions, the time has come for this question to be asked often and loudly… 🙂
    And I look forward to the endeavors of the IAMTIW to obliterating the need for future generations to ask these questions. 🙂

  2. Some info about Great Ormand Street Children’s Hospital in London, in case anyone is unaware of this great place.
    A friend’s daughter Jamey (age 7) battled cancer there for nine months in 2000, until she finally succumbed.
    The doctors nurses and staff at this amazing institution do unbelievable work with sick and dying children. The generous spirit of Barrie does indeed walk the wards of Great Ormand Street.
    If, for no other reason, than to see half the royalties go to help these kids, I’ll be buying the new sequel.

  3. You’re wrong about “literary” tie-ins commanding more respect than TV or film tie-ins. Remember Scarlett, the sequel to Gone With the Wind? No? There’s a reason. How about all those awful Jane Austen sequels? Does anybody even remember their titles? Of course not. And who can forget Poodle Springs? Anybody who has read it, that’s all.
    In any case, conforming to the concept behind such works, IAMTW ought to represent them, too.

  4. A minor correction: You commented that “Great Ormond Street Hospital ..owns the copyright to the original characters”. That isn’t strictly correct. Many of the original characters were first published in 1911 in “Peter Pan and Wendy”, which is now in the public domain.
    The copyright for the play-script “Peter Pan” was registered in 1928, and seems due to expire in 2007. However, most of the story that we know as ‘Peter Pan’ is actually from the 1911 story – the 1928 version is quite different.
    Disney did a sequel novel (of sorts) in 2004 without paying any royalties. After an out of court settlement, the hospital issued a statement which stated that the novel was “fair use” of the hospital’s “U.S. intellectual property rights”.
    Just to be confusing, in the UK government decided that to save funding the hospital out of their own budget, they could simply pass a law extending the hospital’s rights of the 1928 play indefinitely – totally ignoring copyright treaties.
    However, since most of the story that we know as ‘Peter Pan’ is actually from the 1911 story, and since this law only applies within the UK, this bizarre rule seems to be largely worthless – as the Disney lawsuit showed.

  5. “Respect” is measured in many ways. “Scarlett” was critically panned, but it was published in hardcover, heavily promoted, widely reviewed, and earned its author a hefty advance. My point is that every book ought to be judged on its own merits, whatever its “pedigree.”


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