Fanfiction and Publishing

50 Shades of Fanfiction (or am I a book snob)
Let’s talk about fanfiction in traditional publishing!

Confession time.  I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey.  I know, I’m the target market (according to the media reports) middle aged mother from middle America who has the guilty pleasure of romance novels and writing what others lovingly refer to as ‘smut.’  It should go without saying that I’d pick up the book and be a loyal fan like so many others I know.

But I went book snob on it.

I didn’t avoid it due to content (though from what I hear of it, I’m not sure I’d like it as much as some women I know) I avoided it because of the fact that EL James wrote it, originally, as a fan fiction of the popular Twilight series.

Its not fanfiction I have something against, in truth I’ve wrote more than my fair share of it and have read some amazing fanfiction; its that someone actually PUBLISHED fanfiction (names altered to protect the not-so-innocent and to avoid lawsuit.)  And that’s my issue.

I’ve stewed on this topic for a long while and in the meantime, yet another author has landed a six-figure book deal for her fanfiction.  I’m left stunned.

Since learning of this new author, whose name eludes me at the moment, I’ve spent the last few days trying to understand why it bothers me that these writers borrowed character’s and their characteristics (only changing names once they were taking their work to market) and it didn’t trouble the original authors or the publishing world at large.  You’d think it would, right?

Yet I never heard a word about Twilight’s author suing EL James for millions… and I sincerely doubt this latest writer will ever be served legal papers either.  So why does it bother me?  Sour grapes?  Was I being catty and refusing to enjoy a book simply because I didn’t ever think of taking my own fanfiction to market?  Is this the future of books and I’m just the last to get on board due to snobbery?

And then it occurred to me – the truth of all writing that its sometimes very easy to forget:  most every story you can dream up, has been told already.  I know, we all like to think we’re original in some fashion but storytelling is as old a profession as time itself.  Inspiration for new books and characters comes from other stories and experiences we’ve had in the course of life.

Chances are very good that every famous story you’ve ever read, or will read, draws off something else.  We’re all guilty of it, even if unintentionally.  These authors are just either unwilling (or unable due to the internet’s ability to keep everything put out there) to keep their inspiration silent.  At the end of the day, I’m told, Mr. Grey doesn’t really resemble the character who inspired him (Edward Cullen.)

If a writer sits down at their keyboard and dreams up the story of a character’s further adventures, and then alters that character to be unrecognizable to the reader… have they really done anything different than any other author does at a keyboard?

I doubt this will change my desire to read 50 Shades… while my original reason no longer holds water in my mind, I just don’t think it would be my cup of tea.  If it’s yours, good on you and good for EL James.  However, I don’t think I’ll allow “previously fanfiction” be a reason to keep a book at arm’s length anymore.

How about you?  Where do you stand on the “previously fanfiction” books that are starting to come out and be big earners?  Do you think it’s a new frontier for writing or old hat that’s just now being dragged out for us all to acknowledge in the light of day?  Or are they profiting from established and well known characters popularity and fan base? I’d love to hear your opinions and thoughts on the topic.

Visit DeAnna M Ross' website http://deannamross.net/
Visit DeAnna M Ross’ website http://deannamross.net/

6 comments on “Fanfiction and Publishing

  1. I actually read it as a fanfiction first so I always pictured a more muscular Robert Pattinson as Mr. Grey. I like fanfiction and at first glance I liked the story, but I didn’t like the way the story used abuse as a reason for his predilection. It gives bdsm a bad rap because bdsm is not abuse as long as it’s between two consenting adults.

  2. I had no idea it was a Twilight fanfiction. I have read all three books at least three times and have never put the two together. I think I’m going to have to reread it again.

    As for publishing fanfiction, if it is so far removed from the original that it is different than I don’t see much of a problem. However I also think that fanfiction is just a hobby that shouldn’t be published. Something about the originals being sacred.

    1. I think you and I have much the same mind on this matter Courtney. I, too, have this “originals are sacred” for the most part… or maybe it’s “thou shalt not make money of another author’s fanbase by telling said readers that your book is about their beloved characters/singer/actor.”

      Someone worked hard to build that fanbase and for someone to come in and instantly be able to milk that for $$$ seems wrong to me.

      That being said, I am open to the idea that a story inspired you to write your story. Maybe some character in that book is similar to the character in your book… and hey, if it wasn’t originally fan fiction of Twilight put on the internet – maybe no one would have known. *shrug*

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. This is a lesser known fact but Cassandra Clare’s highly successful Mortal Instruments series is somewhat based on a Harry Potter fan fic series she wrote back in the day, titled Draco trilogy. The characters in her fan fic were hell of a lot different than the original Harry Potter characters. She changed the names and the plots, and published it as an original series (cause it was original.)

    Fan fic community is one place where new authors can gather a huge audience by using the character names from the popular books, even though they write something original. Clare’s fan fic work was totally original, only the names of her characters were Hermione and Draco. No one who reads the Mortal Instruments can recognize any Harry Potter element in it, it has nothing to do with HP at all. It’s a well written series, with good plots and storyline.

    50 Shades on the other hand is badly written with a vocabulary of 300 words, constantly repeating the same phrases over and over, but it has an audience. So long you connect with the audience and deliver what they want, it doesn’t matter how badly you write. 50 shades is a marketing success. It would never get published if the author wasn’t clever enough to start it as a fan fic in the Twilight fandom community.

    1. @authorlrh wrote: “50 shades is a marketing success. It would never get published if the author wasn’t clever enough to start it as a fan fic in the Twilight fandom community.”

      +1 … I also think this might be true as well. I’m sure there are some fans of 50 Shades who aren’t Twi-Hards but the Twi-Hard group helped get 50 shades the initial press… then it was the book everyone wanted to read because of the “naughty factor” (can I call it that without laughing? Probably not.)

      Anyway, we’ll never know and good on EL James I suppose. If she did plan it out that way – genius. If it was a happy happenstance perhaps she was due some good karma. Your guess is as good as mine. If only we could all be so lucky as to hit on such Marketing Gold(tm)

      Thanks for commenting.

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