Why I have strong feelings about Amazon selling fanfiction

Last time I blogged about how swimming across a lake with a bunch of Girl Scouts got me a book deal, but that was in a very metaphorical sense. Today I’m going to tell you what got me a book deal in a very literal sense (among other things, like superhero CPs and a magic agent and a lot of hard work):

Pokemon got me a book deal.
Okay. Rewind. I know you’re confused.
Yesterday I was on Tumblr, and I read this great simple comic about bullying and its effects of self-esteem – this comic (it’s actually a pair of comics). There are fantastic comics like that all over Tumblr, and they’re all for free. I started thinking how much those artists probably love to draw them, and how lucky I am that I can get paid for doing the thing I love, and how I would pay to see original art on Tumblr just so more people could get paid to do the thing they love.
You’ve probably heard about the fact that Amazon just announced a publishing platform to let authors sell fanfiction, but if not, look here
I was already planning on writing a post about fanfiction, so I guess I’ll start there and then we can talk about the Amazon thing.
Lots of people have cool stories about the moment they decided to become writers. Mine isn’t cool. It started with Neopets in fifth grade, with the first long thing I ever wrote being a 100-page Neopets fanfiction that the site published on its Neopian Times. I was ten and I got to see my work professionally formatted and released to a large audience. I also got fan mail (Neopets mail specifically).
It was fucking awesome.
Once you get a taste of being published, you want more. 
The second long thing I ever wrote (agh I keep talking about myself I hope I’m not boring you) was a 900-page Pokemon fanfiction when I was somewhere-between-twelve-and-thirteen, and that got pretty popular. It got so popular that I decided my Real Books would obviously be equally popular in the real world and that I better quit fanfiction so I could become the most famous author ever.
Cue five years of gradually realizing that my urban fantasy ripoff-of-Pokemon-fanfiction-and-Avatar-the-Last-Airbender was never going to get off the ground. 
(And then I wrote PLEASE DON’T TELL and I know I need to shut up but I just got my PM announcement so I’m going to put it here because I’m a dork, even though it has nothing to do with the post:)
(okay shutting up back to our regularly scheduled everything else)
Anyway, the point is that fanfiction is the reason I knew I had to be an author. I needed that taste of what it would be like, that motivation, and fanfiction gave it to me. I wrote fanfiction first. There, I said it. My family probably reads this.
The thing I’m suspecting is that at least a few other authors must have started out the same way. I know of at least one (my CP hiiiiii) who began the EXACT same way, giant Pokemon fanfiction and all. I also know one thing for sure: those are my roots. I’m not gonna forget them, however dorky those roots might be.
So Amazon announces that it’s setting up a thing where people can get paid for their fanfiction and my first reaction is, awesome
Of course, it kind of messes up the original point of this post, where I was basically going to say that fanfiction is great because kicks off real writers into their real careers. And then I realized how fucked up that is.
Who the hell am I to say what’s real writing and what’s not? 
Fanfiction isn’t really separated from the publishing world anymore. Look at Fifty Shades (though I know a bunch of us would prefer not to). There are other examples. We all know that publishing is evolving, blah blah, and maybe part of that is fanfiction joining the party. This Amazon thing definitely has fanfiction joining the party. 
I think my first instinct is to be like “oh wow new party guests hi here’s the punch” rather than “we were at this party way before you so go away and I’m hiding the punch.”
The truth is, I’ve been at this party for approximately two weeks. And I really, really remember what it feels like to love characters so much that you want to bring them into new worlds, take them in new directions, even if you didn’t make them up – to adopt someone else’s baby and raise it into a badass person in the way only you know how. 
I’ve written fanfiction that changed my life, and I’ve read fanfiction that changed my life. And I can’t think of a single reason to look down on fanfiction that feels legitimate to me.
This Amazon thing might not go smoothly. Fanfiction readers might not be willing to start paying for something they can already get easily for free. I dunno how many shows/authors/etc will offer up their licenses. I kind of have no idea how it will work out at all, and the royalties that will actually go to the fanfiction author look pretty pitiful to me. And there’s no doubt that Amazon is just doing it because they think it’ll be profitable for them, not the authors.

 I’m sure smarter people will write smarter stuff about this whole thing. You should probably read what they write. 

I just wanted to say that I always want people to get paid for doing what they love, because it means that they’re able to do what they love.
And I think fanfiction deserves better street cred.
What about you? Did you write fanfiction before you decided to pursue publication? Have you read fanfiction, when you were younger or otherwise? How do you feel about Amazon commercializing it?

EDIT: Two sidenotes I forgot to mention (that also have nothing to do with the post)

Check out this Query/First Page Critique Workshop auction. Proceeds go to benefit the victims of the Oklahoma tornado. A fantastic auction for a fantastic cause.

Other thing: I’ll be traveling in China from May 27th to June 17th, so I won’t be posting and I won’t have much access to internet – if you really need to contact me, email is best, because I’ll try to check it periodically.

EDIT NUMERO TWO: Look at this post by John Scalzi for some excellent preliminary thoughts on the actual terms of Amazon’s proposal.

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10 Responses to Why I have strong feelings about Amazon selling fanfiction

  1. Rachel says:

    Hi Laura!Like you and Michelle, I got my start in fan fiction. I wrote for Animorphs from 1997 to 2011 (though I didn't publish any online until 2007). I also wrote and published online Gossip Girl fanfiction, Little Women fanfic and the O.C.. No shame 😉 It's all out in the open now… I think fan fiction is a great way to GET STARTED. You have a pre-made world/characters/etc. You get to play with them. Have fun putting them in different situations, with different characters etc. However I do think it is a great STARTING POINT and then you can go off and write other fic — your own fiction with your own characters and worlds and problems/situations. (Um, no shame! The WIP I have on LBs about the two sisters started off as an Animorphs fan fiction. The authors are totally aware. It is NOTHING like the world they created anymore nor are the characters in my WIP.) Do I think Amaz0n capitalizing on this is unusual? No. Amaz0n is trying to beat the pub houses at their own game. Do I think going with Amaz0n to publish your FF is a good idea? No, not really. It looks like, from the contracts/articles I've read, that they have the rights after you submit/publish your FF with them that they can take it and publish it elsewhere (anthologies etc) without your permission or knowledge. This is not okay. For real, somebody may have worked hard on that story. Again, I think Amaz0n is trying to beat the houses at their own game, and capitalize on "whats hot" at the moment. I'd not go with them, but then again I have no desire for profit with my fanfic. 🙂

  2. Laura Tims says:

    hey Rachel!I had no idea that your WIP started off as Animorphs fanfic. That is super cool to me because I loved loved Animorphs. <3It's interesting to me because the terms Amazon is offering are obviously horrible, but they're still technically better than what fanfic authors have always had, which is nothing. And maybe it'll kickoff something where some publisher somewhere else offers better terms to take the business away from Amazon. (Who knows – I feel like I'm not knowledgeable enough to offer a solid opinion on the impact of this, tbh.) To me it just becomes a bunch of questions, like what if fanfiction becomes a legitimate genre? It's not my thing anymore, but what if there are people who genuinely want to make that their career? Idk, Amazon's being kinda shitty about it but I like the possibilities it holds for the future.Also, Little Women fanfic? Rad 😀

  3. Um, firstly: where can I read this Pokemon fanfic? Because I want it.Secondly, I have an automatic aversion to all things Amazon, because I am a bookseller at an independently owned bookshop. I don't think Amazon is particularly good for the publishing industry. Now, I didn't say that I didn't think eBooks are bad for the publishing industry, because I do think eBooks have their place. And there are great small-business friendly eBook platforms, like Kobo. But Amazon. Amazon… honestly makes me kind of sick. Amazon's sales are bigger than the all of the "big six" (now five) combined. Amazon isn't creating competition. It's destroying competition, and — even though this sounds kind of melodramatic — I think it's destroying the publishing world along with it.So, I guess in answer to this question, I think it's great that fanfic authors are getting a platform. I love fanfic. But I wish it wasn't Amazon doing the publishing.

  4. First of all, even though this is a few months old, mega congratulations on your book deal and PM announcement! How exciting!Also, 900 pages of Pokemon fan fiction? Wow!

  5. As someone who wrote 700 pages of Alias fanfiction, I both applaud you for this post, and am going to take it as inspiration to actually finish my WIP. 🙂

  6. Brad says:

    It is so exciting to hear about the book deal and I know I will be checking the book out once it's published! I loved DJ and still have it saved somewhere on my computer- I know it was from forever ago, but the writing style is great and I cannot wait to see how much it's grown between then and Please Don't Tell! 🙂

  7. Laura Tims says:

    Hahaha, I deleted it ages ago in a fit of oh-god-I'm-never-going-to-become-a-real-writer-if-people-find-out-I-wrote-fanfiction stupidity. Also, you are right. Amazon freaks me out too. And the more I find out about the terms, the more it's really obvious that it sucks for the author. Sigh.

  8. Laura Tims says:

    Thank you SO MUCH! And yeah, I had a lot of free time when I was a kid. 😀

  9. Laura Tims says:

    WOOOOOOOOOO DO IT UP and also I'm so glad we both wrote ridiculously long fanfictions.

  10. Laura Tims says:

    HI AHHHH THANK YOUIt's so cool to hear from you again! How are you? What are you up to? Shoot me an email sometime!

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