9.11.2006

Is Fan Fiction a pub credit?

Dear Miss Snark:

I'm preparing my query letter. I have several non-fiction publications, but no fiction. I have written two novel length fanfiction pieces that received a large number of positive reviews. Would it be appropriate to include the web address and pen name in the letter? Or would this be a form of literary suicide? Is this equivalent to putting fiction on a blog? I wouldn't even consider mentioning them other than creating a blog seems to be a popular method of building readership.
Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Unsure


I'm not exactly sure what fan fiction is but the only writing credential I'm interested in is what has been acquired and published by someone other than your mom.

Posting your work on a blog and telling me it got good reviews does not qualify.

Self publishing and telling me you have good Amazon reviews does not qualify.
iUniverse doesn't count
Lulu doesn't count

Self publishing and having Pod-dy Mouth like it counts for half.

Being published by a small publisher qualifies.
E-books count if I can check out how they acquire (that's why you tell me who published your work)
E-zines with posted submission guidelines count (Spinetingler for example)

See the pattern?

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I'm not exactly sure what fan fiction is but the only writing credential I'm interested in is what has been acquired and published by someone other than your mom."

So, should a writer mention numerous nonfiction publishing credits (magazine)in the query letter if the query is for fiction and the writer has not yet published other works of fiction?

Anonymous said...

Don't mention the fanfic!!!

First, your fanfic is essentially self-published, so no, it doesn't count as a publishing credit.

Second, even if your fanfic is posted on a reviewed archive, the standards are still pretty low. The reviewers at such archives are just hobbyists, and they usually only vet for grammar and spelling. That's not enough quality-control to impress a professional.

Third, and most importantly, it probably is literary suicide. Any industry professional who decides to educate herself as to what fanfiction is will eventually stumble across fanfiction.net, where she will behold a zillion pieces of festering shit that got good reviews.

It would be wiser to say you have no publishing credits than to associate yourself with the roiling seas of sewage that are out there.

I've written fanfic too; it's good fun, great for the ego, and good practice at writing. It's also potentially good market research, but when you go legit, keep your penname to yourself.

It's our dirty little secret, 'kay? *winks, slips you the s00per-sekrit handshake, and slinks away*

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Miss Genoese would know fan fic. Visit her blog.

Termagant 2 said...

E-books count? O happy day!

T2

PS, fanfic is a great big bunch of fun that people have with other authors' characters and settings, like "What happened to Luke Skywalker after Leia & Han went off on their honeymoon" and stuff like that. It can be awful and it can be quite good, but either way, it's a hoot.

Terry said...

At a panel at the RWA conference, one editor admitted to having a 'thing' for fanfiction and contacting at least one author whose writing she liked. However, I'm not sure I'd gamble on mentioning my fanfiction writing as a 'credit' -- unless I knew the agent was also a fan. (And the editor wouldn't admit which fandom she frequented.)

I'm also glad to see Miss Snark saying that having an e-book isn't a negative credit. Again, at RWA, at least two major house editors said when they consider debut authors, they will look to see if they've done any e-publishing. This, they admit is something that they wouldn't have done two years ago.

It sure made it easier to decide to sign with the e-publisher. Even though it has a good reputation, I wasn't sure it was a smart move.

Anonymous said...

I believe "fan fiction" is when you use someone else's [usually] trademarked characters, setting, etc as if you were the author of the Naria series or Star Wars or Harry Potter, etc, and just decided to put out another sequel. It's kind of an exercise in futility. No one will publish it because they don't want to get sued for copyright / trademark issues which might be expensive. Better to start with Dickens or Shakespeare, something that's definitely public domain.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm sure you'll get a slew of these: Fanfiction is when an author takes an existing world and characters and writes stories about them. Star Trek. Star Wars. Alias. There are a million of them out there, but nobody does it like Greg Cox, who's got the corner on the market.

Virginia Miss said...

Miss Snark, I'm so glad that someone besides me didn't know what fan fiction was! I first encountered the term at a sci fic/fantasy session at a writers conference last year. When I asked what it was everyone looked at me like I was nuts.

I guess it's popular with sci fic writers.

From what they told me, fan fiction writers set their stories in an already created fictional world, like star trek or star wars.

Dave said...

Fan Fiction is writing in an already established storyline.
for instance - Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vamp...

In their time, Tolkein, Conan-Doyle, Jane Austen and Dan Defoe all had fan fiction written after their novels.

Phaidra Johnson said...

Fan fiction is fiction written in someone else's world. Writing a story in the Harry Potter universe, for example. It usually, but not always, deals with the primary story characters.

And I'll leave it up to you to Google "slash fiction." ;)

Anonymous said...

"I'm not exactly sure what fan fiction is but the only writing credential I'm interested in is what has been acquired and published by someone other than your mom."

1. Fan fiction is work based on other work. The technichal term is a derivitive work.

If you write fan fiction bury it in the deepest drawer in the ground you can find in a casket somewhere. You don't want to mention you write fan fiction by any means, especially Star Trek.

I'll list out the reasons why:

a. If you write fan fiction the style is starkly different than that of a regular publication. There is no credibility amoung your readers to actually post anything constructive beyond "CONT1U OR DIE!!"

b. If you base everything you show on derivitive works the agent will be afraid that you will copy and plagiarize other works. You want to show you have creativity and mimagination to BEAT the current market, rather than tag onto it.

c. Your Audience is very different. Fan fiction readers tend not to really read pieces for literary reasons. They read to kick back and have some fun without having to think hard. There are fan brats out there that think X character is the best and will post all positive things because of it. Your story isn't being evaluated for that reason.

d. The agent is they are savvy will immediately assume you are an angsty teenager and will write something akin to what Andy Dick wrote as the butt baby of Kirk and Spock Kock (for the Shatner Roast). You don't want to carry any kind of baggage, and believe me Fan Fiction has that and more.

On a note: There have been some fan fiction writers that have made it into regular fiction, but I'm pretty sure they didn't mention their credits as Fan Fiction and also many of them disappeared soon after being published. Some even pulled down their previous fan fiction. This should be a big clue to you right here. And yes, some even wrote under their real names online.

2. Wasn't Eragon published by Christopher Paolin's parents? So is that published or not? *jk*ing...

Anonymous said...

I've been told that mentioning your fanfic readership base can be a could idea. I hope I fall on agents who know fanfics. One of my novel-length fanfic got read about 2,000 times and another seems to gather about 1,000 readers (different crowd).

BradyDale said...

Since I was called a "fan boy" recently I will clue you in on fan fiction. I know how you will feel about it and I don't really disagree, this is more sub-genre trivia for her snarkiness.
Fan Fiction is a creative way that fans of pop fiction characters express their love of those characters. They make up stories about the characters that fit somewhere in the continuity of the established "canon."
A very popular group of characters for "fan fic" is Star Trek, though I once ran across some "scarecrow and Mrs. King" fan fic, if you can believe that.
the idea, say, for STAR TREK, is that the actual tv shows and movies are the "canon," the "truth," and fan fiction is sort of a possible world that has to at least pay obeisance to the canon.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Miss Snark, fan fiction is generally derivative work based on an existing set of characters or world from a copyrighted story which the writer often does not have permission to use. An offshoot of this is slash fiction which uses those characters or worlds to create erotic or pornographic stories.

These do not always violate copyright as some authors or publishers have given permission for this to take place. However, most do violate copyright, but the copyright owners often ignore those unless the violator attempts to sell the resulting fan fiction. Only a few copyright owners go to the expense and effort of issuing cease and desist orders and even occasionally taking the offenders to court.

Generally, it is not a pub credit although I believe at least one writer has successfully made the leap to professional writing based upon previous fan fiction work.

Michele Lee said...

Fan fiction- Stories written "borrowing" an established author's characters and world. So if I wrote a story where Ron, Hermione and Harry rob Fort Knox by appariating into it... that would be fan fiction. I absolutely would NOT use fan fiction other than a contracted novel ie Dragonlance, Star Trek novels, Ravenloft, etc as a publishing credit. No matter how well recieve it's it still ultimately copyright infringement.
Fan fiction can, however, be a great way to learn effective writing skills. By using another person's world and characters one can focus on plots and the very basic language use of writing.

Snarkaholic said...

Fan Fiction is when fans of a television show, movie, whatever write stories taking place in that universe with those characters. It would akin to Miss Snark penning Ocean's 14.

The ultimate example is the new Star Trek series created by fans that will be broadcasted on the internet.

M-Y said...

This is something I have been wrestling with. I don't write fanfic, but I have published on a web site where anyone can publish. So publishing on that site means absolutely nothing. However, the site is heavily visited. My most popular story has 200,000 hits (that is the correct number of zeros), is rated the favorite in its category (probably over a couple thousand other stories in the category), and has garnered that rating from over 800 anonymous people, some of whom (but maybe a trivial number) would likely buy a book from me.

So publishing on the site means nothing and mentioning it could mean I am associated with loads of junk. But does the reception by readers once on the site mean anything? Not clear to me. Ideally, I should just go get a regular pub credit and stop worrying about it.

Linda said...

"I'm not exactly sure what fan fiction is but the only writing credential I'm interested in is what has been acquired and published by someone other than your mom."

You might want to clarify that because fan fiction is "published" by someone else. The writer sends it to a fan fiction editor, and they post it on the Web. Of course, the only qualification for some editors is that the fan wrote about the TV show. Which means you can have some really awful stories "published."

Worse, is some of the fans really don't get there's a difference. It's such a problem that most sci-fi magazines have to say in their guidelines "No fan fiction." I remember one person trying to write a reunion movie for a TV series and pitching it to a Hollywood agent. She wrote fan fiction as a screenplay. She spent her script building all the relationship between the characters, getting them married, and having kids--this was for a reunion for an action-adventure TV series! The fan fiction readers all liked her "universe," but she couldn't get it past the door because the general public wouldn't have.

lizzie26 said...

Good guide, Miss Snark. And I have found that a great query and an even better manuscript, trumps all.

Terry said...

Miss Snark:

www.fanfiction.net

There's a LOT of it out there.

My first writing mentor and I "met" over fanfiction, and she's got a 2 book deal with a major publishing house now. Hardback and everything -- LOL! I doubt she used her fanfic as a credit, but it's a way to start writing, since you've got the basic blueprints in place.

Anonymous said...

I don't even admit to writing fanfiction to my family. The reason I write it and the reason it's lazy writing are the same: it gives you ready-made plot devices.

There is some really good fanfic out there and some truly horrible fanfic, but unless you're R A Salvatore, I wouldn't admit to it. And Salvatore's type of fiction isn't exactly fanfic, is it? It's in affiliation with the creators of the ready-made world.

Beth said...

Not only is fanfic a form of self-publishing, it's an act of copyright infringement. The only exception to this is when the subject of the work is in the public domain. Otherwise, you don't have the legal or ethical right to be posting stories about Harry Potter or whatever.

If you write it, keep it to yourself. And definitely don't wave it in front an agent's nose.

bordermoon said...

Fanfic dates way back -- before the Dark Times, Before the Internet, I used to do it on a mimeograph (anyone else remember those?) and collate the zine in my living room. It's fiction written by a fan of (fill in the show or book) for fun and for other fans. Its quality varies from excellent to lower than abysmal. Length ranges from haiku to thousand-page novels. Slash -- well, look it up, if you dare. K/S may be the most famous pairing. I still find SIMON & SIMON slash a bit hard to believe, but it's out there!

The Unpretentious Writer said...

Fan fiction is literary masturbation.

It's taking another author's world and characters and making them act out your own little fantasy. Check out encyclopedia dramatica for more fun info on the world of fanfic.

Some authors take offence and try to shut down sites that violate their copywrite. JK Rowling recently took legal action against such fanfic sites, and with good reason, IMHO. I was once sent a link to a site that only posted stories featuring Prof. Snape pregnant as the result of gay sex with other males from the Harry Potter universe. wtf?

I'm one of those authors that, if my a divine miracle, my book should become wildly famous in the teen market, will not tolerate fan fiction. If I meant for two characters to fall in love, I'd have written it that way. If I'd meant for there to be that many gratuitous sex scenes, I'd have written in a different genre.

/rant (sorry MS!)

J :) said...

So wait, what's fan fiction again? ;)

So is it safe to say that if a professional person has judged your work capable of making money for them and has chosen to pay you for that work in order to make themselves money, THEN you're interested?

Or is that too simple?

Termagant 2 said...

j:), you miss the point. Fanfic does NOT pay unless you sell a traditional or e-book in the traditional or e-way.

Go to the bookshop and look at all the Trek novels or B5 novels. These aren't fanfic. These don't violate copyright. I suppose one "test" of fanfic is to note in what medium it presents itself; if it's a print or e-book, it's probably legit, and if it's on the net or photocopied, it's fanfic.

That said, these things can be lots of fun.

An author of my acquaintance who finalled for this year's Christy award started playing with fanfic. She still writes Stargate fic and was recently invited to submit to a novel-contest based in the UK. Had she won, this particular bit of fanfic would've transitioned to the "real" world.

T2

Sue said...

While fanfiction is NOT a publishing credit, in many genres, where fanfiction abounds, editors are very aware of what is out there and who is writing it. They know the names of authors and know quality writing when they see it. One editor at Tor told an audience that she approached one such author and suggested she use her talent for original work.

So, fanfiction won't get you "credit" for your original work, but good fanfiction gets your name out there and predisposes editors to look at your work.

Diana Peterfreund said...

2. Wasn't Eragon published by Christopher Paolin's parents? So is that published or not? *jk*ing...

Originally, yes. And then it was recommended to Knopf by Carl Hiassen, and sold. At which point, it was edited, etc. and published in a traditional manner. In other words, it wasn't the self-pub creds that counted for Knopf, it was Hiassen's glowing endorsement.

Stacy said...

I like the way the unpretentious writer says that he/she "will not tolerate fan fiction". Heh.

Clearly, he/she has got a thing or two to learn about marketing. Let me explain; it is a very, very bad idea to come down hard with thunder and lightning from above (will not tolerate) on the very people who love your work so much that they can't stop thinking about your characters, and can't stop imagining new adventures for your characters. One fanfic writer who gets slammed will write about it in their blog and in 3 days, you will be the PRETENTIOUS b*t*h/he-b*t*h who hates fans.

Bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Fanfiction is writing with training wheels. :-)


I wouldn't mention it, personally. Bragging about your fanfic, even if it's really good fanfic, has too much of the "my mom and my sister really liked it!" ring to it. It just doesn't sound professional, even if the editor has nothing against fanfic on principle.

J :) said...

T2 -

I didn't miss the point, honest! But isn't it funny how something can be read totally differently from how you intended it?

I was being slightly playful with the first question, based on the avalanche of explanations of fanfiction! :)

The second bit was my unrelated attempt to summarise The Snark's examples into a catch all rule.

Sort of.

wonderer said...

t2, j:) wasn't talking about fanfiction; he/she was asking to clarify Miss Snark's point.

j:), some legit and even prestigious markets (notably literary magazines) don't pay except in contributors' copies. As I understand it, the rule of thumb is that a credit counts if "a professional person" has received submissions, rejected the ones that don't meet the desired standard, and chosen a few to publish...and one of them is yours, of course. The standard must be higher than "the right genre", "set in the correct fanfiction universe", or "uses grammar and spelling correctly". ;) Usually readers must pay for the book (or magazine or whatever), and it has cost the publisher something besides time to produce (I'm not well versed in e-publishing; I'm sure there are exceptions in that medium).

Anonymous said...

Right--I'm trotting out the fact that I've violated copyright law in hopes it will tempt a pro in the industry to represent me.

I'm too dumb to breathe. Nitwit doesn't cover it.

My pro writing with two different publishers was hijacked by fan fiction writers. I wrote the servers, proved my copyright ownership, and got the stuff taken down--they were lucky I didn't sue.

Get zapped for copyright infringment and your writing career is over. Just ask Kaayva Viswanathan.

Read an eyeful on Making Light about another kind of nitwit who caught attention of the bad kind:
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007459.html#007459

Darlene C. said...

The temptation is to hold out hope that you too can be one of the breakthrough authors like Cassandra Claire, whose success began with her popular fanfic. Just because one or two others have done it, doesn't make it likely for the rest of us. Fan fiction is for fun. Is it well written? Sometimes, but mostly no.

I write crappy, maudlin poetry on my livejournal, too, but I sure as hell ain't gonna mention it in a query letter for my literary novel.

Pepper Smith said...

Fanfic is not sellable--but that's usually not the point of writing it. Fic writers do it for the love of the story, and they know it's for free. Or most of them do, anyway.

Writing fic can be a great way to polish your skills, if you can hook up with a beta reader or two who is serious about writing and can help you knock the rough edges off your style. It's sort of a practice ground.

There are a lot of series books out there based on TV shows and movies, and some are written by very good authors. Others are worse than the better fanfic writers. (I know, I've read some like that.)

It was, in fact, fanfiction that I wrote that got the attention of an editor, who asked to see my original work. Take that how you will. But writing is never a waste of time, because everything you write helps you improve over the last thing you wrote. And too many of us work alone, in an environment where we get no feedback at all. Is it any wonder slush piles are full of stuff that isn't ready for publication?

acd said...

I feel compelled to point out that fan fiction just won the Pulitzer.

s.m.o'shea said...

Fanfiction isn't entirely a bad thing, though. I agree, you shouldn't mention it in a query letter, but (especially in Cassandra Claire's case) it can be a very good thing.

Cassandra is probably the best example. She wrote Harry Potter fiction (JKR is known to be very supportive of fanfiction) and became quite famous over it, in and out of the fandom. The first chapter of her first story was actually published in a newspaper (accompanying an article about the fanfiction subculture), and she was interviewed numerous times in various magazines and newspapers. In her (very lucky and rare) case, her original work (which IS coming out at some point; she has a deal and everything) will benefit greatly from her fanfiction past. I wouldn't doubt that her legions of fans, thousands of people will buy her books because of her fanfiction past. She's net-famous.

She's probably the only person in the world who could mention fanfiction in a query and get away with it. She has since taken her work down, though, my theory being that she's writing under her original fanfiction pen name.

Anonymous said...

I had a novel that began as fanfiction picked up for publication by a small press. The novel grew beyond its fanfic origins, and the source of inspiration is in the public donain. I find fanfiction to be an excellent writing exercise, and it has helped me to practice point of view and character development and dialogue. And I'd never, ever mention fanfiction in a query.

Mark said...

Pod-dy rarely reviews a legitimate self-published work. She mines the vanity presses you say don't count, so really these don't count either.

Mark said...

"I'm not exactly sure what fan fiction is"

The worst sort of vanity plagiarism and copyright/trademark infringement

Jo Bourne said...

Hi Stacy --

I do not believe authors forbid fanfic just to persecute hapless fans who 'can't stop imagining new adventures for your characters.'

It seems to me more likely authors forbid fanfic to preserve the artistic integrity of their creation and to protect their intellectual property.

Certainly authors who protect their copyright will lose market share among readers who feel entitled to commit plagiarism. Let us hope this is a small demographic.

Mark said...

I had no idea it was Carl Hiaasen who was the fisherman who discovered Eragon in Montana. I had heard it was a visiting Knopf editor. What's the source of this information?

Anonymous said...

Don't bring Cassie Claire into it unless you're dropping her name as an example of how plagiarists can still be defended by people/get published.

Yes, the amount of stuff she ripped off from other sources without credit was much more than a few hundred accidental words.

Alan said...

"Self publishing and telling me you have good Amazon reviews does not qualify.
iUniverse doesn't count
Lulu doesn't count"

What about self-publishing and having good independent reviews from respected reviewers?

pacatrue said...

I don't read or write fanfiction, because I am a lousy fan. I just don't love being in someone else's world for long periods of time. I read a book; I dwell on it for a couple days or more if it was great; and I move on. That said, I do find the phenomenon of fanfiction fascinating (I have at least one close friend who reads it endlessly), and the debates concerning its validity often address important issues about things like intellectual ownership, marketing, what sells books, the nature of reading itself, etc.

Since I cannot debate it, here is the best link I could find, which is to one of Tor Editor Anna Genoese's posts on the issue. If people have visited her blog much (Miss Snark links to it), they will know that she reads quite a bit of fanfic. The post starts with a link to what is supposed to be a rant by author Robin Hobb against fanfiction, along with a link to a thoughtful though wordy response. Unfortunately, it appears that Ms. Hobb has taken her rant down (replaced with one about movies), so people new to the debate will have to take the responder's quotes of Ms. Hobb as true. Anyway, if you are interested, have fun. None of this will help you in deciding whether or not to put a fanfic cred in your query letter though.

Stacy said...

jo bourne, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are far more fanfic readers than there are fanfic writers, and the small demographic that you refer to is a rapidly growing community. I honestly think that sometimes it is better to look the other way and take it as a compliment; so long as your work is being discussed in complimentary terms (and the fanfic community is a surprisingly lucid one), then more power to you, I think.

The Unpretentious Writer said...

I've done more thinking on the matter. Think of it in this way:

An author creates a world and writes in the world and writes characters. After a long time writing for these characters, they become almost like the author's children. If the author did not intend the kind of relationships found in slash fic, reading such is akin to seeing your children raped or used for pornographic purposes.

Part of the wonder of having fans who've read your work is that the world that, for so long, existed only in your mind, exists now for them too, I agree.

Fanfic can be a useful writing excercise, but I don't support posting it on the Internet and then calling it your own. What you have done is taken the world and characters of someone else and written about them. It's a matter of originality.

desert snarkling said...

Cassandra Claire writes well. That's the reason folks read her Secret Diaries, and it's the reason we'll read her novel when it comes out.

All the rest is odd fanfiction politics, as far as this non-fanfic writer can tell, maybe with a dose of jealousy thrown in for good measure. So long as her actual professional novels are well written and original -- and I've seen no reason to believe they won't be -- that's all that matters to real-world readers who aren't part of those politics, and who don't care how original or unoriginal her fanfic was, or whether it stole more or less than other people's fanfic did.

Anonymous said...

Fanfic is copyright infringement. Don't mention it--and don't post it on the net or you'll have some pissed off authors breathing down your neck.

Anonymous said...

The Hours: Michael Cunningham writes Virgina Woolf fanfic.

Grendel: John Gardner writes Beowulf fanfic.

A Thousand Acres: Jane Smiley writes Shakespeare fanfic.

Etc., etc., etc.

Also: every year writers win Oscars for "adapting" other people's work (put differently: they appropriate other people's copyrighted work for their own ends, the only difference being profits and permissions) and writers win Emmys for writing episodes of series featuring characters they didn't create.

True, most fanfic sucks, but originality isn't everything. Some of you folks need to climb down from your high horses and learn to judge each work on its merits.