Friday, May 17, 2013

Fanfiction Confusion

I received a message through my Facebook author's page, asking me to participate in a university study with the goal of proving it's okay to make a profit from selling fanfiction. I declined and wished them the best of luck.

I'm disturbed by this message for several reasons. One, it's a highly unscientific study, more of a “popular opinion” poll. Might as well poll a bunch of high school cheerleaders for all the difference it would make. Two, seeking a profit from fanfiction is illegal. It's called plagiarism and copyright infringement for a very good reasons.

There's been a huge growing trend to publish fanction, especially online “self-publishing,” which are nothing more than vanity presses. Mainly because legit publisher won't touch fanfiction with a ten foot pole. So, I'm dedicating this article to clearing up confusion and defining terms, both legally and from the perspective of an author of original fiction.

Fanfiction – Fiction that's based on favorite characters/stories, because the writer is a fan. Hence, Fan Fiction. Once anyone attempts to put a price tag on fanfiction, it becomes plagiarism and copyright infringement. However, sharing is not illegal. If a writer seeks to simply share their fanction and breaks even only, it's not illegal. The second a writer seeks to make a profit from fanfiction, it's illegal.

Original Fiction – Fiction that's inspired by books/movies/music/life itself, or just imagination, in which the writer created their own original fiction based on their own talent and skill. 100% legal, no matter where the writer got their inspiration.

Derivative Fiction – A legal gray area, fiction that's inspired by favorite characters/stories but still has the writer's own original perspective. Borderline legal. The difference is inspiration versus fan.

Now, looking at these common sense definitions, it can be easily seen what legit publishers see. Fanfiction will never make you a published author of original fiction. EVER. And that is why publishers refuse to touch fanfiction. It could be the most brilliant, stellar fanfiction written in all of writing history, but it still isn't original fiction. It's not discrimination. Publishers/agents are not rejecting fanfiction because they're stupid, etc. They're rejecting because it's not original or legal. And that's the bottom line.

Yeah, I'm well aware there are plenty on the internet who get away with it. But so what? It means nothing, and certainly doesn't mean the rest of us who actually know what we're doing have to become criminals in order to get published. Ignore them and be true to your own writing. Those who get away with it, never achieve success.

From strictly an author's perspective, in terms of a writer's development, attempting to use fanfiction as a stepping stone towards publication and profit, is cheating. That's something I personally find rather sad. There are so many talented and skilled authors out there, especially all over the internet, who are directly denying themselves the opportunity to bring out and use their own talent. I can see how writing fanfiction, or even derivative fiction, could be a beneficial exercise for anyone, but that's the most of it – a writing exercise, nothing more. Time and again, I've found the real underlying cause of the whole problem with publishing fanfiction is lack of confidence.

Believe me, it took me years to develop that confidence in my own writing abilities. I still second-guess myself on a regular basis. It's taken a lot of constant practice. You can look through this blog and see a major difference with the early posts. I honestly didn't know what I was doing back then.

The internet is fast and easy. So much can be attained by just a click of a button online. But the internet is only a communication tool, not a substitute for anything. Don't cheat yourself, believe in your talent, and allow it to take as long as it takes. Being an author of original fiction is a lifetime commitment. It will never be fast, easy, or make you millions overnight. I don't know about you, but I'm in this for the long-haul.

"It took me 20 years to achieve this overnight success." - Old saying in business.

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