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Fanfiction and Fandoms: A Primer, A History

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends


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The Magicians Trilogy author Lev Grossman in his 2011 Time article summarized the mentality surrounding fanfiction in mainstream culture as “what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.” Now don’t get Grossman wrong—he is pro-fanfiction, but he also acknowledges that to outsiders, it’s an odd world of what some might call extremists. Despite being considered a niche subculture, fanfiction has been steadily growing in popularity, particularly over the last three years.

Fanfiction is divided into “fandoms,” which are fan groups for movies, TV shows, comics, books, celebrities (called Real Person Fiction or RPF), cartoons, anime, manga, games, or plays. The posts can be long form fiction, short form, drabble (100ish words long) or a one-shot (a standalone chapter). When fans start a story, they can choose to put the characters in a completely different setting in what’s called an Alternate Universe (AU). They can re-characterize a literary figure completely, making them Out of Character (OOC) or introduce a new character of their own to a familiar fandom, known as Original Character (OC). They can choose to honor the fandom’s tradition couplings (Canon) or change it up with a non-canon same-sex couple (Slash). These are just to name a few fanfiction colloquialisms that writers use to describe their stories within the fan communities.

The limitless aspect of these fan rewrites draws in writers and readers. They take something the fandom loves and make it new over and over again. That’s a major part of the appeal of the fanfiction community: it’s driven by the fandom. The fans run the websites, they write the words, they edit the chapters, and they review the stories. Because it’s completely fan-sustained, the content is heavily influenced by what the users want to read or by what they sometimes wish the fandom’s creators had done originally.

Fans get to actively participate in the fanfiction world through comments and reviews. The communities are an exchange of ideas, often viewed by both budding and established authors alike as a viable and free forum for feedback on work or as a comfortable place to exercise their writing chops. Most fanfiction websites give readers the option of favoriting a chapter, story, or author. Aside from the occasional flame (a bad review), the community is largely helpful and encouraging. Reviewers can give guesses and hopes for the plot as the serialized chapters are posted, which might possibly help a writer tweak their timeline to better cater to the public’s interest.

One of the recent trends in fanfiction is fiction written by teens, stated Wattpad Head of Content Ashleigh Gardner. Peer-to-peer writing is different from traditionally published YA and New Adult content, because “when teens are writing for their peers, we see stories that are far more true to life, and often include themes important to the life of teens today, like the complications of social media and impact of technology on their lives.”

Read more > >

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 11/3-11/7

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Scribd announced that they’ve added 30,000 audiobooks to their preexisting ebook subscription service for no additional charge.

In more audiobook news, Barnes & Noble brought back their audiobook department which includes an app for the Android platform.

This week Diversion Books launched EverAfter, an app for reading romance novels.

HarperCollins will be moving Harlequin’s non-fiction titles over the to the William Morrow imprint.

Rosetta Books published an interactive YA book that was financed by advertisers.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 10/27-10/31

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Sony is developing a new DRM that would allow the sale of used ebooks.

Doubleday and Vintage Books announced the launch of a new imprint with movie company Blumhouse Productions.

Here are the highlights from Literary Agent Andrew Wylie’s keynote address at the International Festival of Authors.

Google Play Books added a skim mode to its Android app to make reading nonfiction easier.

Kobo partnered with Marvel to add comics to its digital library.

“Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?”: A Panel Event

What do you get when you put an author, an executive editor, a bookstore owner, and a radio host into a room together and ask them about Amazon’s influence on the book publishing industry?  Hosts New America Foundation NYC and Slate’s Future Tense gave people a chance to find out last night with the “Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?” panel event.

The panelists dove right into discussing Amazon’s influence on the book industry and its even larger influence on getting everyone involved in discussing the book business.  “This is fantastic fodder for every journalist out there, right? It’s David and Goliath.” WNYC New City Tech Host and Managing Editor Manoush Zomorodi said.

It’s true that there’s always a David and Goliath complex in publishing.  “Publishers have always hated their biggest accounts,” author Hugh Howey said, noting that publishers used to hate Barnes & Noble just as much as they now hate Amazon.

It’s more than the usual story, though.  At least with Barnes & Noble, it was book people fighting with other book people.  “I don’t think people would hate Amazon so much if people thought they really cared, understood about books, and were good,” moderator and Editor Nick Thompson said.

Regan Arts Executive Editor and Associate Publisher Lucas Wittmann agreed. “I think for Amazon a book is a diaper, is toilet paper, is a car –it’s kind of the same thing for them.”

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Adventures in Grown Up Reads for Young Adults

Editor’s note: This post was also featured on our parent site, Publishing Trends.

When someone says “YA” the assumption is he or she is referring to YA fiction. It might be time to retire that assumption. There’s a new(ish) YA in town: young adult nonfiction adaptations. This is a genre of young adult books adapted from books written for an adult audience. We’re certainly not the first to notice this phenomenon, The New York Times, The Awl, and Stacked Books have all covered it. But the question remains, why is this happening? And further, is it necessary?

Repackaging existing book material for the younger set isn’t a new idea. Young readers’ editions of various books have existed for some time. Very often, biographies and memoirs of inspirational athletes, celebrities, or historical figureheads are adapted for the younger set, including but not limited to I am Malala by new Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai which was republished as a YA edition this August. One imagines that retooling material for children is a somewhat easy line to walk, insofar as it’s simpler to know what’s inappropriate for a 9 year old as opposed to a 39 year old. The line between adult and young adult is presumably more difficult.

Therein lies the potential issue with these adaptations. All of them deal with fascinating material, but sometimes the quest to make these histories “appropriate” for a younger age removes their poignancy. Several of the books that have received the YA nonfiction treatment have some deeply unpleasant material in the adult version, from torture in Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand to the fast food atrocities in Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

Unbroken is keeping the same title for the YA version, which will publish November 11th, but it won’t have all of the same grisly details as its adult counterpart. The New York Times interviewed Hillebrand about the YA publication of her book and Hillebrand said she wanted to leave out scenes that she thought would “upset” non-adult readers.

Fast Food Nation was repackaged for a younger audience and retitled as Chew on This when it published in 2007. Matt Buchanan from The Awl read Chew on This and describes it as “stripped of all its horror.” There seems to be an underlying struggle to get the spirit of the original right in the YA version.

Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 10/20-10/24

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Amazon and Simon & Schuster inked a deal this week after months of negotiation.

Both Atavist Books and Beacon Hill Press announced they will close before the end of 2014.

The New York Review of Books and Vice have partnered up to produce a series of videos.

Indies First announced the Upstream initiative, which encourages authors to send signed copies of their books to independent bookstores.

The Bronx’s only bookstore will stay in business for two more years.

Digital, Digital, Get Down: Insights from Attending the YPG Digital: Innovative Imprints Panel

“Who here works specifically in a digital area of publishing?” panel moderator Carly Hoogendyk’s question was met with a smattering of raised hands in the crowded Random House conference room. “Who doesn’t deal with digital properties?” About the same number of people raised their hands, a number nowhere close to the majority of young publishing employees gathered on Wednesday, October 23rd for the YPG Digital: Innovative Imprints panel hosted by Young to Publishing Group .

The answers were indicative of how many young publishing employees work in a sector of traditional publishing that now includes a digital component. The three guest speakers each had different insights to share about working for a digital-focused imprint.

Everything in digital moves quickly.  Lara Selavka, who is Project Manager at the mostly e-only publisher Open Road Media, said that the biggest difference she has noticed is between a digital imprint and a traditional is “the speed by which we turn things around.”  Turnaround at Open Road typically takes from three to six months, while at a traditional publisher, it can take much longer.  Selavka attributes that to the fact that a lot of their content is from a backlist so they can cut out a lot of steps, not that they’ve “found the magic bean and are working so much better than traditional.” They just have different content starting out that shortens the process.

The panelists seemed to be in agreement that the biggest challenge in today’s ebook market – and any market – is getting people to pay attention to their product.  Thea James, the Co-Founder of speculative fiction review blog turned short story ebook imprint Book Smugglers, has a problem that other small publishers can identify with: how to get retailers’ attention.  During her day job as Director of Digital Strategy and Operations at Workman Publishing, James can tell retailers about the press a title has lined up or pay for co-op to market a title, but Book Smugglers is “a really tiny fish that retailers don’t give a crap about.”  It has decided to circumnavigate the problem in a way only a digital imprint could do.  Although they will still sell through the usual ebook retailers, the blog will reach its audience directly by selling on its website, sans DRM or distributor. Read More »

Book Jobs Not by the Book: Maris Kreizman, Publishing Community Manager at Kickstarter

Maris KreizmanMaris Kreizman is a Publishing Community Manager at Kickstarter. She was previously the Editorial Director of Digital Content for Barnes & Noble/NOOK and a book editor at Free Press/Simon & Schuster and Counterpoint/Basic Books. She’s also the creator of Slaughterhouse 90210, a blog and soon-to-be book (Flatiron Books, 2015) that celebrates the intersection of her two great loves–literature and TV.

What was your first exposure to book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?

I was a member of the last of class of the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now the Columbia Publishing Course). I called it Book Camp–it was a lovely bubble in which I and my classmates learned about the publishing industry from some of its most compelling leaders, while living in a dorm and not having to do any of the grunt work that would imminently follow in our early careers. Radcliffe is where I learned the professional value of unabashed enthusiasm. Loving to read books and talking about them with other people who love books is still my primary motivation.

How do you explain your current job to people?

I help people make great publishing projects on Kickstarter.  This can mean lots of different things: helping authors gain funds to self-publish books, helping traditionally published authors to do extensive book tours or raise the funds to research their next book. It could also mean helping a literary magazine launch its annual season, or a reading series to get off the ground.

In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do currently?

I’ve had lots of different experiences in the publishing industry—I was an editor, I worked at two retailers, and I’m an author. Along the way I’ve worked with and befriended lots of smart people who have seen the industry from many sides. As I try to educate the publishing community about Kickstarter and to think of the myriad ways people who love books can use it, it’s so helpful to run ideas by the authors and literary agents and editors and booksellers I know. Some of my best leads and best ideas have been generated by having casual chats with friends. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 10/13-10/17

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

French publishers were warned by The Group for the Development of Digital Reading that Scribd may be making titles available on their platform without publisher permission.

It was a big week for book awards: the Man Booker Prize was awarded to Australian Richard Flanagan and the National Book Award short lists were announced.

Afghanistan is making a slow but steady entry into book publishing despite facing many challenges.

Amazon‘s crowdsourced publishing platform, Kindle Scout, officially launched this week.

Previously independent publisher, McSweeney’s announced it became a non-profit publisher this week.

Bonus link: Here’s an essay on being young in the publishing industry, moving to NYC, getting hired, laid off and everything in between.

Libraries and Licensing

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends


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With the ever-increasing importance of libraries as a way readers can discover new authors and books, and the growing popularity of digital access, we thought it was time to post a comprehensive update on libraries and ebook licensing.

It’s important to recognize that the large majority of libraries license, rather than buy, their ebooks.  This is a critical difference, because in licensing contracts, the first sale doctrine does not apply.

For those who need reminding, the first sale doctrine is the section of copyright law that states “once a product is sold, the original creator/owner gives up all rights to preventing that copy from being resold, lent, rented, or otherwise conveyed to another person,” according to John Palfrey at The Digital Shift.

When the issue of ebook collections came up, publishers opted to license ebooks instead of selling, not only because libraries are a distinct  market, but because they wanted to maintain the one patron, one book per rental paradigm with an expiration date imitating print’s inevitable wear and tear.  This decision came after a fairly long period of time when publishers grappled with the best way to mimic their print deals with libraries, resulting in the initially controversial HarperCollins model.

As currently set up, the Big 5 have a few ways of going about ebook licensing contracts:

Licensing Chart FINAL

Data from The Digital Shift, 8/2014