Now that I’ve published a novel, I’ve gotten to reflect on the whole process of actually writing one and getting it out there in the world. I’ve also gotten the chance to spiral into panic attacks every now and then whenever I stop to think of what people might think of the writing. I mean, it’s a little bit of a big deal. I wrote a romance novel. With lesbians. And BDSM. And one of the lesbians is a Republican! OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?
But so far, the feedback has been positive, so apparently it has been a good thing. The novel has been selling better than my coauthor or I could have predicted, which is a little astounding, and even trying to think of what future sales might be is unfathomable at the moment. So why is indie publishing working for us? Why are we so lucky to be doing well when most indie books never sell over 150 copies and we’ve doubled that in a matter of days? (BTW, it’s All The Pretty Things. Check us out on amazon or goodreads!)
I think the answer lies in fanfiction. Now listen up class, here’s the lesson for the day.
Fanfiction is a legitimate form of writing. I honestly believe this. People constantly put it down as being a lesser form, or not real writing, but I think Rae and I have only done so well in our publishing adventure thus far because we have supported the fanfiction community so much over the years, and thus we have a built-in following. If I had any advice to give to writers looking to self-publish, it would be to start writing fanfiction. Write it now.
Fanfiction does an important thing in that it allows the exploration of otherwise impossible scenarios in certain worlds. It also allows a writer to work with a world that has already been built and focus on the character dynamics instead of world-building, which can be tiring and tedious work. It’s a good form of practice, and I think writers should be flattered when people choose their world of fiction to write a fanfic in.
Let’s go with a metaphor. You, the writer, are a young child. Your story, the world you have built, is this vast, ultimate sandbox that you have stumbled upon. The sandbox starts out empty, but you soon bring supplies to it like buckets and shovels, and perhaps the garden hose to make those structures stick together. If you ask your mom real nice, maybe she gets you those special molding kits for super castles.
Either way, as the time goes by you’ve made a pretty kick-ass castle in your sandbox. All the other kids think it’s the coolest thing ever, the perfect start to your new fiefdom. Some of the kids stop and comment on it, tell you how nice it is. You’re beaming with pride because your creation is being enjoyed by others.
And then one kid stops and asks if they can play in the sandbox with you.
You look around and see there’s some room left, but you’ve been thinking maybe you want to construct your village a certain way, and what if this kid messes up everything? What if they make a complete wreck of your newly constructed world? Well, too bad, because in the world of fiction, no one is going to stop that kid from getting in the sandbox and playing with you.
No one is going to stop a writer from producing fanfiction about your work if it’s good enough. And as long as they’re not earning a direct profit from it, what’s the problem? You might have an awesome time with that kid in your sandbox. You might have a whole bunch of kids help you complete the sandbox city you’ve planned out. Maybe you’ll exchange ideas. Maybe these kids will take note of certain ideas and take them home to use in their sandbox. Maybe you’ve just helped them become a better writer without even trying.
Fanfiction is the other kids wanting to play in your sandbox. You can invite them in, or you can be the brat on the playground and tell them to shove off, but the community of writers is a loving one, and doesn’t take kindly to uptight jackasses. I’m not saying everyone has a right to steal ideas, but I am saying everyone has a right to write. Fanfiction is a perfectly acceptable form of writing. It’s just as good as other writing, just as legitimate if done properly. The only difference is you will not earn a direct profit from writing it. You will, however, gain a loving and supporting community of eager readers.
So, find yourself a fandom. Read up on the popular fanfics. Get to the writing. If you don’t wanna write fanfics, then you better be a clever blogger or be the world’s most popular guy on twitter or tumblr, because these social media sites really are the only other way to draw readers to your indie book. I wish all indie publishers out there the best of luck, and invite you all to share your thoughts on writing, fanfiction, indie publishing, or whatever happens to be on your mind.