Getting to the bottom of fan fiction

In general, I’m not a reader of fan fiction. But I am a fan of Hugh Howey, and when I saw that he was encouraging writers to set their own stories within the universes that he creates, I thought I would take the plunge and give it a go.

Howey famously became a household name after self-publishing his ‘Silo’ series and signing a unique print only deal with a publisher. Since then, he’s given his permission for indie authors and fans to write stories based in his fictional worlds, and encouraged them to sell their work on Amazon for a profit.

I recently read ‘Dunes of Danvar’, a piece of fan fiction written by indie fantasy author Michael Bunker, which is set against the backdrop of Howie’s ‘Sand’. It’s a short, three part story that introduces new characters to the mix, although it follows roughly the same timeline established by Howie.

The characters are well developed in a relatively short space of time, and because the world is already established, Bunker doesn’t have to dedicate too much time to building up the back story – he can jump right into the action. It’s this fast pace that keeps ‘Dunes of Danvar’ feeling fresh and exciting. He mixes the familiar with the new in a way that feels entirely natural and it really does help to make the fictional universe feel more real.

For fans who are too impatient to wait until Howie brings out a new novel, this is perfect. However, each of the three sections are sold separately, each priced at less than a pound. It’s not expensive by any means – but when you consider how short they are, each section takes no more than 30 minutes to an hour to read – there are plenty of other self-published books on offer at the same price point that give you much more for your money.

Fan fiction continues to grow in popularity. There are hundreds of sites and platforms out there that allow people to delve deeper into already established fictional worlds and characters, and to share their work with other fans.

Fan fiction has already proved to be a platform for indie authors to take a leap into the mainstream. E. L. James started off writing Twilight fan fiction and Cassandra Clare, author of the YA ‘Mortal Instruments’ series, once wrote stories in the world of Lord of the Rings. J. K. Rowling once considered suing a Harry Potter fan fiction author for copyright infringement, but was reportedly so impressed by the quality of the work once she was provided with a review copy that she gave it her blessing (www.elderscrossing.com – in case you’re interested!).

Already established authors have also taken a foray into the fan fiction. Iconic author Neil Gaiman having published short stories based on work such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Sherlock Holmes, and Hugh Howey himself has written work set in the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

So while ‘50 Shades’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it stands to reason that there’s something out there for everyone. The only question is how to filter out the good from the bad? If anyone has any good recommendations, I’d be really interested to hear them.

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3 thoughts on “Getting to the bottom of fan fiction

  1. Hugh is great, isn’t he? I just found your blog searching “hugh howey fan fiction” because I am one of his fans publishing fan ficiton in his Sand universe (which just opened up in Kindle Worlds so others can write in it as well–and he announced on his facebook page that he has a sequel planned for 2015). Scavenger: Red Sands and Scavenger: Blue Dawn are out now if you want some more exploration of Sand’s setting.

    I get what you mean by the pricing. It is kind of hard to price my serialized stories because I don’t want them to add up to $10 over the course of all five pieces. As an avid reader I can’t afford $10 ebooks, so it would be hypocritical for me to sell mine for that much. Therefore, I’ve made part one $.99 (25 pgs), $1.99 for part two (88 pages), and will probably keep going with that latter price point if the remaining three parts end up being novella sized like part two was.

    I didn’t mean to come here and talk about me, but you bring up an interesting point about fan fiction and pricing and I can use my stories as examples since this is what I’m working through. I mentioned taking into consideration how much the set would cost when totaled, but another factor I’ve considered is that if short stories warrant a $.99 price point, then novellas should earn another dollar. Right? Sure, some authors sell their novels for $.99, but with Amazon moving up the royalty to 70% on $2.99 or above price points, I think many authors are increasing their novel prices. Last thing I’ll say about pricing is that when I collect the omnibus, I’ll probably make it $4.99 or $5.99.

    So why sell parts for more than the omnibus? Part of that is to help fund editing and cover design, but I’m also making them available on Kindle Unlimited, so anyone who subscribes to that program can read them for free. Hugh does that on his stuff and I tend to agree that it is easier to have your story in one edition (for upkeep and updating reasons) as well as to try and focus on building up the audience on one platform.

    One question I’m pondering about serialized fiction is if people like to read pieces months apart. My goal has been to offer a small story within the larger story, kind of like Stargate episodes, to fit my stories into the top of the queue for readers with a long to be read list. Then when my next part releases, they may take a break from what they’re reading and read through my latest. This only works if my stuff is top notch entertaining, though, so we’ll see how successful I am.

    After releasing part two 10/1, one thing I’m thinking is that this market is really crowded. I thought by writing in Sand’s world instead of Wool, I’d have a smaller pool to compete with, but I’m afraid many either feel the need to read Sand first, or they are also writers and don’t have time to read new releases. Those are two of many possible reasons, but that’s what I’m thinking are the top two why Scavenger: Blue Dawn isn’t selling as well as I’d hoped.

    Please forgive the discourse on my stuff, I just thought I’d share my experience to add to the discussion on “getting to the bottom of fan fiction.” It isn’t as lucrative as I thought it would be. At this point, I’m still going to finish writing the remaining novellas in my series, but I’m probably not going to recoup the editing or cover design costs. I understand that Blue Dawn is my longest published piece, so maybe an author like Bunker who has a larger catalog will have more success. So far, the greatest benefit I’ve seen is two anthology invites which will pay more than I’ve made from self publishing.

    Okay, enough procrastinating. Back to it. Good to meet you, Emma, and thanks for the discussion.

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