Let's Talk About Fanfiction

I'm sure you're probably already squirming in your seat at the title. Fanfiction? Bleh! Who wants to read that? 

You'd be surprised.

Fanfiction, for those who don't know, is literature created by a fan of a TV show, book, movie, comic, etc. Fans like to put their own spin on the stories, create different theories that might not necessarily be canon, or even insert themselves into the show/book through a personal character. These pieces are posted on sites like Fanfiction, Wattpad, Commaful, and more. Check out more places at The Ultimate Guide to Fanfiction and Fanfiction Sites by Joanna Smith. 

So what's the problem with it? 

Well, there are many complaints about fanfiction including: "You're just taking someone else's writing and making it your own. That's not real writing." "Fanfiction writers don't know how to write." "Fanfiction writing is awful." "The stories aren't canon." "Fanfic is just loaded with Mary Sue characters." "The stories are sexist." "The stories are too gay." 

I'm not going to argue with some of these. Yes, people are indeed taking a known world and making it their own. It's true, sometimes the quality of writing isn't very good. No, often the stories aren't canon because people are coming up with their own theories. And yes, a lot of Mary Sue characters pop up randomly. 

As for there being too many gay stories...sorry, folks, but I'm totally fine with that. 

Fanfic writers are almost treated as badly as the people who like Pumpkin Spice flavored things in the fall. How DARE someone enjoy a movie/book (or flavor)! What's the problem? If someone loves or is inspired by a story so much that they want to write about it, then why not let them? Allow them to enjoy the idea that they can see themselves in the world they love, or they can shift the elements around so certain characters are paired together, or forgotten characters get more screen/page time. It's not hurting anyone. If you don't like it, then you certainly don't have to read it. 

Now, I realize there's a lot of really bad fanfiction out there (due to poor grammar, storytelling, character development, and unsavory themes). I'm not going to say every kind of fanfic is okay, especially not when it deals with things we find taboo even in books we read today (ie. graphic rape scenes, child pornography, under-aged sex stories, etc). But if you're complaining about poor plot, writing, and character development, how do you think people learn to improve? By practicing and getting critique. 

When I started out writing, I read a lot of Fanfiction and wrote some myself. Was all of it good? Oh, heck no, but the thing is, the stories other people created helped me fall in love with the world even more. I'm going to use Redwall by Brian Jacques for example. This book series was my bread and butter. When I couldn't get enough of the published stories, I went online and read as many Redwall fanfics that I could find. One time, I stayed awake all night in my parents' room because I had to find out what happened to these new beloved characters. My dad woke to get ready for work and found me staring, wide-eyed, at the screen. Did I get any sleep that night? Nope. Did I fall in love with characters, the Redwall world, and weep for fan-made characters? Oh, you better believe it. 

Fanfiction also taught me how to adjust my writing. I learned, grammatically, what was right, and what was wrong. As I wrote my own stories, people would poke at holes in my plot or offer me advice (sometimes in the form of a trolly comment), which helped me rethink what I was writing and fix my story. I got to delve into a world I already loved, with characters I created (or borrowed), and I also learned more about writing along the way! Fanfiction also helped me meet friends and other writers. 

Roleplaying through a Redwall site actually introduced me to my co-writer.

Now, there is the controversy about people writing fanfic and wanting to publish it. Actually, someone kind of did do that *coughE.L.Jamescough* but at least she changed the names and setting a bit. Personally, I don't think people should publish fanfiction independently or traditionally as it is the creation of another author. However, I see no harm in sites providing ads or "tokens" that provide a little compensation to writers courtesy of their readers. That's not too much different from someone running a patreon campaign and getting readers to pay a certain amount each month to get a sneak peak at a new fanfiction piece. 

But I know this is something that's heavily debated, so feel free to leave your opinion below. 

When it comes to my own books like The Purple Door District,...write fanfic to your heart's content. If my characters and world inspire you to create stories of your own, then you write them and share them with friends! Practice your craft. My goal as an author is to encourage others to write, even if it's in the world I created. I'm not going to lie, I have checked a couple of fanfic sites just to see if anyone has had the inclination to write something based off of my book. 

Let the fanfic writers enjoy the stories and create ones of their own. Long after the original author is gone, her legacy will still live on in her books, and in the stories that her fans created of her series. What an amazing way to be remembered. 

I say, write on, fanfiction authors. Write on! 

 

Tips for Attending Conventions

One of the exciting (and scary) things about being an author is promoting your book at signings and conventions. Some people thrive on it, while others find it quite daunting, depending on the size of the crowd. Whether you're eagerly awaiting your next convention or dreading it, there are a few things that you can do to make your table (and yourself) desirable to your customers and ways that you can also take care of your mental and physical health. 

Presentation

  • Table display: Take time when setting up your table display. You want it to be eye catching and connected with your book in some way. Don't just scatter things about. Have a method and direct customers' attention to your most important pieces, whether that be the book, swag, newsletter, etc.

  • Appearance: You want to be yourself, of course, but there are ways you can dress to help promote your work. Perhaps wear a shirt with your book's cover art or characters on it. Choose a saying from your book and proudly display that. Or just wear something that's comfortable but also appealing to the eye, something that welcomes people to your table. Whimsical can also attract attention! 

  • Bookmarks/business cards: Make sure you have plenty of these with you whether you're at your table or walking around. This is a great way to make connections and also show off that you have all your ducks in a row. If they can't make it to your table, at least they have something to take with them to look at later. 

  • Elevator Pitch: Have an elevator pitch prepared for your book when you present it. This should last maybe two sentences or 15 seconds, something to engage the customers but not bore them. You don't want to tell them your whole story over a five minute interval, otherwise what's the point of buying the book? Now, if they ask more questions about it, be sure to answer them and let your passion shine. 

  • Greeting People: You can set up your own routine for greeting people, but make sure to be friendly, open, and honest with them. Even if you're having a down day, try to put on a smile and engage with your customers. You're more likely to attract their attention and get them interested in your book.  Consider standing, too, when you greet people. You seem more engaged that way. 

  • Dealing With Time Monopolizers: It happens. Someone stops at your table and starts chatting with you about your book but then goes off onto tangents or starts rattling off conspiracy theories while you're still trying to sell. Obviously you don't want to chase a potential customer away, but there are ways to halt the conversation. If another person walks up, politely say, "Excuse me" to the monopolizer and put your full attention to the other person. It might help them realize that you still have work to do. Try to disengage by saying, "It's been great talking to you. I've enjoyed talking to you, but," and indicate you need to get back to selling. And if they still won't step back, you have to remember that this is a job. Sometimes you have to be a bit blunt and more curtly excuse yourself from the conversation. 

Saving Money

  • Bring Food: When you attend conventions, quite often food prices are jacked up so you're paying an arm and a leg for it. If the convention allows it, consider bringing your own food (sandwiches, power bars, chips, pita, etc). You'll save money eating your own stuff and have plenty of it available too. Likewise, bring plenty of water too, because water bottles cost a ridiculous amount of money (and kill the environment). I typically just fill mine up at the water fountain. 

  • Set a Budget: Just like the rest of the convention goers, it's hard not to get swept up in all of the amazing books and items around you. If you plan to buy a few things, set a budget for yourself so you don't spend more than what you make. 

  • Purchase a Cart: You're likely going to have a lot of items to drag around with you to conventions. Instead of straining yourself, and possibly risking medical bills by breaking your back, get a cart or dolly that you can easily move around with your merchandise. It'll make loading and unloading much easier as well. 

Health

  • Stay hydrated: It's easy to forget to drink something while you're busy greeting people and selling books. But it's vital to stay hydrated. You're going to be working the convention for several long hours, possibly in the heat. I've gotten sick from not drinking enough. So fill up that water bottle! 

  • Eat: Same with drinking, make sure you eat something. You might want to wait until there's a lull in people walking around, but you can take 10 minutes to eat a power bar or a sandwich. It'll keep you energized and fight off the dreaded "hanger." 

  • Take a Break: If at all possible, try to take a break if you feel like you're getting too overwhelmed. Maybe have a friend come with you who can cover the table while you go sit in quiet for a few minutes. Or, befriend your neighbors who can keep an eye on your things while you run to the bathroom or take a walk. It's hard to be "on" for so long. Give yourself chance a turn off. 

  • Wet wipes: This was actually a great suggestion from my friend Brian K Morris. It's easy to start feeling sweaty, dirty, and just uncomfortable when you've been working your table. Have some wipes with you to clean your face, neck, and hands to help refresh you. 

  • Wear comfortable shoes/clothing: I know this can be hard if you're cosplaying, but try to wear something comfortable, especially when it comes to shoes. You don't want to be hating your feet an hour into the convention. 

  • Know the Ins and Outs of the Convention Place: You can save yourself a lot of stress if you know 1. where you're supposed to set up, 2. where the entrances and exits are, 3. where the bathrooms and water are located, etc before you actually attend the convention. I've gotten so busy setting up before that I just blanked out on some of these basic things. 

What about you folks? What kind of tips can you offer when attending conventions or signings? 

Pirating Books

Pirating books. You've probably seen this topic in the news over the past couple of weeks and heard the heated discussion revolving around it. In short, a website called OceanofPDF, known for hosting pirated books, was recently shut down. Publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, and Random House issued tons of take down notices, and eventually the requests went through. You can read more about it here

This should be a good thing, right? A site that's allowing people to essentially steal an author's work is no longer able to distribute the pdfs. Unfortunately, there's been a lot of backlash in which authors are being called "Elitist" and selfish for wanting money for their work. Now granted, some of the people do have a good point. If they've already purchased the books and something happened to them, shouldn't there be a way to get them back? Or what if they bought a paper version and want an e-book for the road that came out later? 

First, if you lost the book, I'm sorry, but if you lost a DVD or music, you'd have to pay to get that back, too. If you want the e-copy, some authors will sell packages of e-books and the paper book, so you can just get it that way. Or just buy the e-book. Generally, e-books are priced a lot cheaper anyway. My paper book is $15, but my e-book is $3.99. I'm not asking you to pay full price for the e-book. 

Some people have argued that 1. they don't have the money for books or 2.  they can't get them from the local library. Generally if you speak with a library about wanting a book, and there are enough requests, the library can buy the book or even loan it from another location. If you get the book around the time it launches, many authors put their novels on sale. Or they'll do low sales or offer giveaways.

We're not dragons stealing your money and cackling on top of our glistening hoard. Most of the money we actually make off of our books goes towards expenses in order to bring more books to you. Spend money to make money. So to have our work put on a site without our permission and to watch hundreds and thousands of people download it without us seeing a cent from it is...how is that fair? 

I want to give you a look into how much it costs to actually publish a book. It's different for traditional and self-published authors, but we all put money into it. 

First, it starts with our time. I work a full-time job, and I spend most of my free time (what little I have), writing my novels. This is not just a casual hobby. This is something I want to turn into a profession, so I dedicate my time to it. I've taken courses in writing, storytelling, plot development, creative writing, (which costs money,) so I can create my books. It also causes a lot of emotional strain to do what I do. See Writing with Depression for clarification. 

And then there are the other expenses once I've actually written the book. I have to pay for things like: 

  • an editor

  • proofreaders

  • sensitivity readers

  • cover artist

  • promotional materials

  • book swag

  • programs like Scrivener and Adobe DC to format the books or a designer who can do it for me

  • buying the books themselves

  • tables at conventions to sell my books

  • hotels/gas/meals to travel and sell 

It all adds up.

Most of the money that I've made from sales have gone back into my book or is being used to take care of costs for the next one. I'm not rolling in money, so yes, every dollar does help. Some people say, "Well, I'll give you a review. That's payment enough." Look, any review is wonderful, and I'm grateful for it whether it's good or bad. But the thing is, if everyone decided that's how they were going to pay for the book, I'd have hundreds of reviews, but no revenue. 

We pay money for movies, music, theater, etc, but when it comes to art and books, suddenly it's just too expensive. I understand our economy is awful, and I'm drowning in debt as well. But it's heartbreaking to realize that something I spent months or even years on is being handed out for free. If I want to give it away for free or drop the price, that's my prerogative, and I would promote it so that people who are having trouble buying my book can get it for cheaper. Some say I get more readers if my book is given away for free. Hey, that's great. I love getting more readers. But what about all the time and effort writers put into their craft? Does that mean nothing? 

If it was just happening here and there, that would be one thing. But there are whole sites dedicated to this. I give books away. I reach out to libraries to see if I can get my books there so people who are low on cash can at least borrow the book. But that's my decision and my right to do that. 

I guess what I really want you to understand is that being a creator and doing something I love doesn't mean that I don't put a ton of work into it. I'm providing a service. Is it so bad that I would want compensation from it so I can keep creating and bring more stories to my readers? 

I'd love to hear your opinions on it. 

 

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It's been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It's hard to believe that it's over already after so many months of work. I've had people ask what went well, what didn't, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I'd share a few tidbits for anyone else who's preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start. 

To make this a little easier, I'm going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn't work, and what I'd do next time. 

Warning: This is going to be a long one! 

What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation. 

  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.

  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I've managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help. 

  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it. 

  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2. 

  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It's been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people. 

  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel. 

  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people. 

  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000. 

  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers' Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I'm really glad I chose it. 

  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn't done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter. 

  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I'm working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more. 

  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book. 

  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention. 

  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms. 

  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn't make it to the actual launch. 

What Worked/ What Didn't 

  • Indie Publishing: I'm actually really glad I went this route. I've learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I'd do in the future. It costs a lot, I'm not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers. 

  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there. 

  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It's something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention. 

  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it's worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it's a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up. 

  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It's gone well for other writers, but I've really struggled with gaining an audience. I'm hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that'll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there's worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month. 

  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I'm very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there's a good response turn out for that interviewer's blog.  

  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn't have as much success as I would have liked, but I don't think I tried as hard as I could have. I'm still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I'm finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it's printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores! 

  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond. 

  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people's attention. When I couldn't give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they've served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn't land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below). 

  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame. 

  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful. 

  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I'm hoping that will lead to some sales.  

  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I'm talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon. 

  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don't think these were worth the money. Unless you're willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don't think they give you much turn out. 

  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I've met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I'd much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says. 

What I'd Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that's something you can talk about and attract more people. I'd also write more press releases to introduce my book. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I'd give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn't enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages. 

  • Relevant Signings: I'm working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well. 

  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I've received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful. 

  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn't do this, and that I'd turn into a failure. It was because I wasn't taking care of myself. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I'm both happy and sad is over. I'd definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn't work on anything. 

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I'm working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I'll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings. 

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can't thank you enough. 

As always, if you have a topic you'd like me to discuss, post it below! 

Happy writing!