Recently there has been a spate of fanfiction stories being released as original fiction, not only as self published books, but also through reputable epublishers. This creates two issues for purchasers and reviewers. Many of these authors do not indicate that the books were originally fanfiction; and also, some of them do not withdraw the stories from their fandom, so they are still available free on the Internet while you pay the going rate if you buy a copy.
The fanfiction debate has been ongoing for years in multiple genres. Additionally, many well known M/M authors who got their start writing fanfiction seem to be ashamed of their “roots” 🙂 which upsets some “fanficcers”. There’s nothing wrong with fanfiction, and an excellent example of taking the “fan” out of “fanfiction” and turning it into a New York Times bestseller is the het BDSM romance Fifty Shades of Grey. Posted originally as an Edward/Bella A/U story from Twilight fandom, this trilogy, written by E.L. James a London mother and former TV producer, is all the rage in “literary” circles despite being labelled as mommy porn. Ms James just signed a movie and book deal that apparently is worth 5 million dollars, which should see her set for life. The lesson? Fanfiction sells. This is probably why so many new and experienced authors are recycling their fanfiction stories and palming them off as original works.
Why do I care about this? Because it creates several problems for us on this site. First, several of the reviewers who never read fanfiction are reviewing stories that they believe are original fiction, but when they post their reviews or talk to other readers about the books, they find out that they were originally fanfiction that was converted. Moreover, we had two blatant cases last week where the authors didn’t even attempt to hide it and the similarities were so glaring it was fairly obvious to the reviewers where the stories originated. Reviewers on the site need to know which stories are original fiction unconnected to a fandom — and vice versa — before we post our reviews. However, since we’re not detectives many of these books will be reviewed without a notation that they were originally fanfic, and it will be up to readers to let us know if they are original or recycled fanfiction.
Which brings us to a question: Should these books be labeled “previously published in another format?” I think yes, and that they should go even one step further and indicate the “other format” (i.e. that these books were previously published as fanfiction) so that purchasers and reviewers alike would be aware that the work was not original fiction.
My other issue is, when does fanfiction, which is free, become “original” fiction and released for sale? I think that at least 50% of a book should be new content (i.e. original material) if it was previously fanfiction so purchasers don’t feel that they are being ripped off. So for example, in a 250 page novel I would expect that 125 pages should be new, original content. Is that unreasonable? What do you think or do you care at all? Of course a much better solution would be to write an original story, but what the heck, that’s probably too much creative work. 🙁
Several years ago Erastes wrote a post on this site about fanfiction being regurgitated and recycled as original fiction and I have linked it. Two questions she asked were:
Should publishers allow easily recognisable fanfic to be published?
How do you feel about paying money out for fanfic you could read free on archived sites?
My question is, how do we review recycled fanfiction? I assume your problem is that you shouldn’t be paying for a book that’s free elsewhere if the author has not removed his/her stories from fandom sites before peddling it to publishers. Should publishers be more vigilant and ask the right questions before they accept a manuscript? This problem is going to get worse because it seems that the flood gates have been opened and many authors are releasing fanfic and their publishers (maybe they are unaware?) are not indicating when a book is recycled fanfic or if it is original fiction, so you take your chances when you buy. Can you get your money back from the publisher if you can prove it was fanfic? IDK
So many questions and not many answers.