Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fan-Fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Stealing Ideas

The Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out this week and I'm planning on seeing it. I read the first book, it wasn't my favorite book, but I think this might be one time when the movie is better than the book.

A lot of people on social media refuse to see it though. They are angry because they view E.L. James as a thief. They think she stole Stephenie Meyer's characters and is using them to make millions of dollars. The books started out as Twilight fan-fiction. They've changed the names of E.L. James' original work, but little else.

I agree that it's wrong to steal from other authors, but I don't believe E.L. James stole from Stephenie Meyer. If she had, Stephenie Meyer would sue her. Don't think it's some kind of benevolence on Stephenie Meyer's part that has caused her to never take E.L. James to court. They are both business savvy people or they wouldn't be as rich as they are. Neither of them would hesitate to sue someone they felt stole from them.

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with fan-fiction. I didn't have any money at that age, so I'd go on and read a bunch of fan fiction stories about my favorite television or movie characters because I couldn't afford the amount of books I wanted to read. I loved to read and express my opinion, so I'd comment on every story. This is how I learned about the different types of fan-fiction out there.

Here are the four types I've noticed (there may be more):

1.) Rewrites

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story, rewrites it completely and maybe changes a few tiny details so the story is more to their liking or who writes the story from a brand new perspective to explore a certain character and their viewpoints on things.

2.) Sequels

They take the story that's already there and try to continue it.

3.) What If's

Where the fan-fiction author takes a story and writes about something they wished would happen. Like, with the Harry Potter series: What if Harry and Hermione had fallen in love? Things like that.

4.) Alternate Universes - This is where you take a few characters from the book and throw them into your own universe and probably change aspects of their personality and appearance to fit this universe. All you really keep are the names and maybe a few references to the original story.

For instance, I once read an "Alternate Universe" version of Pride and Prejudice. It was supposed to be the same story if it took place in the 1970's. Most of the details of the story changed. There was a few similarities in the progression of the plot, sort of, (just that Elizabeth was disgusted with Darcy really) and the characters kept the same names, but they had to be completely different people. For instance, Elizabeth Bennet was a hippie. And they had completely different experiences, like going on shopping trips and things.

So essentially, it's a whole new story even though it's a fan-fiction.


The first three stories are completely dependent on the original work. The fourth one is not and could exist even if the original work disappeared from our existence. The first three would violate copyright laws if they were published, but I believe that the fourth would not as long as you changed the names and any other relevant details.


The thing about E.L. James' books is that she wrote Alternate Universe fan-fiction. Christian Grey is NOT a vampire. He has a different back story. He's a different age than Edward. Same with Anastasia Steele, she isn't a high school teenage girl with an overprotective father like Bella was. The storylines have nothing in common, I had to search really hard for the similarities in the two book series and there were only traces of this here and there. I'm pretty sure that Stephenie Meyer would be appalled at the morality of E.L. James' books. Meyer's characters do not believe in abortion and try to follow God. E.L. James...well...her characters just do whatever they want and love sex before marriage.

They are far from the same book.

I just find it really strange how confrontational people get about this. I technically am writing and selling fan-fiction right now. It's not only E.L. James who tried to do this. I write retellings of Greek Mythology. My fan-fiction is more like the rewrites-the Greek myths you know and love rewritten from a new perspective where I try to change your view of the original stories. Many other authors have stolen from Greek Mythology as well, including Rick Riordan and C.S. Lewis. In fact, most fantasy authors take elements from pasts myths in some way, that's what makes our books fantasy novels.

I just think there needs to come a point when people stop hearing the word "fan-fiction" and automatically think "stolen." Some of it is stolen work, yes, and would be illegal to publish. You can't publish a sequel to someone else's book, for instance, without their permission. And you can't steal people's books and sell them without their permission either.

But this is not what E.L. James did. This is why I am not at all offended by publishers publishing fan-fiction.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Self-Publishing And Fake Statistics

I haven't had the opportunity to address this before, but it's a statistic thrown around by people in the publishing industry constantly.

"The average self-published book sells only one hundred copies in its entire lifetime. All those copies are sold to friends and family."

This is a lie and it's bothered me for awhile now. This is about self-publishing e-books. People have only been able to do this for the last few years. That isn't even enough time for any books to be much older than baby books, let alone have full, long lifetimes where they sold only one hundred copies.

Also, most people I meet and befriend will never even see my book covers, let alone read them, but I still find ways to sell people books every month.

If you are thinking about going into self-publishing or you just self-published, ignore this statistic. I've sold many more copies than this and I think anyone can do what I've done. This statistic is always quoted in articles where someone is talking about how you can't make a living self-publishing and it's used to discourage people.

I panicked when I first saw it before I published my first book. I thought that my book would sell five copies the first month to five people that I beg in person to buy the book and no one else would buy it ever again.

I'm not saying the average self-published novel sells thousands of copies in the first year. They do not. But self-publishing is about the long term. It's about years of writing, marketing, and self-publishing books. It doesn't matter if your book sells only five copies a month. (Which might total only $10 in royalties a month.) That might be five copies every month for the rest of your life, which in total if your book is around for fifty years could be over ten thousand dollars.

Keep writing more and that number will increase every month. I've been told by some authors that the number increases exponentially. I'll let you know as I publish more books.

Even if you've only sold one hundred copies and your sales have died, try marketing a new way. A self-published book only dies if you give up on it. I had a month when Kindle Unlimited made my sales basically zero, I worked at marketing and now my book sales have stabilized and last month was my highest sales number ever.

Don't give up.