Question: Can my writings identify me? I'm not ashamed of the things I've written for fandom at all, but I have hopes of becoming a published author at some point and former fanfic writers are the laughing stock of the “real” literary community. It worries me that, if I become a published author, someone will recognize my fics and out me as a former fic author. Should I delete all trace of my fics before I publish my original stories?
It’s okay, friend! These are legitimate fears that I think a lot of writers experience, but really, I don’t think this is anything worth worrying about. I’ll address your concerns individually:
Should I delete all trace of my fics before I publish my original stories?
Unless you have a situation where your work was originally fanfiction, but you modified it to be 100% original. (Like how 50 Shades of Gray removed all traces of its Twilight influence, and no doubt removed the original from the internet)
I mean, it’s up to you in the end. But see, here’s the thing. Being a successful writer is HARD. Getting published at all is challenging enough, let alone selling enough books to be considered “successful.” Most authors struggle to even sell 100 books. I don’t mean to be depressing about it, but having a realistic outlook will help you succeed in the long run.
A lot of times, in my opinion, success boils down to marketing. People can’t enjoy your book if they don’t know it exists.
Anyone have a copy of Cinder on their shelf by Marissa Meyer? One of the last page lists hundreds of book bloggers that she reached out to in order to get some hype going about her book. And it worked. It got the word out, and I honestly believe that was a big factor in making the Lunar Chronicles as successful as it is. Of course, her books had to be amazing enough to build on that hype and keep growing. But people have to know your book exists before they can read it and fall in love with it.
If you already have an online following that enjoys your writing, you get a head start. You have a place to go to say “Hey everyone, look. I got published!”
I heard recently that Sarah J Maas started off posting her work online, and gained fans that way—before her books were even published. When you already have people excited about your work and your writing, you have a group of people “warmed up” and more willing to buy. They know you. They’re familiar with you.
(I hate to make this all about the numbers, but again, it’s about being realistic. The publishers only care about the numbers, so if you want to get a book #2 out there, your book #1 sales have to be decent.)
Truthfully, very few of your fanfic followers will actually buy a book, though. Most people are just there for the free content. But it’s a start. It’s a way to get the word out and grab a few precious sales.
I’ve also heard from agents at writing conferences that having an online following when you query can improve your chances. Mostly they were talking about self-published authors, but it applies to fanfic authors too. You’ve proven that you can get people to read your work and become your fan. That’s credibility.
It worries me that, if I become a published author, someone will recognize my fics and out me as a former fic author.
Yeah, it might happen. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, though.
- Most fanfic authors post under a username, so
unless you make it public knowledge that it’s you, you can stay anonymous. Even
if your friends/family know about the connection, it’d be hard to get enough
word-of-mouth going to make that public knowledge.
- Most people don’t pay much attention to the author
of the book they read.
- Honestly, not many people will have the time/interest
be snooping around your background.
- The people who DO go snooping around most
likely loved your writing so much that they wanted to learn more about you and
see if you had any other books published. In which case they’d probably be like
“Oh cool, she used to be a fanfic author” and either not think much of it, or
see it as really neat.
- People who loved your book but think poorly of fanfiction will be in for a surprise. You can help change the bad stereotypes floating around about fanfiction as “lesser” writing, one mind at a time!
- This might be really inspiring to other fic writers who find this out. And you will become their hero! “Wow, this writer did it. I can too!!”
- Long-time fans of your fanfiction may just become your most loyal fans. They can have that connected feeling to you because they knew you before everyone else. “Wow, I used to read this person’s writing all the time! It’s crazy how much their writing has grown over the years.”
Fanfic writers are the laughing stock of the “real” literary community.
My friend, unless you are writing gritty realistic fiction about a 50-year-old white man having a mid-life crisis, you will always be the laughingstock of the “real” literary community.
The “real” literary community will always cling to their ideas of writing purity, and there isn’t much you can do about it. You have to be a Hemmingway or a Fitzgerald in order to be of “real” value. Purists like we’re talking about are few and mostly in academia, and they will wave their fists at you and whine and cry that literature is being ruined, absolutely ruined by all these monstrosities like genre fiction and fanfiction.
(I’m somewhat bitter about this, by the way. My university completely snubbed its nose at any hint of genre fiction, but luckily I had several professors who were more open-minded about such things.)
But it’s like, ehh. Let them shake their fists. Fanfiction is a beautiful form of writing and millions of people will agree with me on that. Sure, a lot of people will also disagree, but you can’t please everyone.