So today this happened.
Basically, a bunch of fic authors/fans, primarily in the Glee fandom, are starting an LGBTQ-focused publishing house that will draw directly on fanworks for its catalog, at least in part. They say these won’t be serial-numbers-filed-off works but instead fic that has been substantially reworked:
Re-imagined works—some of them iconic classics of fan culture—will not simply be published as fan fiction with the serial numbers filed off, but as titles that their authors have painstakingly reviewed, expanded, re-edited and re-envisioned for publication. In some cases, the authors already had these original characters in mind when they first developed these stories for the fan universe. Others redrafted their novels with new characters while staying thematically true to their original source of inspiration.
My initial gut reaction is “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.” A slightly more coherent version of that would be profound skepticism.
That said, basically I don’t know what I think about this yet. I’m not sure anyone would be well-advised to know what they think about this yet. There are a few reasons why I think this.
- It’s new. Which means I feel the same skepticism toward it that I would feel toward any new small publisher. The attrition rate for publishers like this in the first year is not negligible, and generally I would hesitate to submit something to any publisher that hadn’t established a solid track record for more than a year. I submitted to Masque when Masque was very new, but Masque is a digital imprint of Prime Books, which has been around for a while and which I trust. Given how new Interlude is, I just don’t think we can know whether or not it will be a good publisher of any kind. This is compounded by the fact that as far as I can tell, there’s nothing definite about who actually is running the thing [edit: my bad, there actually is, though three people seems like… not many], though they say they have “a team of industry professionals [which] brings decades of experience in traditional publishing (from indie presses to “Big Five” publishers), hybrid publishing and self-publishing”. I mean, I know what that means, but I also don’t know what that means.
- We don’t know what their contract looks like. This is important. We don’t know what rights they want, we don’t know what royalties they propose to pay, what advance they’re offering if any (this is unlikely though not impossible), or any other details regarding what the legal relationship will be between author and publisher. What the contract looks like will determine a huge amount of what I think. I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that the contract will be shitty, to be clear – especially if the credentials of the people at the helm do indeed turn out to be legit – just that contracts have been points of issue for new publishers before and I’m not ready to assume anything either way, nor would I advise anyone else to do so.
- We don’t know what “re-imagined” actually means. They do give a basic indication, but it’s very, very basic and it’s difficult to know what it will look like absent an actual product. This will also be a major factor in determining what I think.
Their first stuff makes landfall in July, and after that I think we’ll know a lot more. In the meantime, to the extent that anyone cares about my opinion, I would caution my fellow fandom authors against jumping right on board as soon as submissions open, especially given the excitement and wild optimism that stuff like this seems to tend to generate. Most of what’s on the site is still very vague and incomplete, and there just isn’t enough data yet.
Again: In my opinion there’s absolutely no reason to assume that this is a bad deal. But there’s absolutely no reason to assume that it’s not.
Oh, and (edit): as far as the actual cultural implications of this – publishing fanfiction, reworked or not – I’m really not sure what I think about that, except that on a gut level I’m really uncomfortable with it. But that might have to be another post.