Monday, 27 August 2018

The BronyCon Bookstore and selling fanfic

An interesting initiative here: Aquaman is proposing a bookshop at the final BronyCon next year. This means an actual, physical place selling actual, physical books. I have no idea whether it will work out, but the comments contain an impressive number of high-powered ponyfic people, so it seems to have a fair chance. If you want to know all the ins and outs and whys and wherefores, read the Aquaman blog I linked to. It's long, but it's readable enough for that not to be a big problem.

This really underlines how much of a gulf there is between drawing and writing in terms of artists/authors selling their stuff. There are probably thousands of visual artists who at least make the occasional few quid through PayPal. The number of writers who do the same is tiny, restricted to a few good enough to charge for commissions or editing work and an overlapping few good enough for it to be worth their making Lulu (or whatever) editions.

Now, if this BronyCon Bookstore idea ends up bringing a gigantic C&D down on Fimfiction, it will go down as one of the fandom's legendary self-inflicted disasters. Some people might now be jaded or cynical enough not to care, but many, many more still do. But it won't. As pointed out in the blog, if that was going to happen it would have done so long since, and I'd add especially given some of the things that Fimfiction allows in stories hosted there. So I wish it all the best.

For what it's worth, I have no problem at all with ponyfic authors selling books of their work. Given that I have a folder full of fan art purchased at conventions, plus several non-licensed plushies, I'd be a hypocrite if I said anything else. It's never been relevant to me: even if I were good enough, I wouldn't do it myself, as I don't want to make any money from my ponyfic – I decided way back in 2012 that I would opt out of any AdSense-type programmes Fimfiction might introduce in the future. But if others do, then in a world of paid-for fan art and plushies I don't see why not.

On a slightly wider topic, here's a paraphrased comment I saw very recently, making a suggestion as to an additional reason why fanfic doesn't generally sell: "Fan art prints are generally cheaper than non-fandom art prints. Fan books are generally more expensive than non-fandom books." There are exceptions to all of those, but I thought it was quite perceptive: here in the UK, you wouldn't expect a good-quality paperback novel to cost more than £10. A ponyfic self-print will, so it's more of a luxury investment, whereas a fan art print at a fiver is not.


  1. Interesting read, this. It's always fascinated me (at least, in the parts of the site/fandom I've interacted with) how negative the response can be towards writers who promote/write commissioned content compared to those who produce commissioned artwork. While as not to get into a debate as to which medium requires the most input/work to produce something of quality, both have always seemed to me to require the same amount of investment on behalf of the writer/artist.

    I've never engaged with taking money for my work, mainly because writing on the site is a hobby for me and I'd rather not turn it into something that feels... contractual. At one point my concerns were more about the morality of profiting from material that isn't your own (regardless of the fact that you still have to *write* the thing), but I guess that's mellowed over the last year or so. Probably around about the time I started commissioning/paying for some avatar/cover art, haha!

    I guess the other thing I'd struggle with is actually *caring* enough about someone else's idea. Caring and being passionate about what you write is an important motivational factor when the going gets tough. I know from even undertaking free commissions it's harder to stay motivated on an idea when you don't particularly care for it. But if you can do it, more power to you.

    I know this is somewhat off-topic from a subject largely about people selling hardcopies of their digital fics, but I felt it was closely enough linked to warrant making a comment.

    1. I think the issue here is the view that writing is something that anyone can do, while drawing is a specialized field that only the truly talented can succeed in. There is even a lot of mystique around the tools used by artists, such as specialized software and drawing tablets. Conversely, the tools for writing can be obtained freely and used on any computer. I believe I don't have to explain why this idea is completely wrong.

      Coupled with certain stereotypes often associated with fanfic (deservedly of not, it doesn't matter), and I can see why people would consider that charging for writing is somehow crass, even if I disagree.

    2. That brings up another interesting issue: the comparative entry costs of drawing and writing. Not just financially, either.

  2. I've never had any interest in doing commissions, and I also just see writing as a hobby. Though doing commissions is different from trying to sell something you've already written (and is available for free online at any time, to boot). And as the latter is what's going on here... I never saw the appeal, from the buyer side

    1. I see it much the same as buying a print of a picture that's already freely available on DeviantArt. For some people, and that can include me, having a piece you can physically hold is worth something in itself. For the same reason, in many cases I still prefer paper novels to Kindle versions.