Fanning flames

I began writing fan fiction in 2009 after becoming obsessed with the Twilight series. Fanfic is brilliant in so many ways, not least of all because it enabled me to scratch a creative itch while simultaneously spending more time with characters I’d fallen in love with. I could take liberties with the characters, changing their personality traits, moving them across the world, placing them in situations I created or even ageing them.

Fanfic readers are discerning and their expectations for a well-crafted story are high. Publishing a fanfic online is kind of like an old-fashioned critique circle: you get instant feedback. It’s certainly a crash course in reader expectations. Reviewers can be harsh. A minority can even be downright mean, but the majority are really helpful and encouraging. Either way, every review is invaluable in helping craft a fanfic story and helping its creator improve as a writer by listening, editing and revising.

Not only is writing fan fiction an excellent training ground for dealing with reviews, but also for learning other aspects of publishing: the importance of marketing, of engaging with readers and bloggers, of making sure the ending of each chapter keeps them coming back for more. I read hundreds of other fanfics, which was integral in helping me improve my work. Fanfiction is a massive resource, combining talent from all over the world. There are some amazing fanfic stories out there.

There is a real sense of community too, between authors, readers, beta readers and bloggers. And publishers can pay good money for this. Social media was integral to getting my work noticed. It helped me reach a wider audience, resulting in more than 4.5 million reads and 22,000 reviews alone for A Pound of Flesh.

Fanfic is a fantastic way of building a readership. Whether someone wishes to use their fanfic to get published or not, they can take their readers with them in any other writing endeavours. This is important to a publisher, or to a self-published author if they decide to take that route. At a time when discoverability is a key element of selling books, a ready-made, built-in audience is appealing.

Sophie Jackson is the author of A Pound of Flesh (Headline Eternal), which originally began as a work of fan fiction.