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Crap On Me Once, Crap On Me Twice: How Pull-To-Publish Fan Fiction Hurts The Small Time Author

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , ,


Say hello to Aidan, the dancer-slash-manwhore from my Whored novels. He's got a vested interest in fan fic, so I've asked him to interview me today about--

Aidan: I do not have a "vested interest." I am BITTER! I was totally left out in the Whored fanfic! Alternate universe, my ginger arse--

Lucy: I'm not sure that's relevant, Aidan.

Aidan: Er…no. Well. Shall I start?

Lucy: Please do.

Aidan: Start us off, then. What's this problem with P2P fanfic?

Lucy: Small Time Author, whether they're a mid-lister from a traditional publisher, with a small press or they're self-publishing, faces a minefield trying to get their work noticed. They often receive little promotion and have to do it all themselves.

When a Pull-To-Publish Fan Fiction work comes along, being sold on the same vendors and perhaps to the same audience, it's usually there because it has a ready-made fandom audience who are adept at creating a lot of hype. Readers take note. Reviewers want in on the hot topics. When Small Time Author enters the same market, they really can't hope to compete. It's quite possible that they're losing sales, review opportunities and blog promo space because rewritten fan fiction is becoming prominent in the market place.

Aidan: That blows goats.

Lucy: Blows for me and a lot of authors.

Aidan: Maybe the P2P books are just better than others, and that's why they get so much attention?

Lucy: "Better" is subjective. There's really no way to tell. But let me compare a P2P book launch to a Small Time Author launch, just so you can see how uneven the playing field is:

Small Time Author Launch

1) The only people who have previously read the work are a few friends/beta readers, your editor, and maybe your agent and publisher (if you have those). They're the only people who can start telling other people that it's awesome and "spreading the word."

2) If you're lucky, you'll get a few advance reviews. They probably won't all be on high traffic sites.

3) You might arrange a blog tour. Again, this probably won't be on particularly high traffic sites.

4) If you're very lucky, your publisher might advertise you on a website or print venue, or you might even stump up for this yourself. For the majority of small time authors, this doesn't happen.

5) You could do a lot of blogging and networking, but you're an unpublished author, and your main access is to writers, not readers.

Basically: you rely strongly on word of mouth, but like most debut authors, you're starting small.

P2P Author Launch

1) Your work has been on a high-traffic fan fiction site for a reasonable amount of time, where it has gained enough readers for you to think it worth pulling to publish. In some cases, the numbers can be in their mid thousands.

2) When you put your work on sale, a lot of these readers will rush off to buy it. They'll review it on the vendor and on GoodReads. And they'll tell all their friends that they must read this book. It's the promotional equivalent of a ten ton truck crashing into your living room: very hard to pass by.

3) P2P fanfic is a controversial subject, so people start talking about your book online. It all creates a buzz.

4) What with all these reviews, reviewers and book bloggers want in. They want to know what the fuss is about. Whether they say good or bad things, they're making the work more visible to the public…all of this is a heck of a lot more promotion and blog space than Small Time Author could hope to get.

Aidan: This is starting to sound a bit shady.

Lucy: There's a shadier bit.

Aidan: No shit?

Lucy: When a work is posted online as fanfic, it is under the assumption that it uses the characters and other elements from somebody else's work. A lot of people think that it's wrong to make money from a work which blatantly states--by nature of where it is posted--that it is derived from something else.

Aidan: How is it different to, like, Bridget Jones's Diary? Didn't that do the same thing with Pride and Prejudice?

Lucy: Some people say that everything is derivative, and to an extent, that's right--but only on a macro scale. Fanfic tends to stay loyal to its source material on a very micro scale, such as character mannerisms.

Yes, Bridget Jones's Diary derivative. But firstly, Pride and Prejudice is in the public domain, so it's deemed okay by law to use it. Secondly, Bridget Jones's Diary directly acknowledges its source material by calling one of the characters Mr. Darcy. It's not "pretending" to be anything else.

When these P2P fanfics hit the marketplace, they're edited to get rid of all the original work's character names, title mentions and other recognisable elements (in theory). They're dressed up as non-derivative works, basically.

Aidan: That actually does suck. Although some people say they can't tell that some of these P2Ps are fanfic.

Lucy: Some people say they can, others can't. But when it's originally posted as fan fiction and uses character names, even if they're written differently, it is very hard to see how they aren't related to the original subject matter in some form. Further more, these fics are posted on site areas specifically designated for fans of the original work. If they aren't "really" fan fics, why are they in that area, using the original work's elements and names? No matter how "alternate" the universe, there's no getting away from this point. If you want to say your work is not fan fiction, don't post it on a fan fiction site where you're invoking the assumption that you don't own any of the characters you use. Changing character and place names doesn't suddenly erase any derivative quality the work might have, even if it makes the work "unrecognisable" from its source material.

And if you're wondering how this is different from derivate works like Bridget Jones's Diary…see above.

Aidan: Huh. So you could say writers who P2P are kind of crapping all over people who've attempted to write and release original stuff, couldn't you? They're pretending to do the same thing when really, they've got a massive leg-up because they publicly used somebody else's characters and story elements to make their work more appealing.

Lucy: You could say that. Yeah.

Aidan:  Some of these guys are making a lot of money. I bet they crap solid gold. You could say that you're just a jealous harpy.

Lucy:  Am I envious of some of the sales figures and other opportunities some of these P2Ps are pulling in?   Yes. Am I jealous that they've done it in the way they have? No. (I get to stay in this place called the moral high ground. You're usually a lot poorer there, but at least you can also be satisfyingly sanctimonious. It's a small plus, but a plus).

 Also, if somebody craps solid gold on me, it hurts more than normal crap. Just saying.

Aidan: And what about people who say these P2P writers have earned their success?

Lucy: I say they've earned their success as fan fiction writers, and as much as I'm sure readers want to see their favourite works published and acknowledged, the writer waived the right to publish as original fiction when they posted the work as fan fiction. This doesn't make them a "lesser" writer, but it does create an ethical dilemma that is distasteful to a lot of people.

I think those who love the P2Ps often assume if the original author doesn't object, it's not hurting anyone--but it is. It's hurting authors of original fiction for all the reasons I've listed above.

I don't think for a minute that most of them write fan fic with the intention of becoming horrendously famous and "exploiting" their fandom market. But when they publish and charge for the work, then their intentions are questionable.

Why not just respect the original author, zip the work up as a PDF and distribute it for free? You can still read on e-readers, people can still tell their friends where to find it so they can read and enjoy it. Then write something new and fresh for your audience; earn your stripes.

When you put fan fiction on a vendor where it technically competes with the original work, there's an element of farce to the whole thing.

Aidan: Couldn't a small time author take a similar route, like, posting their original fic on a site where they can build up an audience before they publish?

Lucy: Yeah, they could. And they have. It's something I've done myself on original fiction sites, and I've written about someone else who's done it with success right here. But people who do this don't seem to attract the same level of fanaticism or excitement that P2Ps do.

I can think of one incidence when a YA author scored a big six deal for posting her novel online. We certainly didn't hear about her like we are for P2P stuff.

Aidan: Why do the debut P2Ps attract this attention that debut original authors can't seem to get most of the time? They can't all be infinitely better, even if some of them are shit-hot reads.

Lucy: Nope. But we can make an educated guess that some who are part of a fandom are likely to get more excited and supportive about their favourite stuff, and we can also speculate that fan fiction gets a larger audience to begin with because it's trading off the original source material.

However you look at this, it's not good for Small Time Author, whether the attention the P2Ps get is deserved or not. You can't even say that the P2Ps are boosting genre sales because I don't think we have the figures yet (or do we? Any authors noticed a significant sales rise?).

Aidan: There's [cough] another reason this debacle hurts original authors as well, isn't there? [/Cough]

Lucy: Yes, and it hurts Small Time Authors most of all. They don't have a big press to fight their corner, most of the time.

There are a lot of people who are cool with P2P fan fiction, but there are also lots of people who aren't. Since P2P exploded, some are actively looking for it in order to stamp it out. The problem with this is that sometimes, they decide something is rewritten fan fiction when it isn't. This is what happened to me recently.

Somebody labelled my novella, Beautiful Mess, as fanfic on GoodReads, on the basis of some erroneous "research." I laughed, at first. Then I saw I'd been shelved on a Pull To Publish group, which meant anybody who clicked on the book could see it had been publicly categorised as "Rewritten Fan Fiction."

Aidan: Huh? If the P2Ps are doing really well, surely that was a positive thing?!

Lucy: Funny thing about a "P2P" with no fandom to buy it and defend it is that it only attracts attention from people who don't like P2Ps :P

I thought the review would sink down, that the accusation would go away. But it didn't. People started labelling my book as "will never read/fanfic" and similar on GoodReads; I was evidently losing potential readers because of a false claim. My reputation as an author was evidently being affected in a negative way, too. I could have asked people who knew the truth to challenge the review and the shelving, but as an author, I have to be very careful about arranging stuff like that to happen. (My GoodReads reviews were not half as good as my Amazon reviews. I hadn't solicited any of the Amazon reviews so I saw them as fair comparison. I have to wonder exactly how much the P2P accusation on GR affected people's opinion of the book).

Then my work started being tagged as Rewritten Fanfiction on Amazon. Word was spreading. Small time authors like me rely on word of mouth to sell books, and every sale counts.

I tried to get Amazon to remove the tag, and GoodReads to remove my place on the public P2P shelf. They both refused. I tried politely messaging someone in the group on GoodReads to state my case. Didn't work.

I'd reached the point where I felt that the negative association was affecting my career, and I took legal advice. In the end, a message to a P2P group mod--something I'd been wary of doing for fear of an accusation of "bad author behaviour"--resulted in a polite apology, and my removal from the group. But sadly, for many people who might have picked up my books, they won't come back to the page to see the retraction, and the damage has been done.

Aidan: So you've actually been crapped on twice by P2P.

Lucy: Yup. And I'm probably not the only one. If the practise didn't exist, this wouldn't have happened.

Aidan: Well I s'pose there's not a fat lot you can do about it, is there? People are evidently allowed to publish this stuff, and authors aren't really meant to talk about it.

Lucy: Yeah--for whatever reason, they're allowed. And it's deemed ungraceful for authors to talk about other authors, a lot of the time.

The thing is, Small Time Author has to talk a lot when they promote. We're not allowed to keep quiet and be mysterious anymore. We have to get out there and let people know about our stuff. So I figure if this is a big issue for authors, we should talk about it. And here I am…talking.

Aidan: Can I go now? Because my leg's kind of dead.

Lucy: What, no more questions?

Aidan: These are your questions. Guys…I'm totally reading these off a sheet.

Lucy: You do actually want me to write your book, yes?

Aidan: Siiiiigh. Yes. Okay. What does all this mean for readers? I mean, they're important, right?

Lucy: Readers are the most important thing of all, but they might well end up with less choice in terms of reading material, and in the end, they could miss out on some cool original authors if it becomes harder for said authors to succeed.

Small Time Author already has to compete with Big Time Author. But hey…at least Big Time Author hasn't deceived anybody about the nature of their work (usually) and we're proud to sit next to them in the book store. In the words of Kevin the teenager: it's not fair.

Aidan: Well you know what, Lucy? Publishing isn't fair. Life isn't fair.

Lucy: That doesn't have to stop me complaining about it :P

Aidan: Surely this time would be better spent by writing my awesome book?

Lucy: I have a kick-ass idea for your book. But do you mind if I change your name to Spock? Or Edward? How about Katniss?

Aidan: Ho ho ho. Very funny. Now skedaddle already and write me into some filth.

This is a contentious subject. For this reason, I won't be answering comments personally below so I don't end up in a big debate (I think I've said all I can). Please feel free to leave your own opinions, though. Thanks for taking the time to read.

Can't Stop The Hop: Why Genre Hopping Is Good For Authors

posted by Lucy V Morgan on ,


My name is Lucy, and I'm a genre-hopping addict.

There's a lot of pressure these days to stick to one little bracket of fiction. Your readers need to know what to expect, after all. It's all about building up a brand name. There's also a fair amount of pressure (especially in e-publishing) to publish a lot of work in a short space of time.

If I had to write in the same little genre for three or four titles in a row, I'd feel very trapped. I suspect I'd also end up doing what a lot of authors do: I'd write the same frickin' book, three times over. There are authors who manage to churn out fresh narrative after fresh narrative in the same area of fiction, and I have a lot of respect for them. They're brave and clever. But equally, some of my favourite authors have disappointed me more than once by selling me the same book in new packaging. Same conflict, same characters, same twists...when you get burned out or uninspired, it's all too easy for this to happen (and you just have to hope your editor is sharp enough to say, "why have you delivered this steaming heap?").

So...I genre-hop. It's like a palette cleanser. I have four confirmed releases this year: two are light-hearted romantic chick lit style books, and two are dark erotica. My current work in progress is science fiction; then I hope to move on to a thriller, then more erotica and more sci fi. (I don't expect to publish it all under the same name for marketing reasons, but it's still me that writes them).

I'm an eclectic reader. I love everything from thrillers to lit fic to filth. I'm lucky in that I have a lot of time to write, so there's a little flexibility in terms of getting things out there at a decent rate (though I'm hardly a fast writer). I currently publish with a small press, and self-publish; I guess I'm lucky there too in that I have a lot of freedom. If I were to land a bigger three-book contract, I'd probably need to stick with those three same-genre books and concentrate on just making them awesome. My next three books would probably be quite different, though. If I could pump out a novel a year in two different names/genres, I think that would be my ideal.

I used to worry about my genre-hopping. I thought it was a flaw; I could never label my books. Now I've realised instead of cramming about four genres into one novel, I need to write those separate novels, and so long as they're good, that's okay. I also used to worry that readers wouldn't know what to expect, but since the books will appear in different categories with descriptive blurbs, I suspect that's a rather patronising assumption. I've made peace with my genre-amorous self, and it's a nice place to be.

Some writers only feel competent or content in one genre. That's okay (and hell, some of them have no reason to switch). But more people--curious people-- should genre-hop, time and space permitting. Come on. You know you want to...

A Little Update On What I'm Working On Now

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , ,

1 comment

Hello and good evening (or indeed, happy Friday!)

I thought I'd update a little as to what I'm up to right now with writing, and when you can expect some new releases:

Olly Harris: Wedding Wrecker
This is a sequel/companion book to Beautiful Mess. It's going to be longer--I'm hoping to get it into short novel territory--and it's shaping up to be a lot more of a romantic comedy than an erotic book (Olly is good at a lot of things. Smut isn't one of them :P). There may also be a cameo from a certain ginger manwhore from Chairman of The Whored...

There will be a cover reveal, hopefully, in about two weeks, and I'll be posting the first chapter around the same time. So be sure to stop by for that! You can add Olly to your Goodreads list right here.

JUNE 4th
The Whored's Prayer (#2 in The Whored Series)
If you'd like the chance to get your hands on it before everyone else, I'll be giving an advance copy away mid-May. Don't forget to add it on Goodreads right here :)

I also have some filthy/awesome extra scenes--a novella's worth, really--which take place after The Whored's Prayer (one includes Bailey's brother, Rhys, who you'll meet in Olly's book). I'll be posting them up weekly after the release, so once you've read it, pop back and find out what happens next! 

My television script is officially in development now. It could well be a long time before I have any more news on it, but it's definitely exciting territory :) I'm currently writing a young adult novel (which weirdly isn't that different from my erotic stuff. I just have to choose different words) and I'll be moving on to a collaborative YA straight after. When they're done, around July time, I'll be thinking about my next erotic novel (and jonesing to write some filth, probably!).

Anyway, in the meantime: thank you for reading. Thank you for visiting. You make it possible for me to write really cool stuff.

Write A Better Orgasm

posted by Lucy V Morgan on ,


An orgasm is an event, people. When it comes to women--who account for a large proportion of the romance and erotica audience--it's also often but a fantasy, during sex. That means we writers are, above all, offering a fantasy experience. The perfect sex. The perfect orgasm. The words used to describe it should hold visceral weight, and the build-up should match the pace of the participants' uneven breaths.

Sex scenes are, for the most part, written to arouse the reader. They should feel and follow; sensation should build. When that climax comes, the line should punch them in the face...not wimp out and fuck up their rhythm. Treat the reader like your lover. Warm them up, tease them a little and then shove them off the edge of the cliff.

Three common mistakes in the writing of female orgasms:

1) Now You See It, Now You Don't

Or "where the hell did that come from?" Lack of build-up denigrates the reader's experience. Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay--focus on the growing arousal of the participants as well as your he licked/she sucked stage directions. Pay attention to the small things: the flush that appears across the heroine's chest, or the way sweat sculpts the hero's hair into a bed-tousled mess. The growing weight of blood in their veins as it rushes to swell (because we're often told how pussy lips get puffy or cocks get hard, but not what comes beforehand); the pain-diffusing heat of adrenaline; the warm, wet scrape of teeth across a collar bone. The little shift of the heroine's hips as she moves to guide her lover's fingers. The way her sighs feel in her throat, how they grow shorter and coarser.

Think about pacing. Vary the sentence structure and word choice to reflect jerkier movements, frantic sheet-twisting and breathless words. If your narrator can't think straight because he or she is so damn close, that's almost as sexy as the orgasm to come. Show rather than tell the chemical and emotional subtexts of arousal. (There's a nice guide to the stages of female arousal here, and it's worth a look in terms of structuring your writing).

2) Baker's Dozen

So we're writing "fantasy" sex; more than one orgasm is apparently the order of the day. Except it's not when they all arrive one after the other: oh look, another one! Well, that's nice. And hmm...is that...aha! Another! Break for dull descriptor paragraph....yes, another and another...no, that didn't do much for me either.

Treat every orgasm like the first, from a writing perspective. The second, third and fourth might not need such a long build-up, but they do still need one. Furthermore, how are they different from the first? If they're harder, where does the heroine feel this most strongly, for example? What does each consecutive orgasm do to her?

Women can have several different types of orgasms (vaginal and clitoral are two kinds; scroll down here for some differences). Mix it up a bit. Know exactly what is happening to your character's body, and tell the reader as if it's their first time too. 

3) Damp Squib

A strong build-up is all well and good, but it's only going to disappoint if the orgasm itself is poorly described. You want to write the Chuck Norris of climaxes, not the Where's Waldo? 

Stereotypical ways orgasms are presented in romance/erotica:

Her orgasm hit her
Her orgasm pulsed/coursed through her
She moaned/screamed (who actually screams?)/cried out as the orgasm...

Let us not forget the lovely vaginal descriptions:

Her pussy clenched (this happens just before orgasm, and it's only the bottom part of her pussy. The top actually gets bigger. Every day's a school day! During orgasm, you contract rather than clench).
She milked his cock (like a Dutch maid?)
Her sheath quivered (excuse me while I vomit quietly into a bucket)
Her womb contracted (who actually feels their womb contract? It's an abdominal sensation, no? Ever cried out "oh God, my womb!" during sex...? Answers on a postcard to bullshitlandia).

Also, gushing. Much gushing going on. Gushing is not particularly commonplace; if it was, we'd all have to carry spare knickers. If you're going to write about gushing then keep it for the later stages of arousal, when it's more likely (and remember that vaginal lubrication is rarely so abundant that it actually gushes. It's more of a little rush, an ooze even. Make ooze sound sexy. Er, somehow). The same goes for squirting--even more so, in fact. They're having sex, people. Not going for a swim.

Here are a couple of my favourite fictional orgasms as examples:

"Threads of pleasure slid down my legs, into every toe...it suffused me, carried me and lifted me...I came on his tongue, and he held me close as my body bucked and jumped. I cried out, his name like candy on my lips...licorice and whiskey...Dan."   Dirty by Megan Hart

"No crashing waves, no ripples of ecstasy. A violent pleasure tore through me, a whiplash at my clit that bloomed and radiated through my belly and chest."   Curio by Cara McKenna

"She felt the flash of heat again, followed by another and another as he continued pressing the secret spot, and she could not stop the noise that rose in her throat from escaping as she dissolved into his hand."   Taming The Beast by Emily Maguire 

And a couple from my books (toot toot. Also, I can use longer quotes from these):

"God, I fell.

Down, down, from a floating precipice to the smack of a hard fuck. There were no tears but I sobbed again, seared with the heat of a convulsing world and the wet mess of contractions that piled up inside me like traffic." Chairman of the Whored

"The orgasm was so different to the one which had drenched his bed last night. For minutes, it grew deep inside me in jerky snaps, conducted by the rhythm of his tongue. It peaked beneath my clit over and over before he caught on to it and pulled...pulled...

It was different. Longer, somehow wetter--as if I needed more of myself to pour into this man's mouth. As I calmed, he lingered over the swell of me and licked all the way down to my inner thighs.

Above, the branches of silver birch swayed like velvety eyelashes, and they span in the mess of oxygen I sucked from the air." 

"I fell in on myself--smash, crumple, shuddershudder--and the second he realised my orgasm had hit…he stopped. God knows, it was obvious, the way I stiffened and moaned his name. I writhed beneath him until he moved again, and then it was a slow dance as he made me work for every breath-sucking contraction. Fear pricked the back of my neck, the terror that it would fall away and I’d lose everything…but he forced me to fight until the last wave ebbed. I did beg. I begged until my voice cracked and my throat was dry."  The Whored's Prayer

So there you have it: three steps to writing a better orgasm. Like a magic spell; no wand required (although a wand is nice sometimes, let's be honest).