Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fan Produced Books? Oh! The humanity!

A fan book? Shock! Horror!

What did you just visualise? A hard back novel or a mass market paperback with your name on it, on a bookseller's shelf right next to Pocket Book's latest offering? Dream on buddy! Just to clear the air, I'm not talking about producing something for sale, that would be a clear breach of the copyright laws and as such I would encourage you to report such a thing to Paramount or Simon & Schuster. No, I'm talking about an author who would like a copy of their book to sit on their bookshelf at home, maybe a few copies to give away to friends and family, the local Trek fan club... I can hear the snorts of 'Vanity Publishing' springing to the lips of many to which I shrug and say, why not? Who amongst us is without ego? Where it has gained a justifiably questionable reputation - dare I say, bad press? - has been because in the past the only way that traditional printing was viable was in commercial quantities of at least a couple of hundred units per print run which were a large expense up-front sending many people broke.

Modern technology has spawned Print On Demand (POD) publishers who do exactly what the name implies: they will print one or any number of copies of a book on demand. They have no massive logistics of printing, shipping, storage and selling, because they are usually offered online, paid for with electronic funds transfer and delivered by mail. Unfortunately, although I see no substantial, ethical reason for not doing so, the current stance of most POD publishers such as Lulu is that they class all fan fiction irrespective of quantity as a breach of copyright and will not print them.

So what are your choices? I assume there are a number of printers, especially small local printers, who will see the reality of the situation that the world of Intellectual Properties will not crumble and The World As We Know It will not fall because of your fanfic and will print it for you. Whether you will be able to find one who can do one as a one-off job rather than a print run of 200, I'm not so sure.

Alternatively, you can publish it yourself. You can print it out in folio A4 / US Letter (ie printed in landscape and folded in half vertically) as a 12 page "booklet", sew them and bind them. Yes, I'm serious, it can be done by amateurs! It's not easy, probably on a par with skilled woodwork or needlework, but it can be done.

...or you could think outside the square.

For example, when is a book not a book? When, for that matter, is a film not a film? Although we call them fan films, they're not shot on celluloid like Ben Hur or Casablanca was nor, with a few notable exceptions, will you ever see them on the big screen of a cinema. Likewise audio dramas are really a subtly different thing from radio plays (I could wax elloquent on that subject).

You could, for example, publish them as an eBook.

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