From author Toby Neal:
Fan fiction is all over the blogosphere these days, mostly because of Amazon’s special, new category for the sales and marketing of fan fiction that went live, Kindle Worlds.
It’s been going on a long time before that, a well-established “training ground” for new writers to hone their craft using a known story world and well-loved characters. That said, I’ve never particularly been a “fan” of it or participated in any, though I understand the reasons behind those who do.
. . . .
My own “fan fiction” experience started with an email from one of my fan readers. This talented young Hawaii guy sent me a proposed TV outline for the Lei Crime Series ™, six seasons worth, complete with titles of episodes (all variations of the flower/plant names in my series) and plot ideas for each one. It was good stuff! I was shocked and moved by the level of thought, work and time that went into this project.
After some back and forth with him, I determined he really did just want to see the Lei Crime Series ™ made into a TV show, and was submitting his ideas to me with no further intent of what should be done with them except to light a fire under my butt to get a TV show going and in hopes his ideas inspired some more on my part.
That was great, but it made me realize how vulnerable I was—someone could write my series up and get a TV show, and I’d have no idea until I turned it on one day!
. . . .
So what I was comfortable with was asking my readers what they thought of fan fiction using the Lei Crime Series™ characters and story world.
I was blasted back in my rolling chair, clutching my desk for support, by the immediate “NO!” from the hard-core fan base of readers I interact with (here if you want to see discussion, ) One woman who commented (a fan I’d been in contact with since Blood Orchids first came out) said, “NO. As a copyright lawyer, I would advise against it.”
I immediately wrote this reader, Sandy Shepard, Esq. of GoodSolutions for help with my situation. She has since been added to my team, and her first question to me was, “have you copyrighted your books?”
“No,” I said sheepishly. “I thought they were copyrighted once I wrote them.”
“Yes, they are. But without copyrighting officially, you aren’t set up to prove damages or reclaim any portion of profits generated from your original work.”
. . . .
I think we will be seeing Lei Crime Series™ movies and/or TV in the future. I will probably NOT be the writer for these other vehicles—and I want to make sure my creative vision is the one that’s fulfilled.
That’s clearly what my readers want too.
And because my readers objected to fan fiction, I am choosing to break with my “mentor” Hugh Howey and maintain control of my characters and story world.
Link to the rest at Toby Neal
PG would echo the advice in the post to register the copyrights to each of your books, short stories, etc.
In typical self-pub situations, you don’t need a lawyer and you can do the whole thing online at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/. It’s not the best-designed online process you’ll find, but it works and, after doing it the first time, you can do subsequent registrations pretty quickly.
Typically, PG registers a new copyright immediately before uploading any of Mrs. PG’s books to Amazon, etc., as part of the production process.
The main reason for this timing is that a copyright owner cannot recover statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement) if copyright was not registered prior to the infringement and the registration was made within 90 days of the first publication of that work. Since actual damages for copyright infringement can be difficult to prove, being able to threaten statutory damages is a big club. Registration within 90 days also allows a copyright holder to receive attorneys fees incurred in enforcement of the copyright.
Registering shortly before publication means PG won’t forget to do it after publication. It also avoids the obligation to send physical copies of the printed versions of the book to the Copyright Office because those physical copies don’t exist at the time of filing.
These are US copyright rules. PG isn’t familiar with registration processes in other countries.
If you have unregistered works that are outside of the 90-day window, it’s still a good idea to register them to give notice of your copyright claims and because registration is required before filing suit for infringement. You won’t want to wait until the Copyright Office processes your registration if you find someone is stealing your work.
The current US registration fee almost all indie authors will pay is $35. If you have several books without copyright registration, you can submit them as a collection of works under a single application for a single registration fee under the following circumstances:
- The collection is made up of unpublished works by the same author and owned by the same claimant; or
- The collection is made up of multiple published works contained in the same unit of publication and owned by the same claimant.