What Are the Publishers Missing?
An article on literary culture
Literary culture is where literature and culture meet in a dazzling display of socialising, friendships and artworks based upon our favourite novels, poetry and plays. For many years now, the aspect of 'literary' or rather of 'what is literary' has been up for debate. After genre fiction, literary fiction took over with the ability to transcend genre. But what exactly does that mean?
Genres normally have staple things that they require in order to justify their existence. For example: in horror fiction we need something intentionally frightening, in crime fiction we need some sort of illegal activity and in romance fiction we need the display of a couple very much, in love. However, in literary fiction we can have all, some or a mixture of these things - therefore, transcending genre. I like to call it 'blending genres' because it is easier to understand - so that's how I'm going to refer to it as of now.
Literary fiction has always been known for winning masses of awards, being praised by critics and practically being held up as the absolute height and achievement of all of literature in the 21st century. But then you notice how the number of people buying books has wavered during this time. It is substantially lower than the 20th century and why is this? Well, there is something that the publishers have been missing. There is an entire market that they are missing.
The fandom market.
Now, you know my love of literary fiction and everything written beautifully and with heavy metaphor etc. etc. But I respect all art as long as people enjoy making and receiving it. If you like to read fan-fiction then by all means, read fan-fiction. It is good because there's an audience for it and by my understanding - it is a pretty big audience.
But then why are publishers not picking it up?
Well there are a few reasons that we need to go through here to understand why publishers are not picking fan-fiction.
- The audience for it is mainly young teenagers and we know how the bigger publishing houses are not really in the mood for publishing things written by young teenagers for young teenagers as these teenagers tend to not spend as much money on books as adults do and therefore, their tastes are not profitable.
- When the author wins a literary award, their publisher does too and the publisher becomes even more associated with 'high fiction' and therefore more people will buy books associated with that house. When people buy more books associated with the house, the house has more funding and then opens up for more risks as they have more money. These risks cause higher chances of novels of critical acclaims being published and thus as the critics will praise said novel, the cycle repeats itself.
- If an author is signed to a particular publishing house and releases a novel of critical acclaim and one that wins awards, their next books will gain massive revenue and profits for the publishing house due to the fact that the award means that the author themselves has more money and therefore more time to write even more 'literary' novels.
- Ultimately, critics fund the literary trends we see as they are the ones that control what becomes a 'classic' and what does not.
But why specifically is it fan-fiction that they are not publishing?
This is also due to a few, often more simple, reasons:
- It is not profitable to them - the amount of access there is to free fan-fiction seems never-ending and therefore, the profit margins are speculated to be low, even though I will argue that the market for that type of fiction is a lot bigger than they think it is
- It is not 'of critical acclaim' - it is not respected by the top critics which means it probably won't win awards, it probably won't gain monetary prizes and therefore, it probably won't draw in money and respect for that specific publishing house. The publishing house in question thus, won't gain new customers and probably will not have a high chance of producing more literature that will be of 'critical acclaim'. The cycle repeats itself
- The main audience for fan-fiction especially is teenagers, who if they were to read said fan-fiction published by a large publishing house, would start writing reviews etc. all over the internet. This would receive some backlash from the 'academics' who believe that a teenager's opinion on a book is not of massive value and therefore, there would also be some backlash to the publishing house for publishing said book which is deemed 'un-literary'.
What can we gather from this?
The publishing market is missing out on something huge. Fan-fiction, though I personally don't enjoy it myself, is one of the world's biggest genres. It is also one of the world's most ever-expanding genres because it can be written about anything. Any film, any book, any TV show, anyone and anything that someone is a fan of can have fan-fiction written about them. This, in turn, brings a community of fans together and then produces more fan-fiction which produces more readership of it. The more than happens, the more it expands. No, it may not be considered 'literary' and 'of literary value' to the critics but I think we really need to stop focusing on what the critics say and start focusing on what the younger generation wants out of literature. It is the only way to keep it alive and I think that the teenagers who are writing fan-fiction on the internet for free are doing a very good service to literature. They are providing something that another teenager wants to read and getting them involved. The community is growing and growing exponentially. In all aspects, there is absolutely no way that this could end except for if all the teenagers stopped writing at the same time.
So, as a message to all the younger people thinking that their fan-fiction is not worth it, I would like to say this: what you are doing is an act of revolution. You are publishing on the internet, in forums, on accounts over the internet and possibly inspiring someone else to write something about what they enjoy. You are getting people like you to read stuff and no matter what it is, it draws them into enjoying reading. Keep writing whatever you feel like writing because there is no such thing as 'the correct way of writing a story'. Only to publishing houses who need to keep their pockets filled with money. You may be providing this stuff for spare change or even for free, but what you are doing for the world of literature is far bigger than anything anyone will understand.
Keep writing and keep reading.