Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World - Part 15 - Guest Post by Kirok of L'Stok

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 15
Guest Post
 Kirok of L'Stok 

Here is an index list of the previous 14 posts in this series on Marketing.

Below is a Guest Post by the editor of an online magazine, Kirok of L'Stok.  

He suggests it's time in the evolution of online fiction for an Award to emerge.  

But first let me put this Guest Post in context for you, connecting online fanfic with Mass Market Romance writing.

I did an article on Spock's Katra for a 'zine which will be posted at http://tupub-books.blogspot.com.au/

My article is also here on this blog at

Yes, I wrote an article for a fanzine (again, still, always), because fanzines are where the best stuff turns up, and where the most interesting readers turn up.  Fandom is where I live.  Pro-dom is where I go to find fans who haven't found fandom yet.

So I wrote this article for my fan family, on the occasion of a 'reunion.'  And I asked for a Guest Post from this very interesting fellow I think you need to hear from whose byline is Kirok L'stok.

Meanwhile (at the same time!) I was in a Twitter chat, #scifichat, and one of the writers asked the day's Guest, Jean Johnson, how she got started in professional publishing.  She's a best selling Romance Writer whose Military Science Fiction Series, Theirs Not To Reason Why, I reviewed a few weeks ago.


She answered that she was writing Harry Potter fanfic, and a professional editor asked if she had any Romance for mass market publication.  She "dusted off" a novel she had done and sent it in.  It was bought and published, and she had more contracts.

So this other writer who had been trying to break into professional publishing began thinking about writing some fanfic to get noticed.

Decades ago, writing fanfic was the kiss of death to a pro career.  Today it's an avenue to International Best Seller.

So today, we have a Guest Post about online fanzine publication.

But first I want to alert you to Jean Johnson's new science fiction romance series (with a lot more Romance to the story, in fact a Vulcan-type-mental-bonding!)

Jean Johnson's July 2015 release is a novel kicking off a new series which is a prequel to the Theirs Not To Reason Why series, called The First Salik War series.

In July, 2015, the novel THE TERRANS was released, a First Contact novel kicking off this series about a war.  It's very domestic, and as I noted pivots on a telepathically bonded couple.


Yes, a very Star Trek, fanfic, type premise, and one I know you will love.

As writing students, you should note that this novel bears the imprint of her beginnings in Harry Potter fanfic (ESP that seems like Magic), and her easy segue into Best Selling Romance writer.  It also showcases the odd, and very strained, process we are seeing today as science fiction blends into romance and produces whole new categories of fiction.

This category production is incubated in fanfic.


I have an essay in that one, and am mentioned in a number of other books about fanfic -- a very academic subject these days.

Romance is particularly difficult to blend into Military Science Fiction -- there are so many hot-topics that need to be front-center stage.

World War II Romance was easy - everyone knew what happened in the war and where, while everyone knows how two humans can just fall in love and/or lust in a war setting.

But when the War is against Aliens from way across the Galaxy, and the two who meet are not from the same planet, there is a lot of "exposition" the reader needs to know whether they want to know or not.

THE TERRANS is definitely an intermediate work, bridging the gap of structural and narrative style techniques between the typical best selling Romance book, and the best selling science fiction novels.

The bridge between the two fields, Romance and Science Fiction, has been constructed in fan fiction.
In case you missed it, here's a brief history (free ebook at Smashwords) of Science Fiction Romance showing its origins in fanfic.


So if you are writing to blend these fields, or any other two genres, looking to add the next step in the evolution of the Romance Story, study THE TERRANS.

By science fiction standards, it is styled as expository lump followed by more expository lumps, one after another, some of which is thinly disguised as dialogue (a lot of that is the Romance part, in telepathic dialogue).

I discussed dissolving the expository lump here:

I have not yet discussed in depth the artistic value of the Expository Lump -- trust me, it does have value.

Structurally, Jean Johnson chooses to use a number of tricks common to Romance -- a down-play and dilution of Conflict, a flowing narrative where every detail of a character's movement from one scene to another is described (something you see a lot in fanfic), and a submerging of the scene delimiting marks, called by Blake Snyder in SAVE THE CAT! "beats."

THE TERRANS is constructed almost entirely without "beats" in the measured intervals common in Science Fiction.  For that alone it is worth studying.

Without "beats" you have no scene structure.  The ignoring of scene-structure gets the reader to focus entirely on Story rather than Plot.

A scene-structured emphasis follows the plot, with each scene beginning with a Plot Situation, progressing through a Conflict, resolving that Conflict at the end of the scene with a cliff-hanger that develops suspense as the reader leaps into the next scene without covering the intervening distance.

Yes, scene structuring via Beats gives the reader a "quantized" experience, discontinuous yet making perfect sense.

This structure which we've discussed:




Scene Structure, leaving the characters to get from scene to scene without anyone watching, produces what we term cinematic pacing, which you can study by watching any of the Star Trek TV Series episodes or the films.  The structural tricks of plot-based storytelling are showcased to perfection in Star Trek.


To achieve that kind of Scene Structure, the writer has to break up the "worldbuilding" information from expository lumps (even disguised as dialogue) into bits and pieces sprinkled a word here, a phrase there so the reader can derive or infer all that information.  I call that "Information Feed" -- the main trick is to make the reader unbearably curious to know the bit of information, then drop it in obliquely (yes, like "name dropping") and leave the rest to the reader's imagination.

Jean Johnson has brought the Harry Potter fanfic elements, the Romance Genre pacing, beatless structure and conflict-averse styling and flavor, and the science fiction Situation/Worldbuilding together into a wild, and fascinating blend.

I recommend you pick up The First Salik War novel THE TERRANS and study just how it affects you -- and then analyze why.  You will learn a lot.

So, Jean Johnson made her way into Mass Market via Harry Potter fanfic, and her love of Romance genre writing.

Kirok L'stok is editing a high profile, Australian publication that is online-only.

Read what he has to say about the purveying of fiction online.

------------START GUEST POST BY KIROK of L'STOK ------------------

Fan fiction is a strange beast not least because there is no clearly definable metric that can be placed against it to show which is successful, either in terms of popularity or quality.

Success for the professional author is relatively easy to define by sales, by which author tops the best seller lists, but does financial success mean that their works are more worthy of critical acclaim than works which were not as popular? Commercial success does not always equate to the critical acclaim of posterity. I don't recognise any of the books in the top ten best sellers list for 1954


whereas The Lord Of The Rings, the first volume of which was released that year, is universally known and loved. To be a best selling author doesn't guarantee that your works will be remembered as classics. Ever heard of Gilbert Patten?


That is the why awards such as the Hugo
and Nebula
are of value, they represent works which are considered by an international convention of their readers and fellow writers to be the best for that year.

By contrast, fan fiction has no 'best-seller' lists. By their very nature transformative works
cannot currently be sold for copyright reasons and commercial publishers, even print on demand companies such as LuLu,
will not even print them.

The printing and distribution of hard copy stories based on copyrighted subjects had to wait until the invention of methods of printing that were within the reach of non-professionals. This heralded the birth of the fanzine but, again, there are no 'best selling' fanzine lists because profit was never a factor in their production (although some classic 'zines have taken on a collectible value).
Awards, on the other hand, have been a staple part of the fan fiction world from 1977 onwards, primarily in the form of the Fan Q Awards
and their recipients can be justifiably proud of them since they represent the appreciation of their audience and peers in much the same way as the Nebulas.

There have been immense changes in the nearly fifty years since those first Trekzines came out, which have mirrored the recent upheavals in the commercial market. From the way books have been printed, distributed and sold to the whole relationship between the author, publisher, printer, bookseller and reader, publishing has changed and so too has fan fiction. Just as Print On Demand is a revolution in printing,
the combination of word processing software and home printers can handle most small fanzine runs. Ebook publishing has almost reached 'button-press' automation so that authors can create their own ePub and kindle compatible files.
Personally I am a fan of the pdf online publishing platforms
which we have based our output on at TrekUnited Publishing.

And with acceptance of online commerce the fan fiction community has whole-heartedly embraced the internet.

It's not just the technology of production and distribution which has changed though. Just as the relationship between the author, publisher and reader has changed in the road from pen to bookshop, the world of fan fiction has changed as well.

Fifty years ago, print fanzines delivered by mail or exchanged or sold at conventions were the only means of distribution for fan fiction but the internet has created a world-wide audience for anyone who can string a story together. Unfortunately this has created such a flood of material that finding the best quality fiction to read is now a problem. Most fan fiction authors will chose a 'home forum' where they will release their stories. Many of them, such as Ad Astra
and The Delphic Expanse
amongst many, have challenges, competitions and awards but, good as they are, they still represent niches within the larger world of fan fiction. In this massive but fragmented world of fan fiction, how does a fan fiction author now judge their work to be successful or of value?

The simplistic method would be to count the number of downloads they get but how do you know if your reader enjoyed it or even finished it? My experience has been that feedback is the coin of fan fiction, whether it is the copper of a thank you note or the gold of a detailed 'concrit', constructive critique. Feedback tells these amateur authors what you liked or disliked about their story but it is usually a localized, popularity feedback that is often just the support of online friends.

What fan fiction authors need, if they truly wish to hone their craft, is the critique of either an extremely large, motivated, international audience or the reasoned 'concrit' of judges they respect. What is needed is an internationally contested and judged writing competition.

I shake my head that I have said that because I am not a great fan of competition in the creative arts. I've seen it bring out the worst in people as well as the best and it can spoil an otherwise positive experience. On the other hand showing appreciation for exceptional work is worth doing and, speaking personally, just to have my work considered part of a field which included writers I admire and respect would be creatively fulfilling.

Taken in the true spirit of sportsmanship, competition stimulates you to strive harder to give your best, allows you to learn from your fellow contestants and analysis of the judging can be an objective critique of your work.

It is that last, especially, that sways me to support the idea of an online fan fiction award. The medals or certificates are nice but they are nothing compared to the approbation of your peers.

Kirok of L'Stok

------------END GUEST POST of KIROK of L'STOK --------------

Thank you Kirok L'stok.

One might add that the EPIC Awards for original e-book publications, some by publishers others self-published, were established for that same reason.

With the advent of self-publishing (fanfic or original indie), we are slowly re-inventing the wheel.  Writers now know they need beta-readers, and are studying the art of the Cover, title, pitch, and even advertising.  Labels, genres, sub-genres, all the tools of the Mass Market Publishers are being re-invented, but with a twist.

This series of posts, Marketing Fiction In A Changing World, follows the morphing of this familiar field into something new, and far more exciting than any fictional form has ever been.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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