Sell Fanfiction: Make Money Spinning Tales From Your Favorite Fandoms
Fan fiction has been a way for writers to stretch their imaginations for years now, and can be found in every large fandom.
Fans of any franchise, from the biggest blockbusters and video game series to cult classic TV shows and novels, have been adding to their favorite stories practically as soon as they were written. Some of the most famous pieces of fanfiction have even been turned into their own celebrated stories, spawning their own fandoms.
Simply put, there’s money to be made in fanfiction.
How to Make Money Selling Fanfiction
If you’re a creative sort and have passion for a specific series, you might be able to turn your talent into some cash. Everyone has a story to tell, and some people will be willing to pay you to write it for them.
Start With Your Interests
The first step is to look at your own favorite stories. Are you a sci-fi aficionado that’s seen every Star Wars movie and can quote Star Trek: Next Generation by episode? Or are you a fantasy buff that reads Lord of the Rings once a year and has played World of Warcraft since Burning Crusade? Look there, first.
Let your imagination run wild, and start by sharing stories you’re interested in telling. Kezz McDonald, a writer who, among other things, has written fanfiction from the popular Mass Effect series, advises new writers that “the actual passion for writing has to come first.”
“If you write well enough and market yourself right, then you can start to gain traction,” McDonald said.
When you’re starting out online, you must be careful not to jump in head first. A lot of fandoms have very specific cultures and communities, so before you start out, make sure you know the basics.
Thankfully, almost every fandom under the sun has a wiki and forums. An invaluable resource for writers is fandom.com, a platform that curates online encyclopedias for practically every major fandom out there. For example, Star Wars has one, cheekily named Wookieepedia.
The more you learn about the series and fandoms, you can start to play with the stories in ways that will catch attention.
Vaughn Demont, the founder of his own publishing company, Blackwarren Books, recommends writers start playing with the story arcs in established series.
“If a particular arc is your favorite, start asking yourself how events could have gone differently…” he said. “AU (Alternate Universe) fanfics can be successful and lead to long-running series that can get attention, or at least train you for writing thousands of words a day.”
List Your Commissioned Work
Much like real estate, when it comes to selling your writing skills, it comes down to three things: location, location, location. Once you have started making a name for yourself, you will have your pick of forums and websites to choose from.
To make money off your fanfiction writing, you will mostly be working through private commissions. That is, accepting money and writing stories on behalf of others. Your customers will have the ideas for the story, and it’s your job to turn their vision into reality.
If you’re looking to cast a wide net, websites like Etsy are a great start. Fanfiction writers of all stripes have created a market for themselves on Etsy and they serve as a great example of how to present yourself to potential clients.
Demont also recommends Fanfiction.net, a huge forum where you can find any number of fanfiction writers. It should be noted that Fanfiction.net is also where several creators can interact with fans.
“Putting stories on Fanfiction.net is a great way to start, but you need to know the reputation the creator has regarding fan-created material,” Demont said. “Some authors love it and find it validating while others could find it insulting to their vision. It never hurts to be sure, and most of the answers are just a few searches away.”
Finding specific fan forums to archive your stories and gain an audience is also a good place to start. The popular MMORPG World of Warcraft has a dedicated forum for stories and fanfiction.
Finally, while it is important for any freelance creator to maintain a social media presence, websites like Twitter and Facebook aren’t great markets for writers to get noticed on today’s internet. Instead, Demont, as a publisher watching for writers, recommends writing communities on Instagram and TikTok.
Price Your Writing
Now comes the big question: What should you charge?
As an experienced writer, McDonald recommends “starting small, since you likely won’t be relying on writing for full time income right off the bat.”
The most common price for new writers is $0.01 per word, or $10 for a thousand words. Once you are more established and have regular jobs, you can safely double, triple or even quadruple your rates.
As for collecting your pay, it is recommended you use reputable online payment systems, like Paypal and Venmo.
Keep Yourself Out of Trouble With Trademarks
For modern content creators, the fear of being smacked down by an overzealous major corporation for copyright infringement is potent. U.S. Trademark law, as spelled out by the Patent and Trademark Office, can be intimidating to deal with at first, but there is good news for fanfiction writers.
First of all, the market for fanfiction is too huge to regulate.
“There’s so much fan fiction on the Internet and the vast majority of it never receives any corporate scrutiny,” McDonald said, reassuring new writers.
That is, of course, no reason to be careless. It is illegal to use another person’s creation improperly, but writing fanfiction online through private commissions is not a cause for concern.
“If it’s simple fanfiction on a website, blog, or organized site like Fanfiction, the most they can do is ask you to stop,” Demont said. “If you self-published a book that’s obviously based off their work and you’re making money? Expect a letter from a lawyer.”
It’s very simple as a fanfiction writer to keep yourself out of trouble. So long as you are only making money through private commissions and not officially selling your stories as published material, then you have done nothing illegal.
Be Open to Working With Publishers
If it were not already obvious, the creators and copyright holders of fans’ favorite series are not absent from the internet, and pay close attention to what their fans are saying and doing. Make sure you know how authors feel about fanfiction of their works, but also, keep an eye out for opportunities.
Several official fan groups will hold competitions for fanfiction. The Harry Potter fandom is quite famous for their fanfiction appreciation, and organizations, often in partnership with copyright holders and authors, will hold official contests as well, such as this contest for Star Wars fanfiction hosted by the University of Wisconsin.
It’s also important to note how many works of fanfiction turned into their own successfully published stories.
“There are publishers that look at popular fanfiction of their established work, see the view count, page hits, reputation, etc. and ask themselves, ‘If the fanfic writer transplanted this story into an original setting, changed a lot of names, and tweaked characters enough to be different, would this sell?'” Demont said.
Some of the most famous works of fanfiction-turned-success include “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which started as fanfiction of “Twilight,” and “City of Bones” which was spun out of Harry Potter fanfiction.
“It’s being able to create a compelling narrative that can exist outside the established canon, and if you can do that, you can go far,” Demont states.
William Fewox has worked as a freelance writer since 2017, and his work is featured in literary magazines such as The Aquarian, The Navigator and The Historian. He has also self-published a handful of novels. He has worked as a Social Studies teacher and research assistant in local Florida museums and more recently has worked as an editor for a start-up publishing company. William holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Jacksonville University.