Friday, June 29, 2012

The Legality of Fanfiction a Grey Area?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the legality of fanfiction after the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey which originally was written as Twilight fanfiction under the title of Master ofthe Universe. In truth the legality of fanfiction has been argued for much longer than that, but with Fifty Shades success I feel this talk has grown. Some feel that any use of another’s characters is copyright infringement, that fanfiction is stealing from another author’s hard work. I however think differently.
There are ways to use another author’s characters and even their entire story, re-write them as your own and still have it be legal to sell. How moral or ethical this is varies by opinion. The best example of this is a parody. The Hunger Pains is a parody of The Hunger Games, Nightlight is a parody of Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Earl Grey is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey. These books take the work of the original author and basically make fun of it. We know they’re based off another’s work, that’s the joke. Personally I don’t like parodies when it's so obvious they're mocking a particular book. I find them to be disrespectful and un-enjoyable reads, but they are perfectly legal to create and profit from. There are some fun reads out there that make fun of overused concepts and those can be quite entertaining.
Fanfiction is writing using another author’s characters to explore one’s own ideas. Works of fanfic are done out of admiration and appreciation for an author and their work. The goal is to create a story with characters that are recognizable as another author’s, have them act in ways that are believable to that character but put them in a setting or storyline that is your own creation. They are created for entertainment and not for profit. Fanfic is important because it allows fans to connect and share ideas. It encourages interest in a particular author or book, or TV series to grow.
I think there are a lot of authors out there who started writing, and grew their skills writing fanfic, then decided to write their own stories and created wonderful books. And then, there are some who took their fanfic stories down from sites they had them posted at to change the names of their characters and publish them as their own work. Again, how moral and ethical this is varies by opinion, and also varies by how extensively the published work is from the original piece of fanfiction. Karen A. Wyle made a blog post a short while ago on Twilight, Fifty Shades, and Copyright Law which seems to suggest that what E.L. James did in creating Fifty Shades of Grey is perfectly legal as well as ethical. It is a persuasive read.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with fanfiction. I used to write some myself. I support it and would hate to see anyone try to make it illegal. However, my thoughts get a little more muddled when I see an author post a story as fanfiction (Master of the Universe); a form of writing that usually includes a disclaimer which says the following is for entertainment purposes only and that the characters do not belong to them, and then takes that same piece of work, changes little to it and then tries to sell it as their own original work (Fifty Shades of Grey). Write fanfic, write your own original pieces, be inspired by other authors and their characters. But, don’t take something and call it one thing, and then turn around and call it the complete opposite of what it was originally without changing it.

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, however from what I understand it has barely been changed from its original work as a piece of Twilight fanfiction, which should have been written for entertainment purposes only. I would have preferred for E.L James to have published Fifty Shades as hers without posting it as fanfic first. Or, had she taken that fanfic story and changed it in a way in which Fifty Shades no longer could be confused with her fanfic piece I would feel like there isn’t any controversy here. (In other words had it been less than 89% the same as the fanfic story (Dear Author
) But she didn’t, which leaves me feeling like maybe there are some issues with how she went about getting this book published.
Her fanfic story was obviously AU (Alternate Universe) and James did create a lot of her own material in creating it, but I feel she didn’t go about things in the right way when it comes to truly making this her own work. She wrote her characters to be Edward and Bella. That was the point when she wrote it as fanfiction, I find it wrong if she did nothing but changes their names and then call them hers. There have been many who’ve said her characters in Master of the Universe and in turn Fifty Shades of Grey do not resemble Bella and Edward well, but they were still written to be such originally.
Fifty Shades of Grey could be considered transformative work in the eyes of some, and it may be considered stealing in the eyes of others. Personally my opinion is that it’s not stolen, it is a piece that was inspired by Twilight and should be considered transformative. However, the way E.L James gained a following by originally posting it as a Twilight fanfiction story bothers me, and may be the reason I choose not to read this book.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review for "One For the Money" by Janet Evanovich

A Hilarious and Fun Read filled with Colorful Characters. 5 out of 5 Stars
This was a very entertaining and funny read. Janet Evanovich has a wonderfully witty writing style that gives Stephanie Plum a sassy but also honest voice. Divorcee and jobless Stephanie has been selling off her furniture and appliances to keep from having to move back in with her parents. She is stubborn to the core and a little naïve, which is in part how she ends up as a bounty hunter chasing down her ex-fling Joe Morelli.

The whole book is filled with colorful and engaging characters. Grandma Mazur in particular was an awesome character, she was so funny. Everything she said had me laughing. I loved that every character had their own voice. From the hookers, to the boxer Ramirez, to good cop gone ‘bad’ Morelli, they were all well developed and interesting. This is an adult book with some adult themes, including sex and murder, but I enjoyed that. I was glad that Janet didn’t water down any of the issues she deals with.
Stephanie has a lot of great stories to tell, particularly those that involve Joe Morelli, and she also falls into some rather hilarious situations.  Anyone who’s ever been down on their luck will completely relate with her. She starts out naive, but her character grew as the story went on. By the end of the book she’s a much stronger character. I was also glad to see that as she progressed so did the feel of the book. Stephanie’s situation may be funny but there is also seriousness and some scary parts that come from her working as a bounty hunter. She’s dealing with dangerous people and falls into some dangerous situations.
Over all I found this first book in the Stephanie Plum series a great read, however I did have a few pet peeves. Some of the technology in it is a little dated, which makes the story feel dated, (it was written in the mid 90's) but that was easy to look over. What really bothered me was that I loved the interaction between Stephanie and Morelli, however I felt like there wasn’t enough of it. I enjoyed reading about Stephanie apprehending various FTA’s, but sometimes I wished that Janet had spent a little less time telling me about them and given me more time with Morelli. I was 70% thru the book before he and Steph started working together. At that point I was like ‘this is what I’ve been reading for’ but the book was nearly over. Morelli is a bad boy and a player, but underneath that he has a soft spot for Stephanie. I wish their partnership had had time to build and be grow stronger. Though I will say, where Janet ended the story left me wanting to read the next one, and I think this is a series I will continue with.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Price of Hiring and Editor

Aaron Brown
As a self-pub author keeping costs down is key. When you’re doing it all yourself, the costs of a cover artist, marketing and an editor can break the bank. But, there are ways to do these things affordably. This post is specifically about my journey finding a quality editor at a reasonable price.

I’ve stated in previous posts that having an editor is absolutely necessary to publishing a good book, and if you read my post on The Beauty of Beta Readers you’ll know how much just having another set of eyes look over your work can do for you. But, a beta is not enough. So okay, get an editor, no problem… until you start looking for one and realize what they charge. Editing services can cost you in the thousands, and for an indie author just getting started that kind of money just isn’t in the budget. For example a company called Edit 911 gave me an instant quote of $1,610 for a 70,000 word document. (http://edit911.com/order-service/) Basic copy editing through Create Space is $120… for a document of up to 10,000 words, or $0.012 per word for a larger document. So, my 70,000 word novel would cost me $840, and that’s basic copy editing. Comprehensive copy editing is $0.016 per word and comprehensive copy editing plus is $0.022. (http://www.createspace.com/)
Prices like this I think are in part why so many indie authors have published un-edited work. It’s hard to dish out nearly a grand for a book when you don’t even know if you will make that back. But, there is a way to do it for less.
The solution: look for editors that understand how hard it is for authors just starting out. Some established editors will take into account that you are a new author and work with you on price. Or, find someone who’s just starting out editing and looking for experience. There are many good editors out there looking to get their foot in the door with their editing services just like you, as a new author, are looking to get the foot in the door with your book. These up and coming editors can be very skilled, they just don’t have a clientele yet. So, many of them offer very reasonable prices as they are still building their references. Obviously without a clientele there is more risk involved. You don’t have the same references of their work to tell you if they’re the right editor for you. However, the price, which from all the editors I enquired, ended up being less than $400 to as low as $200 (Less than half of what I’d previously been expecting to pay) is worth the extra time it takes to shop around and find an editor that’s right for you.
The process of finding an editor and finding a good one will mean sending out inquiries to more than one person. Ask around, inquire about editors in forums or ask other indie authors who they had edit their book. I made a post on Goodreads, (http://www.goodreads.com) in a discussion section specific to finding an editor (http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/52389) asking if anyone could recommend a good editor who offered affordable rates. After a day I had about five editors to look into. I e-mailed a few of them and found that most editors will ask for a sample of your work in which they will correct and send back to you. It is only after they’ve done this that they can give you an accurate quote. From here you can see what kind of work you can expect from them and decide if they are right for you.
I feel finding the right editor will be different for every author and possibly ever novel. Some manuscripts will need more attention than others. Some editors may favor certain kinds of books over others. So, not every editor will be the best for all jobs.

If you are an editor who keeps the indie writer in mind feel free to comment on this post with a link to your site.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Amazing E-Reader: Why I Love my Kindle Fire

Before the Kindle Fire came out I never really thought about getting an e-reader. I liked my books, my book-books; with their paper and ink and creases in the pages from dog-earing my place. I liked seeing their spines displaying their titles as they sat on my bookshelf. I liked the way they smelled, how they felt beneath my fingertips. I was a “book-book” person.

I also had never had a smart phone, and still don’t. I didn’t know what apps were, didn’t use my phone to surf the internet while waiting in line at Starbucks. I’d never played Angry Birds. My phone still has buttons. Not to say I’m not technologically savvy. Give me a laptop and I can do just about anything. I just didn’t need to access the World Wide Web from everywhere I went.

So, in theory, I should have been the last person interested in the Kindle Fire, essentially an e-reader/smart phone. I think the only thing I can’t do with my Kindle is make phone calls. Despite my love of physical books and aversion to phones that were smarter than me, I saw an ad for the Kindle Fire and thought it was the neatest thing ever. However, it was a little expensive. So, I put it on my Christmas list and that was it.

Being twenty-three my mother doesn’t exactly lavish me with gifts like she did when I was five. But, every year she still asks me for a list and gets me something small. Also, being twenty-three, I have a much harder time creating said Christmas wish list as I no longer take up two pages with things like “Barbie-dream house,” or “roller-skates.” So I usually write down a few practical things, like socks. I always need more socks, and then have some fun with the rest of it. One year I wrote down that I would love a new car, another year I asked for this digital art pad that costs about $2,000. Next year I’ll be throwing Laser Eye Surgery on the list… again. Mom usually gets a laugh out of this and obviously I never expect to get any of these things. This last Christmas I put down the Kindle Fire as one of these gifts. I never actually expected to get one. Granted at $199 it wasn’t as outlandish as asking for a new car, but certainly more expensive than socks.

Mom saw what I didn’t, and that was that despite the cost it would be the best gift I’d ever get. I take my Kindle with me everywhere I go. Other than books I keep music on it as well as games. This past spring I went on vacation to South Padre Island and during the flight played Monopoly with my sister and boyfriend. It’s a very fun toy.

However, my Kindle Fire is more than just a fun trinket; it’s probably the most useful electronic device I own. It’s saved me money on text books, not to mention a back ache or two. Yes, last semester I bought the Kindle edition of all my books for school, which are much cheaper than the actual text books, and lighter. I also read quite a bit more. With my Kindle I can carry dozens of books around at a time, which means when I’m sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s I can get a few more chapters of my novel read because I always have my Kindle with me. I also read easier at night as I can adjust the settings changing the brightness and text color so that it doesn't hurt my eyes to read in the dark. Then, whenever I finish a book the next one is just a click away. No need to go to the store to buy another book, I have them all at my fingertips with reviews to help me make a decision of what to purchase.

Most importantly, having a Kindle has motivated me to self-publish my novel. My Kindle allows me to easily find indie authors and read their work. Seeing other people successfully self-publish their work has inspired me. I read their stories and found many of them to be wonderful reads. I’d always wanted to publish a book and had been writing for years, but it was my Kindle that gave me that final push to say “you can do this.” So thank you Amazon and Mom for my amazing e-reader.