OTW Fannews: Fandom Entrepreneurs

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  • A post at Digital Book World discussed lessons publishers should learn as the eBook market matures. For one, they should “[a]cquire readers, not just authors. Editors already know to look for authors who have already found a following, however small, but while publishers are turning more attention to fan fiction communities, many aren’t being utilized to their full potential. Publishers tend to see writers of online fan fiction and original fiction, like those on Wattpad, as a means for sparking initial sales. But they can sometimes exceed that marketing function to emerge as strong, independent brands in their own right and should be approached accordingly from the get-go. Amanda Black’s Apartment novels and SJ Hooks’s Absolute novels both originated as Twilight fan fiction posted as online serials and are now among Full Fathom Five Digital’s best-selling titles.”
  • There’s certainly no slowdown in converting fanfic to published work. But authors aren’t the only entrepreneurs cashing in on fandom interest. Fanmail is one of many new products targeted at female fans. “The subscription box market has expanded hugely in the last year with buyers able to find mystery boxes filled with makeup, beer, vinyl records, dog treats, and more. In the pop culture world, the most popular boxes have targeted mainly male buyers, with only incidental inclusion of what could be considered female fandom goodies…’We weren’t seeing our shows and our heroes and heroines represented,’ said Del Vecchio…’And a lot of the boxes were just filled with items you could buy yourself versus handmade and fan-created stuff.’ Among the properties that will be featured in the first six months of FanMail are Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, iZombie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Legend of Zelda, and many more.”
  • The Ft. Leavenworth Lamp featured the business efforts of Mugglenet creator Emerson Spartz. “He wanted to ‘build stuff’ and when he came across a free webpage maker he was intrigued. He spent a month building websites that went nowhere until he came up with Mugglenet. He liked it but he didn’t know how to get people to come and use it. ‘So I just emailed every single Harry Potter webmaster on the entire internet. This was before search engines were a thing, so it was an enormously difficult process. I emailed thousands of them and a few hundred got back to me, and we linked to each other. And people started to come to the website…I had to grow up in a hurry because I was managing a part paid/part volunteer team of 120 people. I kept my age a fiercely guarded secret, thinking as soon as they knew, I would have to deal with mass departures.”
  • Big corporations are also putting fans to work for them. “[O]nly a minority are superfans who write primarily about the company’s products and theme parks…To get on Disney’s radar, Rachel Pitzel, a mother of two who lives in Playa Vista, California, filled out an online application for, and was accepted to, a social media event the company held in Scottsdale, Arizona last June…But the invitation doesn’t come free. Attendees get deep discounts, but they nevertheless pay for their packages, which include three nights at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, theme park tickets, fast passes to skip lines and a beach-themed party. Families also pay for their own transportation.” More companies want the free labor. “Disney was the first major company to tap the influence of moms across a wide spectrum of social media, but the approach is now being used to promote a range of products, including Hewlett-Packard printers and Cottonelle toilet paper.”

What cases of fandom entrepreneurship have you seen? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

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