Today Gavia Baker-Whitelaw visits Lady Business to tell us more about exciting new publishing enterprise Big Bang Press as they prepare to publicly release their first title. Gavia is Managing Editor of Big Bang Press, a regular fandom reporter for The Daily Dot & maintains the popular costume design blog Hello Tailor. (We suspect she may also have developed cloning technology).
I'm the Managing Editor of Big Bang Press, and my job is to sell original novels by fanfic writers.
Basically, if you've ever read a fanfic and thought, "Holy crap, this writer is better than a lot of published authors," then that's where we come in.
Back in November 2013, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish three novels by fanfiction writers. One year later and our first book is about to come out, an illustration YA fantasy satire called A Hero At The End Of The World, by Erin Claiborne. It's already received a starred recommendation from the notoriously picky Kirkus Reviews, along with similarly positive feedback from early Kickstarter readers. That last part is just as well, because without the community of fanfic writers, readers and enthusiasts who crowdfunded this project in the first place, these books would likely not exist.
Surprisingly, this kind of venture is still quite rare. Fanfiction is far less stigmatized than it was five or ten years ago, but it's still relatively unusual to hear about authors who got a book deal as a result of their success in online fandom. In most cases they're doing what people refer to as "filing off the serial numbers," when you publish a fanfiction story but change a few names and background details to avoid copyright infringement. Recent successes include Fifty Shades of Grey, a couple of One Direction fanfic book deals, and a small but flourishing industry based around Twilight-inspired romance ebooks.
Rather than going this route, Big Bang Press publishes original work by writers who had already found their voice and audience in fandom, and wanted to be published by someone who values fanfic as an asset rather than an eccentricity.
Since we launched the Kickstarter, I've met or heard about an increasing number of publishing industry professionals who want to find authors from fandom. Still, it's still very difficult for writers to figure out which agents or publishers might be receptive to the idea of promoting an author's background in fanfic.
When our Editor-in-Chief Morgan Davies had the idea for Big Bang Press last year, she built our team from people who were already involved in fandom. In my case, I'm a geek-culture journalist at the Daily Dot, and have been reading or writing fanfic since my Harry Potter-obsessed childhood. This kind of background meant that we knew how to find good writers, how to approach them to see if they're interested in original fiction (because plenty of fanfic writers aren't), and how to promote their work to a wider audience without presenting fanfic as a weird hobby or something they used for "practise" before becoming "real writers."
With the obvious caveat that we're a young, small press, our main selling point is that we understand. We understand what fanfic audiences enjoy and why certain things are popular in fandom. We understand the appeal of fanfic, and how to talk about it without sounding condescending or ill-informed. And, conversely, we understand why some fanfic writers have no interest in publishing professionally, because they prefer the free, immediate and collaborative experience of participating in fandom.
Effectively, we aim to be a gateway between traditional publishing and fanfic writers who don't want to leave their existing audiences behind.
And honestly? It's going pretty well. The main obstacles we've faced so far are the same kind of first-timer growing pains and logistical issues that you might expect. The worst is almost certainly Amazon, which if you're at all interested in books or publishing, you probably already know is a problem in itself.
Since we're a small press without much name recognition (yet), Amazon is an essential part of bringing our books to a wider audience. For many readers, a book doesn't exist unless it's on Amazon — even if you're the kind of person who uses Amazon as a kind of database before ordering through their local bookstore. The trouble is, Amazon has control over pricing, so while we want to sell paperback copies of A Hero At The End Of The World at $15.95, Amazon decided to "stay competitive" by reducing it to $14.11 and then $13.50. At this rate, it's entirely possible that we'll reach a point where we (and by extension, the author) are actually losing money because Amazon has carved so much off our cover price. Unfortunately, there's not a great deal we can do other than a) try and persuade the faceless Amazon behemoth to stop doing this, b) pull the book from Amazon altogether, or c) politely remind everyone that they have the option of buying the book for slightly more money, directly from our website. Not a hugely appealing set of options.
In the meantime, we're going to spend the next few weeks shouting from the rooftops about A Hero At The End Of The World and how great it is, both as a hilarious satire and as the kind of genre-savvy, diverse story that internet fandom loves to read. It comes out on November 11, comfortably in time for everyone to buy it for the young adult fiction-loving readers in their lives (hint, hint), and after that it will be time for book number two. The hope is that after the three Kickstarter books are out, we'll be able to open up shop like a more typical small press. But of course, it's early days yet.
A Hero At The End Of The World by Erin Claiborne will be published by Big Bang Press on November 11, 2014. You can order copies in illustrated paperback and ebook format from the Big Bang Press website.