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Article summing up FanLib. [May. 20th, 2007|02:08 pm]
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On March 22nd, FanLib emailed hundreds of fanfiction authors in dozens of online communities in LiveJournal, lotrfanfiction, FanFiction.net, and Fiction Alley. They invited writers to upload stories to a beta version of their new website, www.fanlib.com. Fanfiction, once only available under the counter at conventions, has exploded on the internet, with over 285,000 Harry Potter stories alone at fanfiction.net drawing high hit counts per story.

The founders of FanLib.com saw no reason they couldn't cash in on the internet traffic. Formerly from Yahoo, Chris Williams, the CEO and co-founder of FanLib, has an impressive resume. FanLib has corporate backing and $3 million of venture capital invested into the site.

"My colleagues and I want it to be the ultimate place for talented writers like you," Naomi of FanLib wrote to fanfiction writers. "In case you're wondering, FanLib's not new to fanfiction. Since 2001, they've been producing really cool web events with people like CBS, Showtime and HarperCollins to bring fan creativity into the big leagues."

FanLib did their homework. "We scouted for serious fanfiction authors on various sites and invited only a few hundred based on their writing and impact in the community," co-founder David Williams says, and fans agree that their search focused on popular writers. What's a "serious" fanfiction writer? A serious fanfiction writer could have anywhere from 30 to 100 stories, with upwards of 700 regular readers subscribed to their blogs or LiveJournal accounts. Currently, fanfiction writers do their own marketing through networking with other fans, posting in blogs, fan-run archives, and various fanfiction communities targeted to their readers.

Unfortunately, FanLib did little more than ask the writers to hand over the product.Collapse )

I'm open for edits, comments, and changes. I probably won't have time for a lot of discussion this week -- last week of classes -- but I'll read everything and comment where I can.

Thank you, guys, for all the peer review edits.

ETA: Added correction. Chris Williams did reply.
ETA2: Additional correction. From jdsampson at fanthropology, corporate sponsors are only associated with specific contests.
ETA3: Added Chris Williams' assurance that fanfiction was his mission in life.
ETA4: Added Chris Williams' statements about the legality of fanfiction, and a bit more about ff.net.
ETA5: Updated with information from Fandom Lawyers.
ETA6: Added changes from taverymate on fandom statistics.
*ETA7: Correction from wrenlet, Chris Williams was with Yahoo, not Google.

ETA8: Added revealing FanLib marketing brochure info from Riba Rambles.

Links to posts about FanLib:

Pawprints of the Mind 'FanLib Association Chain'
Fitness for the Occasion 'Corporations and People: Content and Control'
Valleywag 'BROUHAHA: Fanlib's storyline gets hijacked'
Slashdot.com 'Fan Fiction Writers Balk at FanLib.com'
Picked up at Zicos 'Fan Fiction Writers Balk At FanLib.com'
Mary McNamara 'Internet Goes Nova Over Showtime, Starz, Moonves Partnered FanLib.com'
Califa Police Gazette 'FanLib: Boo!'
Chris Williams Responds to Fan Concerns in Jenkins' Blog
BBC's Chris Vallance 'FanLib and Fan Fiction'
Henry Jenkins (author of Textual Poachers) 'Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib'
Liblog 'FanLib - Marketing Fan Fiction'
Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light 'FanLib wholly exploded'
Lis Riba 'FanLib: Chump Change from My2Centences'
Scalzi at Ficlets Blog 'Corporatized Fan Fiction?'
Jim Macdonald at Making Light 'Fanfiction, Monetized'
John at the Whatever blog 'FanLib to Fanficcers: All Your Writing Are Belong To Us'
Sci-fi author Tobias Buckell 'FanLib'
Ivan Askwith at MIT Convergence Culture Consortium 'FanLib Provides Another Home For FanFic Writers'
Designated Sidekick on The Candy Floss Aneurism 'Hey Fanlib - An open letter from a marketer watching yet another fan connected company self harm'
akfrankel on Killerstartups.com 'Fanfiction In Demand'
Studio Splurd 'FanLib'
Silent Hill Fanfiction Archive 'FanLib is Bad'
David Kaplan on paidContect.org 'Storytelling Social Net FanLib Launches With $3 Million In Funding'
7/26/06:HarperCollins Press Release HarperCollins Publishers and FanLib Launch Groundbreaking Online Community Events'
John Fine in BusinessWeek 'Putting The Fans To Work'
'Speedpainting + this FanLib thing'
Kitesareevil 'FanLib'
Synecdochic compares FanLib and LiveJournal's TOS'
Stewardess has links to more articles.

And mockery, anyone? life_wo_fanlib (watchdog group)

Important note (added 5/25/07): It's been brought to my attention by scarah2 that FanLib is asking members for their FanFiction.net emails and passwords. I set up an account with FanLib and checked this out. It's true (this is a screen capture of the page requesting my password). Do not give out passwords under any circumstances. This is basic internet security.

FanFiction.net says, "May 22nd, 2007 -- The login process has been enhanced to prevent 'bots' from attempting to access your accounts. Please note to never share your email and password combination with anyone."

Lastly, there's a wild rumor that LJ's being pressured to ban users partially due to complaints arising from the FanLib situation. LJ's Abuse team laughed their heads off when they heard it. The scare turned out to be true. On May 28th, in a move that left the fans breathless, dozens of fanfiction and literary journals were deleted for having controversial interests listed, including a Spanish-language Lolita discussion journal, an incest survivors' support group, and a Harry Potter fanfiction group with over 4,000 readers. It's unclear whether the sweep had anything to do with FanLib, though fans point to vigilante groups that have been dogging LiveJournal for over a month.

I have had many requests to link to this post. Please feel free.
linkReply

Comments:
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[User Picture]From: spacemonkey_699
2007-05-23 05:09 am (UTC)

(Link)

*blinks*

How the hell did I miss all of these going ons? I'm a part of fanlib.com, was completely tickled pink when they invited me, but now . . . *frets*
[User Picture]From: ozma914
2007-05-23 09:38 am (UTC)

(Link)

If I'd gotten an invite, I'd have jumped right over there without thinking twice about it. :-/
[User Picture]From: jessibot
2007-05-23 05:34 am (UTC)

(Link)

This is all over my flist, I'm extremely glad I took some time to read it because it's very well set out and concise. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-23 02:33 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome. I'm glad I could help.
[User Picture]From: ozma914
2007-05-23 09:36 am (UTC)

(Link)

Wow, that's incredibly comprehensive. And a bit nerve-wracking -- do we want fanfiction's legal gray area exposed to close public scrutiny by a site dedicated to doing the one thing we're told we can never do -- make a profit?
(Screened comment)
[User Picture]From: justhuman
2007-05-23 11:39 am (UTC)

(Link)

Thank you so much! I've been seeing mentions on my flist but no actual explanations. This makes it all clear.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-23 02:23 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome.
[User Picture]From: maxxim_huzzah
2007-05-23 12:36 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I found this link through cryogenia, and now must post this to my flist/fandom as well. You've done a great job of putting this together--thank you for your labor!

Never thought about fandom as being more than for fun--but being talked down to and guided to the slaughter house (with that TOS, my god) like a little lamb does not sit well with me. :/

Thanks for the warning and heads-up!
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-23 02:19 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome. Please do spread the word, thanks.
[User Picture]From: patk
2007-05-23 12:56 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thank you so much for this summary. :-) I've put a link to this entry in my own LJ - since I saw you gave permission to do so to other LJs as well - and hope it's okay. If not, let me know and I'm going to remove the entry.

PatK
:-)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-23 02:17 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Feel welcome to link to it, and thank you.
[User Picture]From: lady_lyca
2007-05-23 05:00 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I am away from the internet for a few days and look at what I miss! I hadn't heard anything about FanLib, so thank you for providing such a fair assessment! :) As someone who has had to defend fan fiction on multiple occasions, I get a little tiffed when others bad-mouth, or in this case try to exploit a culture they know little about. Thank you for all your valuable information! I may have to link this in my LJ, it's something I think a lot of people should read. Well done! :)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 12:37 am (UTC)

(Link)

This exploded very, very fast. I've been as gentle as I could be, though I'm so grateful to cheshyre for her research which showed a very different picture.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: cutecoati
2007-05-23 08:55 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thank you so much for this wonderful summary!

I think what annoyed (and yet amused, somehow) me most was his line of argument - "we work 16 hours a day", "I have a son", "we answer your questions at 3 am on a Sunday". Y'know what, Mr Williams - you can work 24/7 on something and it can still turn out to be crap. Yep, even if you're a Daddy.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 12:36 am (UTC)

(Link)

I think what annoyed (and yet amused, somehow) me most was his line of argument - "we work 16 hours a day", "I have a son", "we answer your questions at 3 am on a Sunday".

Teresa Nielsen Hayden felt the same way.
[User Picture]From: thatfilmgirl
2007-05-23 10:14 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I'm part of the 'never heard of this FanLib' party and this was linked on my Flist.

I find this astonishing and I've commented a few times that their LJ insider seems to be just recommendiung authors that SHE likes and representing fandom in a very narrow way (I don't write slash and I'm feeling very unrepresented). FanLib should just back out now and stop trying to move this forward. It's very clear that fic writers AREN'T ALLOWED TO BE PAID for their art.

Although, if you think about it, the novels that accompany TV shows are fan fiction... In a way.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 12:33 am (UTC)

(Link)

When I first got their email I thought they had a licensing agreement of some sort, but then it just turned out to be just another archive. Frankly, I didn't notice the ads back in March (my pop-up blocker seems to work).

FanLib should just back out now and stop trying to move this forward.

Now it's hit the BBC.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: pattyp53
2007-05-23 10:39 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks so much for posting this!
No reply is necessary -
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 12:30 am (UTC)

(Link)

So I should reply to everyone else but skip you? *g* (I-I can't.)
[User Picture]From: robotech_master
2007-05-23 10:43 pm (UTC)

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"Yet parody of living authors' works is accepted. Is a story where Frodo is gay a parody?"

Just FYI, Tolkien is dead. :)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 12:20 am (UTC)

(Link)

He is? Nooooooooo...! Just kidding, but good point.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 07:50 am (UTC)

(Link)

I don't think FanLib's going to be winning any popularity contests this week.
[User Picture]From: chalcopyrite
2007-05-24 09:14 am (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks for laying it out so clearly. Like many others, I had heard rustles about this, but was trying to put the pieces together on my own, and coming up with an incomplete picture.

Fanlib seem to be doing an awful lot of backing and filling -- "No, we didn't really mean that, and anyway, we never said it." It is not doing anything to raise confidence in their good intentions. It seems quite clear where their priorities are.

And just as a funny -- that ad with the 98-lb weakling and the muscleman? My initial reaction to it was "If you join FanLib, they send the scary enforcers to your house." Not, I think, what they were hoping for. *g*
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 04:08 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome. I compiled the article from all over metafandom.

My favorite quote is still Chris Williams saying, "Fan fiction is my mission in life." It just makes me smile every time.

If they have licensing agreements this would be a completely different story.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: mikkeneko
2007-05-24 04:22 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thank you for this article. I'm debating whether I should break my normal lethargy to crosslink it -- I hate to do so without adding content of my own tho.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-24 05:07 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I hope you do, because this site is bad news. It's bad for fanfiction writers because of the legal issues. Their new TOS is even worse.

It's also bad for screenwriters because of the possible trend towards forcing them to edit fan scripts instead of producing their own material -- who needs to pay a writer when fans will do it for free?

[User Picture]From: scarah2
2007-05-25 12:51 am (UTC)

(Link)

Late to the party, sorry.

I think I found some new scaly underbelly. Apparently they've been being naughty with members' fanfic.net passwords.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-25 02:11 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Do they even need that information to port stories?

This is one of those basics. You never give people your password (or the pin number to your bank account, or keys to your front door...).

Icarus
[User Picture]From: liberty_witch
2007-05-25 04:43 pm (UTC)

(Link)

ok, this is just a big NO. You don't make money off fanfiction. I knew this even back when I first HEARD about fanfiction. [It seems like a big "DUH" but I guess I'm just well informed?]

Seeing as I have nothing much to add, I'll just link this on my LJ.

Thank you for the warning.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 04:37 am (UTC)

(Link)

Seeing as I have nothing much to add, I'll just link this on my LJ.

Thank you. It's our cardinal rule, and how many people deal with the ethics of writing another author's characters. Doing it for no profit is just one step away from "writing for the drawer."

Icarus
From: xanzpet
2007-05-25 05:44 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I was advised to read this by someone on my FList and I'm so glad I did. I hadn't heard much about this in my little corner of the Buffyverse, as we've been having other kerfluffles which occur with regularity when the Hellmouth explodes in May.

Thank you for painting such a concise and balanced portrait; it is very much appreciated. I'll be sure to spread the word.

Again, sincere thanks.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 04:38 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome, though this is just a compilation of what other people have said in metafandom over the last week. Now I'm waiting for the reaction from the fans to Chris Williams' response to criticism.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: firestorm717
2007-05-25 07:20 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Fanlib owners really do not understand the culture of their desired contributors if they choose to act like this, and marketing towards false stereotypes. The first rule of fandom is, do not try to profit from fanwork.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 04:41 pm (UTC)

(Link)

The first rule of fandom is, do not try to profit from fanwork.

Absolutely. It's the argument we've used for decades with writers who oppose fanfic. A licensed tie-in is one thing. But if they don't have permission from the copyright holders, they shouldn't be making money off of it.

Icarus
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 10:26 pm (UTC)

(Link)

I'm pretty floored by FanLib's approach to fandom and belief they can make money off fanfiction. Have you seen Chris Williams' response to the fans' questions?

Icarus
[User Picture]From: azurelunatic
2007-05-25 08:39 pm (UTC)

That recent rumor going around about LJ getting rid of wincest-friendly users? So very not true.

(Link)

I know your departure from some communities has been taken by some people as support of the rumor that's going around about LJ being under pressure to crack down on Wincest-friendly journals.

The rumor can't be true.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-25 09:28 pm (UTC)

Re: That recent rumor going around about LJ getting rid of wincest-friendly users? So very not true.

(Link)

Yep. I added it to this post and made a separate post linking to yours.

I really ought to have thought about the content in my LJ when I heard this was linked to by Henry Jenkins and then from him to BBC. But all that traffic would have been yesterday.

Still, right below this post was a link to some steamy hot Wincest, a slavefic SGA story....

[User Picture]From: aragon_san
2007-05-25 11:11 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Excellent summary of the whole sordid business. Thanks for compiling!

I've noticed you're very interested in their "recruiting"-policy from reading the comments.

So here's my personal experience which makes it even more mysterious: I got an email-invite too for their Beta-Phase. I've never been in their fannish-front-person's fandoms (to the extent of not even having seen an ep of Supernatural and SGA!), but stranger still: I don't even write (fiction + outside of work)! Aside from a few HP-drabbles, about 2 fest-fics in register-only environments in the last several years I'm contributing solely as fan-artist. I draw. So they couldn't have gotten to me via quantity (that 30plus fics mark, even if pure crap from the pit) nor fanatic following in the form of squeeing fangirls due to my well-known gripping epics or nebulous BNF-status... I was pretty mystified when I received the initial invite for that reason alone. ^_^
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 04:58 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Oh. It looks my response to you yesterday didn't post. This is hilarious. This adds an element of randomness to their selection that's just... *laughs* Do you draw for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fandom? (Also, is your icon by you? Because if so, you're pretty good.)

Icarus (still laughing)
[User Picture]From: liresius
2007-05-26 12:31 am (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks for that great summary. Well done!
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 05:32 pm (UTC)

(Link)

Thanks. This is just compiled from various metafandom posts. Now I'm waiting for the next wave of response to Chris Williams' answers in Henry Jenkins' blog.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: kibou_sueshijuu
2007-05-26 03:12 am (UTC)

(Link)

huh. interesting.
i can see the allure.
Luckily, I'm a fandom nobody. ;P
i had absolutely no clue about any of this.
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 04:23 am (UTC)

(Link)

It's beginning to look like they harvested emails from all over with very little pattern or sense. aragorn_san above tells me that s/he doesn't even write fanfiction and was invited. *throws hands up*
[User Picture]From: asia27
2007-05-26 07:50 am (UTC)

fanlib joke

(Link)

just heard about this in one of my groups. The bastids!
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 05:36 pm (UTC)

Re: fanlib joke

(Link)

I'm a member there, but I'm just cybersquatting on my name. I think quite a few people are doing the same.

Icarus
[User Picture]From: differente
2007-05-26 02:33 pm (UTC)

(Link)

your article is a great one. thank you for so many sources too... :)
[User Picture]From: icarusancalion
2007-05-26 05:37 pm (UTC)

(Link)

You're welcome. Mostly this is a summary of the metafandom response to FanLib. :)
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