August 7, 2006
Express Your Desires Romance Fan Fiction Contest

HarperCollins Publishers are teaming with FanLib to promote a new fan fiction writing contest called Express Your Desires online for fans of the romance genre. In this contest, readers and writers will work together to create an original novel which will be published as an ebook by HarperCollins.

No one is more passionate about a genre than the fan fiction writers who operate within that genre. These people, often with threats of copyright violation charges looming on the horizon in today's world of mass digital distributon of fan work, often do more to uphold the fundamental features of a genre or a fictional world than the people who manage the "official" works being released. We've written about the intense debates that govern fan fiction communities in the past here and here.

According to an article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, this product will be one of many coming projects between HarperCollins and FanLib, including plans for a teen fan fiction event potentially similar in exeuction to this one. The reporters, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Brian Steinberg, the plan is for the Avon Books division to use the contest to showcase its set of romance writers and bring significant attention to their work. In the meantime, both groups will generate profit by selling ads for the site that will host the project.

For the contest, readers will be given six potential story premises that they will vote on. Then, writers will submit chapters based on the winning story proposal. Every week, a panel of Avon authors will choose the best chapter to add to the mix. In the end, the six-chapter book will be published. Authors will even correspond through e-mail with the fan authors participating in the contest, based on some of their submissions.

According to the WSJ story, the company hopes to boost sales for the flagging romance novel market. Several months ago, FanLib worked with Showtime to create an episode of The L Word, with fans writing sections of the show. Advertisers were a little leary about the implications of such a project, according to the WSJ article, and whether increased viewer engagement with the content of the site necessarily led to increased engagement with the advertisers on that site.

But fans seemed to enjoy the L Word experiment, and it got a lot of attention in the press. Will FanLib, and HarperCollins as well, be able to build on that success with this project?

Thanks to Henry Jenkins for alerting me to this contest.