Q&A: Mentioning fanfiction in your query

I recently had the following question asked in response to a query critique.

I noticed here that she pointed out publishing some fanfiction. Is this a good idea? I know fanfiction is becoming more “acceptable” thanks to Fangirl and some of the fic writing classes now offered at Ivy Leagues. My general impression is that a lot of people still think it’s a joke though. How does the publishing world see it? Many authors claim to have written fanfiction earlier on in their life, but would they likely have mentioned this in a query? Thanks for any feedback on this.

As you might have guessed, there is no one right answer to this. Different agents have different opinions about fanfiction. For me, I don’t really mind it. Writing is a learned skill, and fanfiction is a great way to practice. It can also be a great way to start building an audience and maybe even getting feedback that can improve your writing.

It’s also true that fanfic is becoming more acceptable. For the reasons mentioned above as well as the success of some books that reworked fanfiction into an original story. That said, there are still going to be agents who look down on fanfic.

There’s no surefire way to gauge how an agent will feel about fanfic unless they’ve actually said something about it. You can try and guess based on how “traditional” the agent seems. But there is no fool proof method.

One final thing I would consider. The stigma against fanfic seems more based on the fact that the writing is “unoriginal” rather than that it is bad writing (fanfic, like any genre has a range of really bad to really good writing). People fall under the impression that the fanfic author either lacks the creativity or gumption to create original worlds or characters. But this isn’t always the case. And often you can tell from the query whether the premise and characters seem original. If the query shows that the author can write something original, then the fanfic shouldn’t be a problem at all.


4 thoughts on “Q&A: Mentioning fanfiction in your query

  1. Thanks for writing so much about this! Very helpful. I like the point about building an audience – if you’re a popular fic writer, you can already have a good base of readers who follow you to market your book to.

  2. Interesting topic! I’ve written a lot of fanfics in my day, and I was wondering the same thing. When I’ve talked to agents about it (through online courses and conferences and in-person at conferences), they’ve mentioned that they’re more interested in the numbers. If a fanfic has tens of thousands of review/favorites/etc., then they’re interested. If it’s only a few hundred, then don’t bother including in the query at all. So it seems like they’re treating it like a platform thing. I’ve decided not to mention my fanfic antics in my query as a result.

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