Free from Publishers

By: Ellen Barth  

The digital age has brought about many changes to traditional publishing, and some have even predicted the death of the publisher. However, publishing without publishers is a difficult task, and self-published works often struggle to find funds and interested audiences. Despite the real challenges of publishing online without the benefit of traditional publishers to invest in, select, and edit talent, one online publishing community is thriving: the online fanfiction community. This paper will look at three challenges common when publishing without traditional publishers—author compensation, an overabundance of content, and poor quality content—and how the online fanfiction community, which publishes derivative works based on previously established media worlds and characters on a variety of online platforms, has met these challenges through the use of innovative, digital-age practices, and gift culture priorities. More than simply meeting these challenges, this paper will show that the online fanfiction community has turned these challenges into advantages, allowing for their own brand of accepting, community-based, and free publishing. Although the publisher is by no means dead, the successful online publishing practices and priorities of the online fanfiction community give evidence to the diminished state of the publisher in the digital age.

publishing online fanfiction
Publishing Practices: Past, Present, and Future
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Ellen Barth