The general fandom practice, or let me call it praxis for the sake of this post’s clever title, is that the labor provided–and it is indeed labor–is free. That’s largely because profiting off one’s fan works is exactly what used to send the legal team down on scared teenagers Way Back in the Day, shuttering websites and listservs without warning or remorse, and generally sending fans to ground to share what unorthodox things that sanctioned industry forums wouldn’t print.
And although we’re eons removed from the early Star Trek zine days, the fandom marketplace is still governed by that basic praxis that fan authors do not profit off their works, even though we’d normally pay and expect to be paid for these works elsewhere. It’s why I try to support authors who self-pub or get publishing deals as much as possible, because prior to that stage the only real currency to speak your mind with is fic comments, word of mouth recommendations, and hitting that kudos button.
(Fan artists do tend to have more leeway, and more easily take commissions and sell fan merch; it’s still a significantly gray area for writers.)
It’s just something that I’ve been thinking on in the last week as I’ve turned to fan works for practice in creating covers. These are the ones I’ve done the last few days.
This is a romance novel, set in a fictional expansion team of the MLB, where a catcher and pitcher fall in love. If I were to commission the art or do the design of this story myself, it would be more similar to the first cover, but with much more physical intimacy implied in the body language. Something of a shame, because I quite love the actual lines and negative space of the second.
This is a tiny story but full of emotional intimacy. Two flatmates reveal much about themselves and come out the other side of their self-imposed psych experiment different people, friends who understand each other and themselves better, friends who realize they’re more to each other than just friends. It’s much shorter than even a novella, and as such, I think it really benefits from a bit of the mystery and abstraction for the cover. I think it’s why I had the most fun with these ones, although two of the three really work with imagery from the TV show and confer knowledge directly to viewers who are already fans. To those outside the community, the third especially would likely give a very unintended impression.
Another romance, perhaps a novella length story, written without angst or plot really. Very simply: a doctor falls in love with his tall, dark, and mysterious barista who he barely exchanges any words with over the course of several months. These covers I made in succession and I feel they blend together in form because of it. I did search but didn’t find an appropriate looking barista, although I would have liked to have made at least one option with a live person instead of just the coffee props. Ideally, a black-shirted barista behind a warm wood counter, pushing forward a cup of macchiato–that’s what I would have liked to have used. But I do think that the warm colors and friendly fonts effectively counteracted the title of the story (the name of the coffee shop) that I think otherwise may have sounded a bit cold and outside the romance genre.
Practice. There’s a lot I would have attempted differently if I’d given it another couple hours, but as it is, I’m just releasing these into the wild for any readers of those stories who may want to use them.