50shadesofgrey As book publishers adjust to the advent and increased use of e-books, and the new issues that holds, an opportunity presents itself for other innovations to be made. In this digital age of the Internet, ideas and products can be shared and discussed at a nearly instantaneous speed. This immediate and widespread feedback is where fandom can and does play a role, but fandom can come to play an even larger role in how publishers distribute and publish their work, and even in what they publish.

Fandom and publishers can develop a more symbiotic relationship, a relationship where fans and publishers can work together to improve the products that are released. In this case, the products are books, in any form. This kind of participation can be particularly beneficial in the science fiction and fantasy fields, as well as other non-mainstream or less socially acceptable genres, such as erotica.

One notable example of how publishing and fandom have coincided and worked well together (at least so far) is the fan fiction-turned-bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As reported by Alma Katsu’s article, this novel began as a Twilight fan fiction titled “Master of the Universe.” A small Australian press then published it, so there were a few print copies that circulated, but it was also available as an e-book, its main format.

That this book would become incredibly popular, spawning a new book deal with Vintage Books and a pending adaptation to the silver screen, was something no one saw coming. The fact that it was such an unexpected genre only encouraged those who read it and enjoyed it to share it with others, spreading through word of mouth in ever increasing amounts.

If publishers could learn to capitalize on that method of marketing, to be able to harness the excitement of the fan, the endorsement by a friend to another friend, maybe there would be more such successes, in any genre.

Orbit Books' Twitter Page
Of course, publishers cannot rely solely on such methods of advertising, to only hope for such a word-of-mouth affect, but there are other methods they already employ that can yet be improved by more fan participation.

For one, some publishing companies use social media, such as Twitter, to reach their fans. One company that I follow is Orbit Books, a science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group. This company often posts interviews of their authors, reviews of their books, and asks fans what they are currently reading.

I am supportive of, and enjoy, the postings about books that are coming out and updates about their authors. It is a great way to keep track of new releases. And I think that asking readers what they are currently reading can give an indication of their reading habits and interests. However, in order to get even more fans and followers, and maybe improve their products, they need to be more proactive in seeking the opinions of their readers, not just asking occasionally.
The book I won from Rob Thurman through Twitter

Some ideas they could implement would include more polls, having followers select their favorite book that came out that month, or to select their favorite genre, gathering more data from the fans. Orbit could also collect responses or reactions from readers using contests and giveaways. Some authors randomly select followers to get free books when they retweet a post to advertise a book, or if they post their favorite quotes from a book.

Freebies and giveaways are a great way to get people’s attention, and to ensure many people participate. I have done so on a number of occasions, responding to posts from Brent Weeks and Rob Thurman, two of my favorite authors. In fact, the fandom I followed for this class is the Cal Leandros series fandom, which is based around a series of novels by Rob Thurman. I follow Thurman on Twitter and retweet her often, and I did win a book from her, so I can attest that they really do follow through on their "bribery."

If publishing companies such as Orbit as a whole did what these individual authors do, they could gain even more attention from fans of the books that they print, and gain more feedback and information that could improve their products in the future.

Publishing companies are transitioning into the digital age, but they need to make even more of an effort to stay connected with the fans that support them and keep them in business. With fan fiction as a possible new form of publishable work, it only makes it even more necessary for publishers to get feedback from fans, to see what they want and what they like to read. More material just means more competition and, hopefully, even better work.

Also check out my classmate's page: Fandom and the Gaming Industry. It has much to do with my topic, except with video games and not books.
And another: Fandom and the Real World. Other ways that fandom can be applied in a real-world sense; in this case, business.

Works Cited and Bibliography
"'Fifty Shades of Grey' aims for the movies." LA Times Blog. Los Angeles Times. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
Katsu, Alma. "Is Fan Fiction Ready to Go Mainstream Thanks to //Fifty Shades of Grey//?" Tor.com. Tor. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.