Chris A. Baird | September 7, 2023
Can you Self Publish Fanfiction in 2023

So, you have a favorite author, and you also enjoy writing. What better way to compliment them than to do fanfiction? 

You're writing stories similar to their stories, maybe even using the same characters. It could be Star Wars, or maybe it's Harry Potter or one of these other series. You're doing that, and you're thinking, "What could go wrong with this particular strategy?" 

Well, there are a lot of things. There are many things you're going to want to consider when you're doing fan fiction. So, in today's topic, we are going to talk about whether you can self-publish fanfiction. We want to straighten this thing out once and for all, well, maybe not that much, that may be a little bit too much.

But let's start with a little bit of understanding fanfiction. The first thing to remember is that fanfiction is a creative writing form where fans of particular works (and this could be TV shows, movies, or other books; you decide) say, "I'm going to create content."

In this case, we'd be looking at writing books, writing short stories inside of the same universe, using their characters and stuff, and looking at the different aspects of the world that they're in, to create your books and stories based on that. 

This can be a really powerful way to connect with the original stories and other people who are fans because the authors themselves can only write so much content. So, what better way to contribute to the universe of books and stories?

When the author—maybe George R. Martin, for example—isn't writing as many Game of Thrones books, it's a perfect example. He gets hung up, and then you start writing these fanfiction books. So, it can be a really exciting process, but there are a lot of problems associated with this.

Another thing is that it allows authors or fans to explore alternative storylines, take the characters, push them, and make them more rounded. The universe can grow drastically larger by doing this.

Additionally, it can vary a lot based on quality, genres, and themes. There are a lot of things you have to keep in mind when you're writing fan fiction or considering fan fiction, just to get a better understanding. 

The Concept of Self-Publishing

The concept of self-publishing is another important one. The thing with self-publishing is that it depends on what we're talking about. Are we taking our fan fiction and publishing it for money on a platform like Amazon? Or, are we putting it up for free on another platform where people can consume it?

Check out this related article: How much does it cost to self publish a book in 2023  

Maybe we're just putting it on our local blog or wherever a local place where people can download and read it for fun. This makes a bit of a difference when it comes to your fan fiction. Now, both are self-published, but the second we put it on the market where people can download the EPUB version of this or something similar. 

Well, it's a self-published book. But maybe it's free, so you're not making any money, which doesn't raise any red flags for the owners of that copyright. 

Can You Self-Publish Fanfiction?

So, can you self-publish fanfiction? The answer is, that it's complicated if you're going to do it for making money, and that's where it gets very tricky. Because there are a lot of copyright concerns around it.

Plus, you can trick people into thinking that my favorite author has written another book, especially when your cover looks the same and your characters have the same names. And maybe you, as an author, have decided to choose a pen name similar to the name of the actual author of the series, without permission.

And that's the key issue: you do not have permission. And if you think it's easy to get permission to do something like this, you are completely mistaken. It is incredibly difficult to get permission to publish fan fiction.

Now, doing it without the author's authorization can risk several things on Amazon. First of all, they can just do a takedown request. The other thing is they could theoretically sue you. Normally, this does not happen.

Another thing is Amazon could close your account if they find that you're violating too many principles, and they can even take money away from you if you've done that. I have seen this done in some areas, particularly in the realm of video games, where you're writing fictional stories based on the video games.

And maybe they let it go through for a while, but then they decide to tell you, "Hey, we own the copyright, and you need to take this down immediately." So, people attempt to say the unofficial guide to this video game or unofficial stories, but still, you're using their material without having gotten permission to go about doing that.

This can also have some risks associated with it if you're thinking of putting your book up for sale to make money off of it on a site like Amazon. The other option, of course, is that you can publish it for free, like on platforms such as Archives of Our Own. This provides a space for fanfiction writers to share and receive feedback on their works within a community of fellow fans.

Again, you're not charging anybody for this, so you're not making any money off of it, which then makes it a little bit easier and less likely you're going to have a problem with the owner of the copyright. 

Copyright Laws and Fanfiction

Copyright laws and fanfiction: The first thing is that they govern and protect creative works, including the original stories, characters, and settings. The thing is, fanfiction often involves using copyrighted elements, because what's the point of fanfiction if it isn't in the same universe with the same character names and all of these different aspects?

There are a lot of legal issues here that you need to discuss with a lawyer, and I'm not a lawyer on this particular issue. But there can be questions of jurisdiction, like what rights do they have to restrict your ability to write fanfiction?

Some of these things would have to be figured out in a court of law, which can make it very tricky. Usually, for the fan, you're not in a position to go after one of these major authors and say, "No, I have a right to do this."

And you would have to go through court proceedings with these huge publishing houses, where they're going to be defending their rights and their copyright. You're just a small little fish in this huge ocean. So usually, what happens is you get squashed and your book needs to be taken off the market completely.

The other thing is that many of the copyright holders do tolerate and have permissive stances towards fanfiction, but not all of them. You need to make sure that you are properly respecting a copyright.

You can look and see if the thing you're considering writing fanfiction about has any guidelines or permissions regarding fanfiction. It's disappointing if you write a lot of it and it's taken down. Check if that author is okay with fanfiction. 

Case Studies

Let's look at a case study while we're here. So, one of them would be Anne Rice's book "The Vampire Chronicles," particularly "Interview with a Vampire." What was interesting was that she was most definitely interested in the elements of her book, but she did not want anyone using her characters or any of their traits.

This specifically pertains to her most famous book, and she even went to fanfiction and requested that remove stories that featured her characters. Okay, now she did come up with later books, and she was a little more open to it.

One of the reasons she gave (who knows what the actual reasons are, but one of the reasons was) she didn't want it to interfere with her storylines and such by readers engaging with this fanfiction. One of the common trends you'll notice is that the authors of these books aren't so much worried about losing money.

Because in reality, your fanfiction drives more traffic to their books. Instead, they are more concerned about reading fan fiction and potentially corrupting their storylines, plots, and other elements like that.

This is something that can also impact you as a fan of these books, as you might be exposed to stories that are not in the official canon for that specific book series. The universe it belongs to, like the Marvel Universe, where you could write stories.

But then these stories could clash or have issues and they wouldn't be part of the official canon for that universe. So, when you're writing or reading fanfiction, it can potentially corrupt it, and authors are even worried about that happening.

Platforms for Publishing Fanfiction

Now, let's talk about platforms for publishing fanfiction. I'll cover three of them. First is Archive of Our Own (AO3), as I already mentioned. It's a popular platform dedicated to fanfiction publishing, so that's a great option.

The second is, which is the one I mentioned earlier when discussing "Interview with the Vampire." It's one of the largest platforms for fanfiction publishing, hosting a vast collection of fan works across various genres and fandoms.

Users can post their stories, receive feedback, and interact with other fans, and the platform offers a user-friendly interface along with support for multiple categories and filters. Now, you might notice one thing missing: making money off your fanfiction.

Check out this related article: How To Self-Publish A Book in 2023 (Step by Step Guide)

So, be cautious if you're considering taking your fanfiction and publishing it on platforms like Amazon, Lulu, IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, and so on.

Okay, and the final one is Wattpad. You can use it for fan fiction. While it's not exclusively for fan fiction, Wattpad has a significant fanfiction community. It allows writers to publish their stories, build readership, and receive feedback from a large and diverse user base.

So, it has various features like multimedia integrations, contests, and social interaction options for authors and readers. It's a good place to get feedback on your writing. I recommend it when you're not doing fanfiction and are engaged in normal writing. Make sure you publish on Amazon to start making money and learning marketing right from the start.

Even if you've got a million views on Wattpad or WhatsApp, don't assume for a second that putting it on Amazon will result in selling millions of copies. It just doesn't work that way; it's a different skill set.

So, you can learn writing. But why not start from the beginning to make money, build an email list, and generate sales for those books? As opposed to simply having many people download and read your book. 

You have to decide what your exact goal is when you're getting started with this whole self-publishing thing. However, Wattpad is a good place to go for your fanfiction, even though it's not exclusively dedicated to it. 

Tips for Self-Publishing Fanfiction

Now, here are some tips for self-publishing fanfiction. There are a couple of them. The first thing is to understand the copyright and legal implications. You need to familiarize yourself with the copyright laws and specific guidelines of the fandom you're writing for.

In other words, maybe they've already had problems, and they've said you've crossed the boundaries of fair use and transformative work to avoid potential copyright infringement issues. You may face a particularly easy way to see this is what has happened to other fans.

Don't be the first fan to do fanfiction on your book. Here, it might be good to wait and see if you have some other people who've done it first and if they're getting in trouble with anyone.

The other option is to modify and adapt your fiction. Consider making changes to the characters, settings, and names—you can even change the plot elements and all of these sorts of things in the universe. But the problem is that at some point, it's no longer fanfiction; it's just a copied story that's very familiar.

For example, similar to Harry Potter. But you have different names for everyone, and Hogwarts has a different name and all of these sorts of things that have been changed. But then, is it fanfiction at this point, or just a ripoff of their universe, and then you're writing your own story?

You see, in one sense, that would not work so well. The next step is to research self-publishing platforms. Look at the different ones that we were looking at here and make sure you're not choosing one where you're going to be selling it for money.

Check out this related article: How To Self-Publish In A Recession

Because that's usually going to create issues for you when you're doing the whole fanfiction thing. So you're going to want to make sure that you're not selling this fanfiction; that will get you in trouble. 


You can see that the whole fanfiction thing can be very confusing. It's worth doing because it's one of the ways of really showing devotion. You've read that book, and you're devoted to this specific story or whatever they're doing there, and you want to show your devotion.

Other people can enjoy what you've written because the authors can only write so much, and there are so many subplots that have been left untouched. This is an outstanding way for you to get better at your writing skills.

You should also, of course, self-publish on Amazon. Putting this fanfiction out there, also helps you become a better writer, and it's a lot of fun. People enjoy reading the stories. Just make sure you check the legal ramifications, copyright infringements, and what the authors and the publishing houses have done previously to people who've written fan fiction in the same area.

If you're wondering about this whole self-publishing thing and getting started, go ahead and check out my other blogs and videos. Grab a copy of my free self-publishing checklist to make sure that you're not skipping any of the steps necessary to get your book self-published and selling.

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