Picking the Right Fanfic

For this experiment, it made sense to pick A Study In Magic as the basis. It had the richest world, most interesting characters, and the largest number of potential readers.

I couldn’t, however, do a direct transformation since A Study In Magic is a canon re-telling.

A sequel, then. What happens after A Study In Magic: The Application. Plenty of ideas there. Perhaps too many.

What to pick?

Picking the Right Story Idea

You may have noticed I don’t have a large body of fanfic posted. There’s a reason for that.

Writing is the means by which I test the ideas in my head. Most ideas don’t survive the outline stage. Of those that crystalize to a full story form, I only post a small fraction.

Because sharing, in my view, means I am offering something of value. So unless my offering meets a need or a want, I see no point in putting it in front of people. It doesn’t matter if it’s free; no value, no sharing.

A Study In Magic came about during the height of the Sherlock fandom (circa 2011-2012). I saw a gap in the HP-Sherlock crossover offerings. The existing ones weren’t bad, but nothing quite grasp the beauty of the two. Hence my five-year stint at “filling” the need.

The rest is history.

A side note: when you are the reader, then writing what you want to read is good advice.

I’m applying the same checklist for this fanfic turned published book experiment as I do all my publically available work.

Checklist, B? You use checklists for your fanfic??

Yes, I do. Mental ones, real ones, you name it, if it’s important, I have one. Keeps heartache and regret away, don’t you know?

The Checklist

From my observation, writers tend to:

  1. Get struck by a story idea
  2. Write the story
  3. Find a way to publish the story
  4. Market the story somehow

What I do (codified in a checklist):

  1. Read 20 – 50 stories in the same vein/genre/category. If there aren’t at least 20 stories from 1000 possible to choose from, I tend not to bother. The “only 1% of the Internet is worth the time” rule-of-thumb applies here.
  2. Get an idea that hasn’t been explored yet.
  3. write the story
  4. If there are thriving body readers for 1), publish, and let those readers know where the story exists in some way.

In short: if there aren’t readers for a story right now, I won’t publish it.

If it feels like I’m going about this backward, then that’s because it is.

I have a limited amount of time to read and even less time to write. Also, my stories require a lot of research. I mean, I looked up statistical models to estimate the total HP wizard population and how much they’d pay in taxes. My stories also stem from a long incubation period, during which I collect interesting knowledge just for a sheer fun of it. Any writing that comes from this mucking around is only for me.

And I hate clutter. I don’t want to clutter people with stuff they neither need nor want.

Publishing something original isn’t like fanfic, though. For one thing, it’s a bigger, broader place. More cut-throat. Even if you limit yourself to a niche area, it often costs money to read stuff. Because you have to buy it if doesn’t exist in a library. And the library doesn’t exactly tell you what’s hot and in right now.

More importantly, places like Amazon obscure how they determine what is popular, what is hot, and what is not. I mean, can you sort the books in Amazon by Hits, Kudos, Comments, etc? No.

Back to A Study In Magic. The moment I entertained the idea of this experiment, I went looking for readers. And made plans to become one.

Doing Research (And Turning Into a Reader)

As with publishing, you can do the research yourself or you can pay someone to do it for you.

I did a little bit of both.

First, I noted the genre A Study In Magic would best fit in: Urban Fantasy. (Side note: Harry Potter fits in middle-grade fantasy). Then I nosed around the Urban Fantasy offerings on Amazon. A thriving market there, with books being published every week, if not every day. A lot of established authors, too, who are selling 10-100 books a day (estimated from their Amazon Best Sellers Rank; I used this calculator). If you translate “bought” to “hits”, in fanfic parlance, that’s respectable readership.

Then I noticed many of the top 100 in Urban Fantasy were part of Kindle Unlimited (referral link). Assuming I was set to read my usual 50 books, and average ebook price of $3.99 – $9.99, I was better off with the Kindle Unlimited (referral link) membership at $9.99 / month. So I did that and started gorging myself.

It was worth it, guys. Found a few gems from the rubbish (as with fanfic). If you ever need a boost in confidence or inspiration, go read some of the stuff there. You might get a: “I can do better”.

Then I bought an Urban Fantasy book marketing report from a reputable research company: K-Lytics. At $37, it’s entirely reasonable price for the excellent information you can get. And, hot damn, was the data good.

Here is a referral link to the report I bought, if you’re interested.

(Note: before I bought anything from K-Lytics, I signed up for a free webinar, put my IT hat on, and grilled the founder, Alex, on how he collects his data and how he analyzes it. Great guy.)

While doing all this research, and helping myself to a lot of entertaining and bad books, an idea started to trickle inside my mind. An idea that fits well with my many plans for A Study In Magic.

An Idea with an Intriguing Premise.

The Big Three that convinces people to read a book

I did some reading on what persuades a person to read a book. Not buy it on a whim, because that would be the cover, but read it. Here are the three:

  1. Recommended by someone you know or trust (a.k.a. word of mouth)
  2. Written by an author you know and whose works you’ve enjoyed
  3. Interesting premise aka a Great Hook

The more you have going for a book, the more likely readers are going to read it.

I am an unknown author who has nothing commercially published. That leaves me with 3) Interesting Premise. So any idea I flesh out better be interesting and unusual.

The Idea That Survived The Test

Several other Fantasy authors and I noted Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic settings are exclusively Sci-Fi. Not Fantasy. There is a precious handful I found via Reddit, but they’re all epic/high fantasy. No Urban Fantasy.

A Study In Magic had something that could usher in a world-ending Disaster.

Interesting. Very Interesting.

Now that I knew what I was aiming for, I worked backward:

“What triggered the disaster? How did the disaster pan out?” (Once and Only Wandmaker)

“What happens after the disaster? Who survives? How do they cope?” (The Last Wizard)

“What are the signs before the disaster happened?” (Liars For Magic)

So there you have it. I got my Idea. An idea that basically writes itself.

But just because it’s a good idea in my head doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in reality. For that, it needs to survive the fires of actual writing.

So I sat down and wrote.

Four months later, I had a real story. One that had a proper beginning, middle, and end. Living breathing characters. A story, when given the chance, made readers let out that soft gasp: “that was good.”


In the next post, I’ll report on the publishing process itself and the launch.

(This post contains referral links. If you click through and take action, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. My full disclosure is here.)


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