Stay-at-home mom’s fan fiction hobby yields newfound success
Four years ago, stay-at-home mom Shanyn Hosier and long-time fan of Harry Potter books decided to try writing some of her own stories with J. K. Rowling’s characters and settings.
“I was kind of going nuts as a stay-at-home mom. I needed a creative outlet,” she said. “I never had the courage to think that I could pursue fiction writing as a vocation.”
But now she appears to be headed toward doing just that, with one self-published novel and another well on its way to traditional publication.
While searching the internet for details and timelines to ensure her Potter stories accurately reflected the world that Rowling had created, Hosier stumbled across a “fan fiction” site, where a bunch of others not only shared her hobby, but were also willing to share their stories with the rest of the world.
“People want to see characters they love continue to live and breathe,” said Hosier. At fanfiction.net, for example, amateur authors have extended the life of books and movies ranging from Hunger Games to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, from It’s Complicated to It’s a Wonderful Life.
Hosier decided to put some of her Harry Potter stories up “just to see if I could pull off a whole novel and would anybody be interested in reading it,” she said.
It wasn’t long before she garnered a regular following and a multitude of positive reviews, starting a path similar to that of recent sensation E. L. James, whose book Fifty Shades of Grey (currently number one on both the New York Times trade paperback and e-book lists) got its start as adult fan fiction written for Twilight.
“Success on the fan fiction site gave me the courage to try something more original,” said Hosier. “Maybe I could start from scratch with my own ideas, characters, and premise.”
She wrote a contemporary romance, Old Enough to Know Better, and submitted it to a publisher. It was rejected, as are most books, even those that later turn out to be best sellers and classics (Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times and recent best seller The Help was rejected 60 times).
“It’s entirely possible that I gave up too soon,” she said. “But after hearing other writers’ experiences, I thought well, geez, I’m nearly 40 years old. Do I want to spend the next five to seven years pushing others to do the job for me when I could do it myself in the span of a month?”
She hired a graphic designer to make a cover, then published her book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, using new technology that has made self-publication cheap, fast, and easy.
“You write your story, follow their formatting guidelines, push a button to upload it, and approximately an hour later, your book is for sale. It’s insanely simple,” she said.
In addition to multiple e-reader formats, the book is also available in oversized paperback from a print-on-demand subsidiary of Amazon called Create Space.
“Any time someone wants to buy a book, one copy is printed and mailed out rather than me having a 1,000 copies of them in my garage,” she said.
Because it’s free to upload the book to the sites, all sales result in profit. “Every time they make a sale, you get a royalty, which tends to be way higher than anything that you would get through a traditional publisher,” said Hosier.
“It seems to be that the trend is eliminating the middleman between creators and those who consume the creativity.”
The drawback, however, is that the only marketing her book receives is whatever she chooses to do. While Hosier said she’s pleased with how well Old Enough to Know Better has sold via word of mouth, she admits that “the publishing industry has amazing distribution, and they know what they’re doing as far as selling books. I’m not ready to abandon that idea wholesale,” she said.
To that end, she is now pursuing a more traditional publishing route with another of her novels, a paranormal suspense/romance called Brimstone. Hosier entered it into–and won—a contest for unpublished manuscripts sponsored by the Desert Rose chapter of Romance Writers of America.
The prize for winning the contest? Face-time with an agent, editor, or publisher. catapulting her over the first very high hurdle of traditional publication. Hosier now has two editors and an agent who want see part or all of her novel,
Hosier’s written nine books, including two fan fiction novels. She writes in what she likes to call her “corner office,” which is literally a cozy corner of her living room. When she hits a block in her writing, she does a load of laundry, unloads the dishwasher, or vacuums a carpet, which she said is gets her creativity flowing again. “I can run right back to my laptop. It’s always open and it’s always on,” she said.
She currently has one child in kindergarten at Kyrene del Norte and another in middle school at Grand Canyon Prep. To learn more about her writing, visit her website: shanynhosier.com .