Hugh Howey's Silo saga has taken the bestseller lists by storm — but before Wool was a worldwide sensation, it was a humble series on Amazon, gaining popularity one online fan at a time. Now, Howey's stories have spawned a new kind of fanfic community that could change the publishing world.
Photo: Steve Crisp/Reuters
Pundits have been talking for ages about how Amazon and online publishing are changing the book world, but now we have one of the first examples of what that change might look like.
Working with Howey, Amazon has opened up the Silo saga for fans via the Kindle Worlds initiative, which helps people market fanfic written for licensed properties like Vampire Diaries or Silo. There are also several novels and stories set in the Silo universe and published as Kindle "Silo stories."
That means there are two basic ways that the Silo fanfic community differs from more traditional online fanfic communities. First of all, this community has come into being at a time when their fanfic can be (legally) written for money. Unlike Harry Potter fanfic writers, the Silo fans have pretty much always had the option to sell their work.
And second, Silo fans are have access to exactly the same publishing tools and platform as the books that they are writing fic about. Unlike JK Rowling, who had the weight of the traditional publishing industry behind her books when she published them, Hugh Howey came into publishing through the world of Amazon self-publishing. Like his fans, he used Amazon to make money and used the internet to get the word out about his books.
In other words, the Silo fans really are playing on the exact same field as the author they admire. Yes, this isn't a perfectly democratic system. Obviously Howey is a bestselling author now, and has more reach than a fanfic writer on Amazon. But the point is that today, fiction and fanfic are sold right alongside each other on the "shelves" of one of the world's biggest bookstores.
Welcome to the new world of publishing. The line between writer and fan just disappeared.
(Thanks for the tip, Maryn McKenna!)