It’s not “fanac”, it’s makers: The changing demarcations of “professional”

I didn’t know what “fanac” meant until just a few months ago. It’s one of those not-quite-an-acronym terms for “Fan Activity”. Which in itself contains another one of the same type of shortenings – so it should be “Fanatic Activity”.

When I first ran into the term, an older author was using it.  I thought that maybe the term sounded a little dismissive.

I quickly learned that author meant for it to sound that way.

For this author, the very framing of the term implies a structure and heirarchy, with “fanac” at the bottom and “proac” (I guess?) at the top. The term “fanac” carried with it the sneering down-proboscis tone of “amateur”. It’s the same kind of division that reignites perennial classics about what it means to be a “professional” author… except that when I heard it, “fanac” was used to belittle a small publisher because they didn’t meet the speaker’s ideas of what “professional” means. It was a completely dismissive slam, presumptively assuming that publisher would never be worth a real author’s time.

And it stung a bit – because they were describing a small publisher that could have been me just a year or two ago.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of reading in this blog to know the degree of loathing I have for opportunistic scams run by so-called publishers. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of reading to know that scams (and publishers preying on authors) exist at all levels of publishing. It’s important to me that authors know how to avoid the scammers.

I think I understand where the down-nose sneering comes from. At one time, Yog’s law (“Money flows toward the author”) was the single largest indicator of reputableness. But that’s no longer the case. Cthugha’s Correlary (“Value flows toward the author”) can better encompass the shifting, murky, and individual paths to success for today’s writers.

The disconnect between Yog’s Law and Cthugha’s Correlary sums up the last decade in writing and publishing.

In general, the value that authors get from their publisher is money.

But neither advances or the size of the publisher guarantees that the publisher is going to treat the author (or the work) well.

Conversely, a publisher that is dismissed as “fanac” might instead be a maker. They might not have a fancy New York address or bottomless pocketbooks… but they’re someone who will do everything they can1 to treat the author and the work well.

I have been using crowdfunding a lot more lately, because I do want to offer authors up-front payments for their stories. And I do pay attention to the bottom line, choosing projects and anthologies that I think will do well.

But it’s even more important that they’re projects and stories that I’m proud to publish, while respecting and taking care of the authors behind the stories.

I think that attitude – along with the desire to constantly learn and improve – is a better distinction between whether someone is worth your time than whether or not they’re just in it for the benjamins.

And I will greet as peers all publishers (and author-publishers) who have that same mentality, whether someone else calls you “fanac” or not.

1While ignorance and inexperience can be bad as well, if the publisher actually means well, they’re also fixable. Ignorance is curable.


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