Shannon Stacey

Tie-in novels

Over at Lee Goldberg’s blog, the subject of fanfic vs. tie-ins has come up again. (I know, it’s a shocker. Hold all Home Alone aftershave impressions please.)

I’ve had a question about tie-ins for a while, but I’ve been reluctant to ask over there for two reasons. 1—the most obvious time to ask it is during these discussions, but said discussions have a tendency to be less than pleasant. 2—Lee seems like a great guy, but some of his “regulars” seem a bit…umm…let’s say dismissive of those not in the know. (An aside—If you want a seriously bad case of Gene Pool Envy, read all the extended Blogs Goldberg in one sitting.) So I’ll ask here in my own pedestrian blog, and maybe somebody will know the answer.

I was hired to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK novels. It’s something I am being paid to do. It’s not like I woke up one morning with a burning desire to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels, wrote one up, and sent it off to a publisher (or, as a fanficcer would do, posted it on the web). The publisher came to me and asked me to write them. — Lee Goldberg

Here’s what I want to know—(and I realize Lee writes TV tie-ins.)— about the Star Wars tie-ins. Are all those hundreds of books from the mind of George Lucas? For instance, there’s a Star Wars book, Labyrinth of Evil, which takes place between Episodes II and III. Did you sit through III kind of wondering who the hell General Grievous was and where he came from? So did I. We’d have known if we’d read the book, as my son did. Or the many books from the juvenile fiction shelves. The tall kid has been reading a serious about Han and Leia’s twins. The kid in me wants to glom all those books and delve further into the lives of my favorite characters, but a big part of me says they’re not really part of the sagal.

So does George Lucas say, “Hey you, Han and Leia have twin kids. Write me a series about their adventures”? Or “Let’s get this guy to write about the interim between Episodes II and III, and give him this info I jotted down on General Grievous so he can be introduced”? Does he at least look at a synopsis and say “Yeah, that’s what happens”?

Or does a publisher do something like buy exclusive tie-in rights, then hire writers to write what they think would fit with the originals, outside of the influence of the creator?

I don’t know why it matters to me, but it must since I love Star Wars, but have never read a single one of the tie-in novels.

13 comments to “Tie-in novels”

  1. PBW
      · June 16th, 2005 at 2:52 pm · Link

    Writing guidelines for media tie-in franchises vary, but I have pitched a couple of these books, and can tell you that the non-movie tie-in lines are fairly open as far as originality.

    It’s different when there’s a movie involved. When you write a novelization like Matt Stover did for SWE3, you pretty much take dictation from the movie script. The bigger the movie, the more closely the end product is subjected to franchise scrutiny (Stover has said in interviews that Lucas told him what to write, edited his book and nixed some things that he did.)

    Movie producers will usually place a franchise with one publisher. Big, long-lasting franchises like Star Trek can even morph into their own imprint.

    I’m not surprised Lee is defending himself. Tie-in authors don’t get a lot of respect in the industry, and are often the first ones blamed for selling out and taking up slots that other, non-tie-in authors might use.

  2. THIS! Christine
      · June 16th, 2005 at 3:12 pm · Link

    Damn you Shannon for making me think. My jaw is dragging on my keyboard after reading that pistol whipping bitchfest over at Lee’s. I swear, sometimes I think I’m a complete moron with all the things I don’t know, nor even consider, about this writing business.


  3. Kate
      · June 16th, 2005 at 5:10 pm · Link

    it’s fun following an argument that clearly burns people’s butts but makes no difference to me. Nice not to care for a change.

    I don’t see the Goldbergs smelling that much sweeter than say the noisest pro-fanfics like Jocelyn. Mostly roses over there. Yup. All sounds interesting to me…

  4. Kate
      · June 16th, 2005 at 5:12 pm · Link

    but then, I’m one that likes to get hit over the head during an argument. I still don’t get your quilt story….

  5. THIS! Christine
      · June 16th, 2005 at 5:20 pm · Link

    AAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA! Kate. Now see, DWR quilt lady was really TTQ, or was DWR quilt lady really erotica authors.. or was… oh hell, I don’t know.

    Julie Cohen did up this blog on the use symbolism in her books, and I had to admit that iif she hadn’t explained it, it would simply have been a nice scene to me. Shallow? you bet.


  6. Shannon
      · June 16th, 2005 at 6:59 pm · Link

    As somebody who writes neither, I can see the difference between the two, but I’m not about to say that there. :crazy:

    But it’s really too bad that Lee has to defend himself so often. (Although, honestly, he’d have to do less of it on his blog if he’d stop pinching the fanfic crowd.) And I certainly can’t see people accusing him of selling out. Writing an entertaining book that readers enjoy is not selling out. IMHO, of course. And how frustrating to write a book with those restrictions on you. If you’re not feeling the character, you can’t change him/her. It must be even harder than writing a series continuity for H/S. Not something I’d enjoy. (Although if they had done tie-ins for Northern Exposure, and I knew about them, I’d have been all over trying to write those.)

    Thanks for the insight into tie-ins, PBW. It’s an industry I know almost nothing about, but—as a reader—have some interest in.

    And DWR is not TTQ, nor RWA. :devil:

  7. AngieW
      · June 16th, 2005 at 7:27 pm · Link

    Let me bask for a moment in the glory of getting Shan’s subtlety. Must be all those mornings spent on IM :penguin:

    Shan, you are sooo right about that gene pool. It’s frighteningly awesome. And I can also see the difference between fan-fic and tie-ins but I’d rather swim with pirhanas after just having my hand cut off before ever letting out one little peep over there. :hide: It’s funny though, that debate reminded me some of the debate that sparks about whether or not a self-pubbed author is an author. And was I the only one who thought Tod Goldberg’s reply was humerous? I appreciated each of his points

    And kate, I am totally with you. I love watching a bit of drama that has no bearing on my emotions at all. It’s nice to be an uninterested yet interested observer. :devil:

  8. Alison
      · June 16th, 2005 at 7:28 pm · Link

    Is DWR BC?

  9. AngieW
      · June 16th, 2005 at 7:32 pm · Link

    Okay, this is so far off any topic as to not relate to anything ever. But as I was clicking submit comment on the above comment, I noticed at the bottom of my screen where it says “Shannon Stacey is proudly powered by WordPress” and I had this sudden onset of mad giggles because for some reason, powered brought to mind all the romance novels that use the word powered when describing the hero err… thrusting. You know “he powered in and out of her” so here I am, sitting at my computer thinking of Shannon Stacey being proudly powered by WordPress and really, I just had to share because it made me laugh.

    And now everyone thinks I’m nuts. :rofl:

  10. Shannon
      · June 16th, 2005 at 7:55 pm · Link

    Alison — :angel:

    OMG, I don’t think you’re nuts, Angie, because I’ve pondered that once or twice, wondering if anybody else would ever notice. Hey, you WIN! :cheer: Gee, I’d give you a free copy of Roadtrip, but, uh…anyway. Maybe I’ll bribe Mel to give you extra fudge for Christmas. :rofl:

    It reminds me of the pubbed/self-pubbed debate, as well. In this case, though, I think part of their problem is the word “writer”. I’m sure there are 100 people who’ll tell me I’m wrong (but luckily they’re all over at Lee’s place), but to me, those who write tie-ins and those who write fanfic are ALL writers, but those who write tie-ins are authors.

  11. PBW
      · June 16th, 2005 at 9:54 pm · Link

    I am kind of surprised at how hostile some of the commenters on Lee’s blog are getting over this. Thanks for pointing it out, though, Shannon — I’m gleaning a few facts out of the massive ego battles and filing them away for further consideration.

  12. Kate
      · June 17th, 2005 at 5:55 pm · Link

    (popping some corn, settling in to watch another coupla rounds)
    Uh oh. My team is losing. The professionals are looking uptight and humorless. :write:

    I’m starting to think the fan-fic’ers are better asswhoppage than the pros.

  13. Lee Goldberg
      · June 18th, 2005 at 1:02 am · Link

    PBW — actually, nobody on my “back-blog” has criticized me for being at tie-in writer (at least not that I’ve noticed). Instead, they try to argue that there is no distinction between writing tie-ins and fanfic.

    But you raise an interesting point about the lack of respect, and resentment, directed at tie-in writers. I founded, and moderate, a large private discussion group for tie-in and novelization writers that includes some of the biggest names in the biz (Kevin J. Anderson, Raymond Benson, Max Allan Collins, etc.). We’ve been toying with the idea of following the example set this year by the International Thriller Writers and starting our own organization… International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW or I AM a TIE-IN WRITER).

    Tie-ins are an enormously successful segment of the publishing business and, as you say, don’t get much respect and are blamed by some authors for squeezing them off the shelf.

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