Money in fandom

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Making money in fandom off fandom as a fan is something with a mixed history. There are pockets of fandom which view any form of compensation as wrong. There are other parts of fandom which have no problem with fans earning above operating costs.

Below are some examples from fandom where fans have made money in fandom.


Fan fiction

In fandom, the tradition has been that fan fiction archives do not make money. As hosting costs increased, potential profitabiliy increased and the risk of legal action has decreased, this cultural pressure has become less. FanFiction.Net is one of the most visible examples of a fan fiction archive that is about making money. The site generates between $20 and $80 million a year. It was created by an X-Files fan, Xing Li. The other visible example of this is FanLib, which offended some parts of media fandom because it made very clear that it was a for profit site.


Some fansites have been sold, at a net gain, by webmasters. Some of the most recent examples include Wikia having bought a number of fandom related wikis. Others have turned formally "unofficial" fansites into official ones either with or without selling the site as a whole. They may receive monetary compensation for their time maintaining the fansite and/or financial compensation for their hosting costs or other rewards.

Other fansites use advertising to bring in revenue, either to support hosting costs or for potential financial gain.


Some fanzine publishers publish zines above the operating costs. This is an area of great contention within the community, partially because it is difficult to know precisely what the operating costs of a given fanzine press are unless they divulge their budget details. Agent With Style is one fanzine publisher and distributor who has been criticized in fandom for making a business and livelihood out of selling fanzines and other potentially dubious practices.[1],[2],[3]

Fan art

Fan art has been sold for profit at science fiction and media conventions for many decades. Fan art is a common feature in art shows where original, hand-drawn or hand-painted works of fan art can sell for anywhere from $5 to over $1,000. In more recent times, digital art has become popular as well, including photo-manipulation, montage, and combined techniques. Prints of fan art pieces are also often sold at varying prices depending on print run size, print type, and popularity of the artist and may be sold both in dealers rooms and in art shows. Sometimes artwork is sold in convention art shows with "publishing rights", such that fanzine publishers would buy the art in order to use them in their zines.

Convention policies on fan art vary, however, as some shows (including DragonCon) will not allow fan art unless the artist can provide documentation that they have a license to use copyrighted logos, images, and property.

Fan artists may also sell their work "on commission" to individuals, either for personal use or in fanzine or web publications.

When the question arises why selling fan-art for profit is generally considered acceptable whereas selling fan-fiction isn't, several arguments are often heard. Some believe it is acceptable because art is considered a more "difficult" or "elite" skill than writing, making good fan art more of a commodity to the community than good fan fiction. Others point to the somewhat nebulous legalities of fan art, that a painting based off of a photograph is more transformative than a work of fan-fiction. In some fandoms, fan art is specifically allowed by the creators provided it is produced in limited quantities (such as a print run of 50-100 copies or less.)

Fan crafts

Fan-crafted items are often made and sold at convention art shows, dealers rooms, and hotel room sales. These can include items such as:

  • t-shirs
  • mugs
  • ID tags
  • buttons
  • calendars
  • decorated boxes
  • jewelry
  • magnets
  • knitting and dolls

Such items often feature copyrighted images or video screencaptures from favorite fandoms. The amount of profit made from the sales of such items is difficult to determine; many producers of such products state they do so to cover the costs of their traveling to take part in conventions and their materials only.

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