Lately I’ve been getting a spate of emails from people asking questions such as, “How can I write a Battlestar Galactica / Aliens vs. Predator / Universe-of-Your-Choice novel? Do I just write it, or how do I get the rights, or what do I do?” It’s a perfectly natural question, and a natural desire. The answer, though, is one that most people won’t want to hear.
First I should specify that it depends whether you’re talking about writing “fanfic” just for fun, for your own amusement—in which case, the answer is, have at it! (Just don’t try to publish it.)
But I suspect that’s not what most people mean. Most correspondents, I think, hope to write and publish a tie-in novel. I suspect the motivation stems partly from a love of a particular show or universe, and partly from a belief that this may be an easier way to get published. It’s not. What you have to understand is that these projects come about through complex rights arrangements which publishers make with the studios, before so much as a word is set to paper. Once the publisher has an arrangement, then the editor in charge of the line goes looking for writers to write the books (whether novelizations of film/TV productions, like my Battlestar Galactica book, or original spin-off novels, like Craig Shaw Gardner’s Galactica book).
In other words, tie-in projects are generated by the studio and publisher, who then look for writers they think are best for the job. And editors for these books tend to turn to writers whose work they’re already familiar with, maybe even writers they’re already working with. Other writers may apply, but there’s little chance of getting a nod without a publishing track record. They want to know you can do the job. And they usually want the book written yesterday.
So…the short answer is, if you want to write a book in someone else’s universe, get busy and write some stories in your own universe first. (Quit wasting time reading blogs!) Get published, get noticed. Then maybe one day you, too, will get the call.
Oh—and you can learn a lot more about this business than I can tell you at http://www.iamtw.org/articles.html.