Holy Business School, Batman! A Writer’s Review of Carol Pinchefsky’s Turn Your Fandom into Cash
Jul 25 ● BY Beck Guerra Carter
Written with humor and puns for the ages, Turn Your Fandom into Cash: A Geeky Guide to Turn Your Passion into a Business (Or at Least a Side Hustle) is more than just a geeky guide to business. Carol Pinchefsky, who has written about geek culture for the likes of SyFy and Playboy, creates an easy how-to guide on navigating everything from intellectual property to marketing your work as an introvert. While there is no shortage of entrepreneurship books, this isn’t another book that promises to make you a billionaire. Pinchefsky is not making bold claims about her readers becoming the next Jeff Bezos. The spirit of the book lies more in creativity and community and finding a way to build a livelihood out of this thing that you love. This is something I can understand as a writer. Even though the topic feels complex, because it involves a lot of legal terms and maybe even math, the book is simple and direct.
It’s not hard to relate to geek culture as a member of the literary community. As the saying goes, the Venn diagram of these two groups is basically a circle. Many writers come to their art through the rabid consumption of someone else’s work. We look at a fantastic novel or poem and wonder, “Can I do this too?” Also, let’s not lie. Plenty of us have started out on Fanfiction.com. Writers can connect to the geeky language of this book because we understand obsession. Writers understand wanting to learn a lot about something, and we understand wanting to create. Starting a business (or a side hustle) is similar. It’s about using your knowledge and creativity to build something.
Pinchefsky maps out exactly how to build something of your own from the bottom up. From the spark of an idea to getting it into the hands of people who will love it. The book uses case studies of actual geeky businesses that managed to break through the noise. Simple explanations of business concepts coupled with real-world examples work exceptionally well to guide readers through material that would otherwise appear tedious. There are often great successes in these case studies, like the small business owner who got their bracelets on the show Orphan Black. There are also cautionary tales, such as the writer who tried to publish a Harry Potter reference guide, only to be sued by J.K. Rowling.
The book’s visuals are another element that serves to make it fun and engaging. Comic book panels, callouts, and superhero silhouettes save the day (and the book) from becoming another dreary guide to business and marketing. Explaining the difference between an S Corp and an LLC in a way that the reader can find compelling is quite a feat. With all the technicalities and legal procedures of your business covered, you can start working on making money.
Making an income from writing can be difficult. Oftentimes it is only possible with the support of a second full-time or part-time job or the support of a well-paid partner. The financial hardship is something we in the writing community know well and something our parents wring their hands about. Pinchefsky acknowledges this as a fact for small business owners as well. She’s not here to make the work seem easy, but she is here to help.
Pinchefsky has all the do’s and don’ts ready for those looking to use sites like Patreon to supplement their income. With the help of Alexandra Erin, a full-time author who can support herself with just her writing work, she recommends getting into the mindset that you’re a professional and building an audience first. Erin recommends having at least some of your content free and visible to the public so that interested readers know what you have to offer. Pinchefsky points out that Patreon also has a Merch for Membership program where high-tier patrons can be rewarded with things like stickers, t-shirts, and hoodies. Patreon even handles shipping for you. Pinchefsky cautions, however, not to overextend yourself by making promises to patrons you won’t be able to keep. She has tips for those looking to expand into YouTube or become a podcaster as well. Pinchefsky has an easy-to-follow plan in place for when it’s time to cut your losses and close shop. She reminds the reader that they can always start again, and this time, with a better perspective.
In two hundred pages (with a nice big font), Pinchefsky explains how to sell merch, navigate conventions, self-publish your writing, manage piles of paperwork, and even get into publishing without the starter salary. It’s a roadmap meant for geeks, but it’s easy to follow for any creative on a quest to build their ideas into success.