Cousinjean and Profit Wank

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Event: Cousinjean and Profit Wank
Date(s): August 2005
Fandom: focus on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the meta is about all fandoms
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In 2005, cousinjean proposed to fans that they give her money so she could take a year off of work and finish a long Spike/Buffy WIP called Dancing Lessons.

the Pay Pal form: "Dancing Lessons Fan Fiction"

Some Recaps

A summary from a fan in 2006:

Cousin Jean wanted people to donate money so she could afford to take a leave of absence for a year to finish Dancing Lessons and an original fiction novel she was working on. Suffice to say, after Cousin Jean's modest proposal, there was a huge LJ-based fight over the situation and her LJ got slammed. The pile on was pretty fierce.

In one corner, you had fanfic writers who were positively horrified and more than a little worried that her fanfic-for-pay proposal would capture the attention of FOX's legal department and inspire it to start going after Buffy fanfic writers the same way it had started going after fansites that were using screencaps without permission or posting shooting scripts.

In the other corner, you had several people who worked on various Dancing Lessons stories as co-authors expressing horror and dismay. They were doubly furious because her modest proposal came out of the blue. They demanded that their stories be removed from the series and her Web site as a result.

Cousin Jean announced she was leaving Buffy fandom effectively immediately, deleted her LJ and, from what I understand, took down her fanfic site as a result of the dust-up. [1]

A summary from a fan in 2018: make a long story short, she had been drifting out of fandom for a while, and had left several WIPs, including the MASSIVELY popular “Dancing Lessons” series, unfinished. She had said and done some things which had alienated a lot of her old co-writers from the Television Without Pity boards (exactly what, I don’t know; I’m just going by mysterious comments made by said friends.) And she hadn’t gone out of her way to make new friends; she had a stated policy of not LJ-friending or responding to the comments of anyone she didn’t feel was worthy of her attention. So she had a circle of fervent fans and admirers, for certain, but a lot of other people had started to lose patience with her long before the Post Of Doom. She was living rent-free with her parents, working what appeared to be a very undemanding part time job, and totally focused on planning a Dream Wedding with her boyfriend, who, judging from her posts, miiiiight not have been as into the Dream Wedding concept as she was. She also wanted to work on an original novel, and she complained a great deal about not having time to write.

Eventually, she made a Livejournal post in which she made a proposal: all the fans of her fanfic, who would presumably buy her original fiction if it were published, should, right now, send her the price of a hardcover novel (about 20$ at that time.) She would use this money to take a year off and write said novel, and have her Dream Wedding, and maybe (nudge-nudge wink-wink) finish “Dancing Lessons” if she had some spare time. On the Paypal account she set up for this, she put “For Fanfic.” (She never really explained whether the people who sent her $20 would get a free copy of her hypothetical novel for their pains, or if they were just supposed to bask in the knowledge that they had contributed to its existence.)

Fandom EXPLODED. Firstly, in those days, before Patreon, before Kickstarter or Indiegogo, before the OTW, when many studios and authors were virulently anti-fanfic, when Fox had been sending cease-and-desist orders to fans who ran popular BtVS websites within the last three years, you did NOT ask for money to write fic. Even obliquely. Doing so risked bringing the wrath of lawyers down on all fandom. It was a stunningly ill-advised thing to do.

Secondly, “Dancing Lessons” was a collaborative project, with at least a dozen other co-writers, and Cousin Jean had not consulted any of them about her plan. She acted as though it was her personal project, with which she could do as she pleased. This created a lot of bad feeling among people who might otherwise have defended her.

Thirdly, the thing that got many people really angry was her attitude. She gave people the impression that she thought that she was so special and brilliant that the world owed her a year off with pay, for a book she might or might not ever finish, and if finished, might or might not ever get published. Other fan-trying-to-go-pro writers had full time jobs and children, and yet they somehow carved out time to write. Many of them deeply resented Cousin Jean’s apparent sense of entitlement.

Cousin Jean herself compounded the problem by refusing to understand why anyone was angry. The reaction did get way out of hand. Her journal was overrun by hundreds of angry, insulting comments. Eventually, she posted a series of non-apology apologies, and then deleted her journal and left fandom. Last I heard, she was writing self-published romance novels or something. (I don’t know if the Dream Wedding ever came off or not.) To the best of my knowledge, she never did get why people were pissed at her. [2]

First Post by cousinjean

This is either the smartest thing or the dumbest thing I've ever done. I guess time will tell.

A message from cousinjean:

I've gotten a lot of e-mails over the past year asking if and when I'm going to finish both Dancing Lessons and my sequel to The Butterfly Effect. Believe me when I say that nobody is more depressed about the unfinished state of my fan fiction than I am. But the cold, hard reality is that I have bills and student loans to pay, an actual paying writing career to try my damnedest to launch, and an eventual marriage to save and plan for. The simple fact is that there is no more room in my life for fan fiction. I've tried to make room. I have. But it's just not happening.

I realize that a lot of people will probably judge me pretty harshly for the following, but I'm just desperate enough not to care. I'm offering to sing for my supper, so to speak, and I don't see the shame in that. So here's my proposal: if every reader who has read and enjoyed my fan fiction over the years will donate the amount that they would expect to pay for a hardback novel (and I've written the equivalent of several novels in the course of my fanfic career), then I will be able to take a year off to write full time. This means that not only would I be able to finish the original novels that are languishing on my hard drive; I would also be able to finish my fan fiction.

Basically, what I'm asking for is monetary support from my reader base in helping me get my career as a professional storyteller off the ground. In return, if at least half of my goal is met, I promise to continue the work that has gained me a following in the first place. I'm asking you to buy me time to write.

If you're willing to do this, in addition to finished WIPs you will also have my eternal gratitude and a mention in the acknowledgements of my first published novel. If you're not, that's understandable, and all I ask is that you never again ask me how my WIPs are coming.

I'm setting a deadline of Halloween 2005 in order to reach my goal. If I do, then I'll give notice at my job and commence writing full time. If I don't, well, even if you can buy me a few months between jobs, that will be a huge help.

Click here if you wish to make a donation through Paypal; or contact me at [address redacted] in order to make other arrangements. You can check back here regularly to see the progress of this fundraising drive.

Thank you so much for your continued support. Even if all you can afford is the emotional kind [3]

Second Post by cousinjean

screencap of Cousinjean's second post
This little venture of mine has taught me two important things: one, that there are some awesomely generous people in this world; and two, that there are people who believe in me and my abilities. Enough so to stake money on it. I can't even begin to express how much that means to me.

Mingled with the support, I'm getting plenty of criticism. Like I said in my letter, I expected that. None of the words of criticism I've received so far have come as news to me. The cat's already out of the bag, though, and I couldn't put it back in if I wanted to. I knew I'd probably lose the respect of quite a few people. But other than that, I had nothing to lose in asking. If you choose to answer in support, you'll have my eternal gratitude. If you don't, nobody's trying to make you. It's that simple. If you want to judge me, that's okay. If you want to defriend me and tell all your friends how much I suck, that's okay, too. If you want a piece of me, then you can comment in this post and take your best shot.

Do I owe LJ land any kind of explanation or justification for how I use my space? No. But for the sake of those who have contributed, I want to address a few concerns.

Am I holding my WIPs hostage and asking you to pay me to write fic? No. I'm asking that my supporters who are willing and able to do so help make it possible for me to finish my original novels and launch my professional career. Finishing the WIPs in the meantime is simply the least I can do to compensate them. I'm trying to think of other ways, too, but for now this is the best I've got. If it's coming across like I'm asking for payment to write fan fiction, then I need to revise my message.

Am I basically asking my readers to be my sugar daddy while I finish my novels? Yup. And I promise to put out.

Am I the first person on the web to do so? Nope. And I'm sure I won't be the last. At least I'm not threatening to eat my bunny rabbit.

Did I make this decision cavalierly? No. A lot of thought and discussion and prayer went into it. It feels like the right thing for me at this particular point in my life. I might be wrong. I might have excersized some piss-poor judgment. Like I also said in my original post, time will tell. Although I'm sure there are plenty of you guys lining up to tell me instead. But, quite frankly, this decision is between me, my family, my benefactors, and my God.

If you think this is a worthwhile cause and want to give, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I'll do everything I can to make it up to you. If you think it's pure shite, then don't click the Paypal link. If it will make you feel better to tell me that it's pure shite and why now I'm also shite, feel free to click the comment link and do so. As for me, I've said all I've got to say. [4]

A Later Post by cousinjean

A message from cousinjean:

Thank you to every one who has donated and written with words of encouragement and support. I honestly didn't believe it was such a horrible sin to ask for assistance in accomplishing my dreams, and I thank you for understanding that.

If you've already donated, please let me know how to best get the money back to you. If you were planning to mail your donation, please don't.

Click here to continue to the DL web site.

Thanks again, and big, big love.

cousinjean [5]

The Goodbye Post

Long deleted.

An excerpt:
Consider me successfully ostracized. This is a good thing, I think--maybe the simple solution to make time for my writing was simply to turn off the Internet and leave it off, and this was the kick in the pants I needed to see that. I'm gonna leave my journal up long enough to archive meaningful posts. I'll take my time deciding what to do with my fic. But I'm done with fandom, and I'm definitely done with LJ.
An excerpt:
If you know me well enough to have my ISP addie, you can e-mail me there. Otherwise, don't bother. I've stopped checking my other accounts. There are some of you whom I'm sincerely sorry I've disappointed or embarrassed by my request. The rest, not so much.

Fan Comments/Meta


  1. from Television Without Pity; reference link, by ScaryFairy1, posted May 11, 2006
  2. What happened with cousinjean?, at rahirah.tumblr (November 20, 2018)
  3. from a screenshot posted on Fandom Wank on August 10, 2005; Archive
  4. from a screenshot posted on Fandom Wank on August 10, 2005; reference link
  5. like the others, this post was deleted; this text was posted at Fandom Wank, August 10, 2005