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Synonyms: tie-in novel, authorized sequel, sequels, pro novel, Profic
See also: novelization; adaptation, bookverse, movieverse, comicsverse, Star Trek Tie-in Novels
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A tie-in is a published work meant to complement (and derive a profit from) another published work. In general, tie-ins are novels or graphic novels that spring from a movie or television show.

Tie-in novels have been the subject of widespread discussion in fandom as to whether or not they constitute professional fanfiction - particularly as many tie-in authors got their start writing fanfic. The acceptance of tie-ins among fans also varies from fandom to fandom, as their quality and adherence to canon can vary wildly.

Tie-ins are not to be confused with adaptations, which are the translation of the same story from one medium to another (e.g. comic book to film) in a way that may or may not be faithful to the source; or with novelizations, which translate a film, video game, TV series or similar into a novel form without significantly deviating from its plot. An authorized sequel is a tie-in work written with the consent of the author or their estate.


The history of the tie-in novel is ambiguous. Some properties, published in obscurity, exercise great freedom to change the canon from which they are written (e.g., Diane Duane's Star Trek novels of the late 1970s and early 1980s). Other properties are written strictly to fit into existing canon — neither to enlarge it, nor to occlude any possibilities — and thus often find themselves ending on a reset button. One way tie-in writers have found around this problem is to write original characters in tie-in universes; Peter David created a whole series of Star Trek novels in this vein that have been very successful.

Pocket Books "Star Trek" Guidelines (1985)

See Pocket Book's Star Trek Pro Novel Guidelines (1985).

As a Gateway to Fandom

From a fan interview in 2012:
Alan Dean Foster's work. And I had devoured those, and they set off all kinds of bells and whistles in my brain, and story ideas were rumbling around up there, and, y'know, you have nice little imaginings, especially if you're nursing a baby at two o'clock in the morning, and your mind goes off and playing here and there. But that was the first fanfiction. And like a lot of zines at the time, at the end there were some addresses of people you could contact. And other ads for other zines, and I started finding my way through that way, to get into contact, and trying to find other information. And Star Trek Lives, I read that, and that had information about the Welcommittee, and how do you get a hold of these things, and I read about classic stories, and went, I want to find those stories. So, then I began tracking down the editors, or authors, and writing them, and asking if they had zines still in print, if they had stories still in print, was there some way I could get hold of them, could I copy them if I could find a copy... [1]

Discussions & Views

Are Tie-ins Professional Fanfic?

It is often argued that tie-in novels are professional fanfic. Many tie-in writers started out writing fanfiction, e.g., Una McCormack, Marion Zimmer Bradley. A fan in 2010 commented: "[When] a published fan fiction writer - someone who writes primarily tie-in novels in someone else's universe - announces that fan fiction is evil, because doing it for love is wrong, but doing it for money is right. This makes me make a frowny face, because that isn't what they said in Sex Ed. [2]

Some tie-in writers and editors very much disagree that tie-in novels are professional fanfic e.g., John Ordover, Lee Goldberg.

Whether "work-for-hire" and "media tie-ins" are worthy of being called "real" books has been an issue of contention and discussion in the science fiction and fantasy community. See Science Fiction Writer Robert J. Sawyer: Crazy SFWA Position, Archived version, published in 1998.

Acceptance of Pro Novels in Different Fandoms

Tie-ins rarely develop followings in fandom as powerful as their source materials do. Supernatural tie-ins, for example, regularly got details of canon wrong, and are generally not taken as canonical. On the other hand, Buffy comics which continue after the TV series are often discussed as if they definitively extend canon (perhaps due to the fact that Joss Whedon himself wrote the tie-in). Similarly, the Serenity comic series that was published from 2005 to 2017 (authorized, and in part co-written, by Joss Whedon) is seen as a canonical extension of the Firefly universe after the TV show itself was cancelled - in this way, tie-ins can be a useful means of extending a universe beyond its original form.

Opinions on Quality

From Boldly Writing:

The professional novels got a lot of press. In January [1983 issue of Interstat], Sonni Cooper wrote 'By the time this is published, my Trek novel, Black Fire, will be available. I'd like some feedback.' She got both positive and negative reactions. S. L. R. responded, 'Black Fire, in my opinion, is the poorest excuse for a pro novel that it has ever been my misfortune to read. In fact, there is, to my knowledge, no excuse for this book.' Jeffrey K. Wagner had a more positive reaction: "Black Fire, by Cooper, was exciting, action-filled, and generally very believable.' In April [1983 issue of Interstat), Lisa Wahl and Julia Ecklar complained once more about the poor quality of the pro novels: 'Is everyone as tired as we are at discovering that Trek novels by award-winning science fiction writers are not as good as many fans' works?" In June, Lisa Wahl suggested that Star Trek fans boycott the Timescape Star Trek novels in October and November of that year, in order to protest their poor quality. That got a lot of fans writing in. Several fans said they were afraid that such a boycott would hurt sales of Yesterday's Son, which they had read in manuscript form. Howard Weinstein was one of them, though he added, 'Lisa and Julia get no argument from me when they complain that not all the pro Star Trek novels are as good as they might be.' Howard also wrote, 'Since the publication of Covenant [of the Crown], I've gotten several hundred letters from readers...I've found overwhelming approval.' This matched reports of every single pro author who wrote to a letterzine: all reported getting hundreds of positive responses.
  • Another fan in Universal Translator (February 1983) comments on a recently released Star Trek pro novel, contrasting the quality of the stories in the fan realm and the pro realm: "Black Fire is fan-fiction at a level only millimeters above the mediocre, and it's frustrating to see it professionally published when superior material remains confined to fanzines and therefore unknown to the general public."
  • The Star Wars letterzine Southern Enclave has much discussion regarding "pro-novels": whether or not they are canon, that they have no "heart," that their writers are constrained too much by the Lucas franchise, that writers don't know "what to do about Luke," that they tend to veer towards "suburbia" and too-perfect children, that Han becomes a neutered lap-dog and that the novels are generally a fail.
  • While tie-in novels are often picked apart by fans for their lack of continuity, understanding of character, and emotional resonance, one book in the Mass Effect fandom got it so wrong that its publisher issued a public apology:
The teams at Del Rey and BioWare would like to extend our sincerest apologies to the Mass Effect fans for any errors and oversights made in the recent novel Mass Effect: Deception. We are currently working on a number of changes that will appear in future editions of the novel. We would like to thank all Mass Effect fans for their passion and dedication to this ever-growing world, and assure them that we are listening and taking this matter very seriously.[3]
The year 1981 marked a turning point with the pro novels. Reviews went from being almost always negative to being largely positive. Part of the change was due to a real improvement in the quality of writing, and part due to new influx of fans who never saw the classic fanzine stories of the 1970s. Some fans claimed that no Star Trek pro novel ever outshone the best fanzine stories of the 1970s. Other fanzine readers of the 1970s sided with the newer fans and claimed that some of the pro novels of the 1980s were pretty good. The 'which is better, pro writing or fanzine writing' debate continued off and on through the entire decade.

From a fan in 2009:

When the franchise was just taking off, TPTB (powers that be) were desperate for stories to publish, so they drew on fan fiction authors as well as known sci-fi authors to get novels out there for purchase. It is pretty easy to tell which books were written by genuine fans of the show, and which ones were from sci-fi writers who really knew very little about the show and were hired mainly for name recognition. They tended to write characters acting in ways that the readers finds puzzling at best, and often physical descriptions were just plain wrong. As the franchise solidified, TPTB became much more restrictive about what could be published. RULES were put into place - RULES which restricted a lot of the authors' creativity and IMO sucked the life out of some of the later stories. Personally, I loved the earlier books written by those with a genuine appreciation of the show.... even if they tended to be a bit "campy" at times. The author's true respect and love for the characters and the Trek universe is so obvious. But as the years passed, too many of the stories started seeming more like generic sci-fi with the characters being plugged in to roles that could have been filled by anyone. I have seen this happen very often with tie-in books, which is why I tend to prefer fan fiction. I started finding the books boring. They became more plot oriented and less character driven. Since I had always been attracted to the show for the characters, this bothered me, and eventually I stopped buying the books and focused solely upon the fan fiction." [4]

Notable Fandoms and Tie-in Works

Further Reading/Meta







Not Dated


  1. ^ Marnie S. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Kandy Fong and Marnie S
  2. ^ Professional Writers vs. The People Who Love Their Work, Round Umpty-Snout, by thefourthvine, May 9, 2010
  3. ^ BioWare Beg Fan Forgiveness on Bungled Mass Effect Novel, February 6, 2010, accessed February 23, 2012
  4. ^ comment by fee folay at BOOK: STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES; archive link, August 8, 2009
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