Captive Prince, one of fandom’s biggest original fiction success stories, has been bought by Penguin. The move comes less than a week after Amazon announced a controversial fanfic publishing platform and may be a sign that traditional print publishers are catching up to fandom audiences.

Posting on her LiveJournal, author S.U. Pacat explained that she was approached by an agent not long after Captive Prince was self-published as an ebook earlier this year. It instantly became an Amazon bestseller and maintained a five-star rating.

At the time, Pacat hinted at the potential of a mainstream audience to the Daily Dot.

“I don't think it's asking too much of mainstream readers,” she said. “I think that fanfiction readers are mainstream readers. There is even a model for it: In countries like Japan, [the classic yaoi] Ai no Kusabi... is not only commercially published, it has two spinoff animes.

“In the West for whatever reason those kinds of queer creative energies have been largely channelled into fanfiction, rather than into a robust commercial market of original work. I am a huge advocate for fanfiction and I see the fanfiction community as a positive creative space. At the same time, I would love to see the rise of an equivalent original market that pays its authors and can take its place on commercial bookshelves, in a way that fanfiction cannot due to its copyright implications.”

While feelings are decidedly mixed about Kindle Worlds’ desire to cash in on fanfic (not to mention its dubious attitude towards copyright and royalty payments), Captive Prince getting a big-name publishing deal can only be good news. The popular trilogy is an epic work of male/male erotica and is read by a predominantly fandom-based audience—an audience that has long been ignored by publishers favour of traditional straight erotica like 50 Shades of Grey or child-friendly fanfic novels geared towards One Direction fans.

In short, this is the first time the huge audience of homoerotic “slash” fanfic readers has been acknowledged by a mainstream publisher.

It may not seem entirely clear to outsiders why Captive Prince is seen as part of fanfic culture, when it isn’t technically a work of fanfiction. How is  Pacat different from authors like Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Naomi Novik, who wrote fanfiction as a hobby and then went on to publish original novels rather than just “filing off the serial numbers”? Basically, it’s down to two things: the community and the writing style.

Captive Prince has been published in installments, with each new chapter inspiring enthusiastic discussion between readers and author alike. This kind of community atmosphere often grows up around popular serialized fanfics online—such as 50 Shades of Grey in its original guise as Master of the Universe. As for the subject-matter, the Captive Prince trilogy has a lot in common with “AU” (alternate universe) fanfics where popular characters are dropped into a fantasy setting—in this case, a quasi-Greco/Roman universe of pleasure slaves warring aristocrats. Even though Pacat writes about original characters, the writing style and story tropes present in Captive Prince are instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with slash fanfiction.

That said, the move to Penguin’s romance imprint, Berkley, will force a few changes. For starters, the first two volumes of the series are being taken offline, but not before fans have a full month to download and share free versions. Evidently Penguin is aware that Captive Prince’s success relies on word of mouth, and immediately shutting down the trilogy’s online headquarters would not send a positive message to longtime fans.

Perhaps more importantly, Pacat will no longer be releasing chapter installments for free on her LiveJournal, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be abadoning her presence there altogether.

"I have treasured every comment, every message, every fanart” she wrote in her announcement. “And the community that has sprung up on this journal around the story means the world to me! I think of the regular and semi-regular commenters as friends.”

Photo from mirabel-chan/Tumblr