Fanfiction platforms are pumped full of content by talented authors of all backgrounds. They do this work for free, providing entertainment and asking for nothing in return. When a community as large as ours can access so much writing, including works from authors that are entirely removed from the fandom, it’s easy to get comfortable about things like sending kudos and mindful comments.
It’s time for a refresh. There are many active fanfiction authors across social media platforms, in addition to those still writing for the fandom but inactive elsewhere. If you spend a lot of time reading, there are things you can do to show appreciation and give back or avoid causing undue stress. Here’s some advice for being a positive presence in the fanfic community.
Showing Authors Love – AO3
Starting simple, please always remember to leave kudos and comments on AO3! Kudos and comments are a simple way to show an author appreciation. If anything in particular stood out about the story, it means a lot to the writer to hear what they’ve done well and struck a chord, and it means even more when you post directly on the work for everyone to see. In addition, kudos and comments are two ways fics can be sorted on AO3 in the search. The more on the fic, the easier it can be to find!
If you’re like me and prefer downloading fics, you might consider strategies to ensure you don’t forget to leave your love. You could consider hitting the kudos button when downloading a fic or reading a few thousand words on AO3 before giving kudos and downloading. You’ll ensure you’ve always left kudos on a fic. Another option is to look for the link at the end of a fic directing back to the comment box. You can leave a comment, and the website will lead you back to the main page to leave kudos.
I also recommend bookmarking fics, as they also can impact searches. They’re unique, though, because anyone can go to your profile and see every public bookmark you have saved. This can make it easy for someone who knows you or reads your stories to see what you have saved.
These are, by default, public bookmarks. You and other readers can see them, and the author can easily click on their bookmark list to see who has bookmarked their fic and what they’ve said about their story. You can make your bookmarks private by clicking on the relevant check. These can also be changed after the fact to mark private by clicking the asterisk (*) in the top right corner of the relevant fic on your bookmarks list. No one but you can see your private bookmarks.
Social Media & DMs
Sharing fanfiction on your preferred social media platform is an incredible way to grow an author’s audience. If you see someone asking for relevant recommendations, or you simply want to talk about your favorites, sharing is always encouraged!
When sharing a fic, always include at least the accurate title and author’s name(s). Doing so makes it simple for people to search for the story on AO3. If you want to make it even simpler, the best thing you can do is provide a direct link, as it highly increases the likelihood that someone will pull it up and read it or save it for later. Taking the time to search, or knowing how to do so, might be inconvenient if other options are provided with links readily available.
Be courteous of an author’s time. Many people may be tempted to ask for a new chapter frequently, but sometimes the pressure can place an undue burden on those who are writing for no reason other than a passion. Telling them that you love the story and are excited about the next chapter is great because it’s encouraging and doesn’t imply a time frame. However, I’d avoid asking authors when they’ll post next if you’re getting impatient. It’s OK to check if they have a schedule, but begging or pressing for updates can be uncomfortable.
If you’d like to send an author a direct message, be respectful of their time. More prominent authors, in particular, may have many messages or feel uncomfortable answering some, so be thoughtful and understanding if you don’t have an established relationship with them. You might not receive a response, and they don’t owe you one.
If you’d like to ask about an author’s particular fic choices, writing styles, or plot, ensure you’re asking from a place of learning and not from one of critique. Want to know why an author chose first-person or a multi-part format because you’re trying to write your own story or hadn’t seen it done before? Ask away politely! Questioning because you think first-person is trash or a multi-part is confusing and frustrating? They’re not a customer service line, and you’re not purchasing their product. Be mindful; your intentions and impressions are everything!
Speaking of DMs, some stories can cover challenging topics. A given individual might feel uncomfortable posting about the story, have been personally impacted by it, want to learn more, or something else. Many authors will appreciate it when readers reach out to share their experiences or discuss the topic further. You can also ask authors to summarize triggering content, such as specific scenes or chapters, if you need to know if you can handle the topic or skip that section. Not all will feel comfortable/have the time to do so. If they don’t respond or say they can’t, you can always ask someone else who has read it.
Generally speaking, I discourage asking authors to do things. However, in the case of improperly tagged, triggering content, I think readers are within their rights to request something be added politely. Classic fanfics were not always tagged as thoroughly as modern stories are. Still, active authors should recognize that the norm now is to ensure all triggers are available to review for all stories, either in the tags or the first chapter note.
If you want to ask this, don’t be rude; just raise the reason you think something might be helpful if added as a tag for other readers. Berating the author because of your personal feelings will only cause issues, regardless of whether it’s done before or after they make a decision. Consider that the author may not realize something is a trigger or even planned to add it but forgot, and slamming someone is never called for in situations like fanfiction. Keep it respectful.
That rule holds across interactions with authors. There’s no reason to actively contact someone only to hate on their writing. When unrequested, leaving comments, sending DMs, or tagging authors in posts with insults or ‘constructive criticism’ is extremely rude. You can always rant to your friend about your preferences, but if the author hasn’t requested that feedback, forcing it on them is unacceptable and impolite at best.
As a reminder, authors can see comments on public bookmarks, so leaving your ratings or critiques of a story on a public bookmark could be upsetting. Check your history for any that you may want to edit, and avoid making these kinds of comments public moving forward.
Any media exposure to a large audience online will always garner candid feedback, but there’s no reason to speak harshly to an author about their hobby. Things like your favorite top/bottom pairing or character traits are fine to have preferences about; no one is telling you that you must read everything. However, subjective feelings about a story are personal, not a reason to complain to an author. Your tastes are for you to refine what you read.
Being a fanfic author can introduce a litany of uncomfortable situations, and it’s our responsibility as readers to ensure we’re fostering a positive space for their work. Never send your critiques directly to an author. Instead, focus on raising your favs through kudos, comments, and sharing their stories. Make sure your direct messages are respectful and keep your questions genuine.
It’s like Harry tells us: Treat People With Kindness. Well, our motto is Treat Authors With Kindness – Let’s TAWK!
Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter – I’m @FitzandLarry there.