I’ve seen five different authors take down, or prepare to take down, their posted works on Ao3 this week.  At the same time, I’ve seen several people wishing there was more new content to read.  I’ve also seen countless posts by authors begging for people to leave comments and kudos. 

People tell me I am a big name fan in my chosen fandom.  I don’t quite get that but for the purposes of this post, let’s roll with it.  On my latest one shot, less than 18% of the people who read it bothered to hit the kudos button.  Sure, okay, maybe that one sort of sucked.  Let’s look at the one shot posted before that – less than 16% left kudos.  Before that – 10%, and then 16%.  I’m not even going to get into the comments.  Let’s just say the numbers drop a lot.  I’m just looking at one shots here so we don’t have to worry about multiple hits from multiple chapters, people reading previous chapters over, etc.  And if I am a BNF, that means other people are getting significantly less kudos and comments.

Fandom is withering away because it feels like people don’t care about the works that are posted.  Why should I go to the trouble of posting my stories if no one reads them, and of the people who do read them, less than a fifth like them?  Even if you are not a huge fan of the story, if it kept your attention long enough for you to get to the bottom, go ahead and mash that kudos button.  It’s a drop of encouragement in a big desert. 

TL;DR: Passively devouring content is killing fandom.

Reblogging again

So much this

You know, kudos and comments are much beloved by all esp. yrs truly, but I have to say: I’ve been posting fic for 20 years, and I have never in my entire life had a story stay above a 1:9 kudos to hits ratio (or comments to hits, back when kudo wasn’t an option). Usually they don’t stay above 1:10, once they’ve been around for a few weeks.

I also have a working background in online marketing. In social media 1:10 is what you would call a solid engagement score, when people actually care about your product (as opposed to “liking” your Facebook page so they could join a contest or whatever). If BNFs are getting 1:5 – and I do sometimes see it – that is sky-high engagement. Take any celebrity; take Harry Styles, who has just under 30M followers and doesn’t tweet all that often. He regularly gets 3-400K likes, 1-200K retweets. I’ve seen him get up to just under 1M likes on a tweet. That’s a 1:30 engagement ratio, for Harry Styles, and though some of you guys enjoy my fics and have said so, I don’t think you have as lasting a relationship with my stories as Harry Styles’s fans do with him. XD;

Again, this is not to say we, as readers, should all go home and not bother to kudo or comment or engage with fic writers. That definitely is a recipe for discouraging what you want to see in future. But this is not the first post I’ve seen that suggests a 20% kudo ratio is the equivalent of yelling into the void, and I’m worried that we as writers are discouraging ourselves because our expectations are out of whack.

I think about this a lot, because it’s important to know what a realistic goal to expect from an audience is, even though I admit it definitely is kind of depressing when you look at the numbers. I was doing reading on what sort of money you can expect to make from a successful webcomic, and the general rule of thumb seems to be that if your merchandising is meshing well with your audience, about 1% will give you merch. I imagine ‘subscribe to patreon’ also falls in this general range. 

Stuff that is ONLY available for dollars are obviously going to have a different way of measuring this, but when it comes to ‘If people can consume something without engaging back in any fashion (hitting a like button, buying something, leaving a comment)’ the vast majority will.

And as a creator that is frustrating but as a consumer it’s pretty easy to see how it happens. I have gotten steadily worse at even liking posts, much less leaving comments on ones I enjoy, since I started using tumblr. It’s very difficult to engage consistently. I always kudo on any fanfic I read and comment on the vast majority, but then again I don’t read a lot of fanfic, if you are someone who browses AO3 constantly/regularly for months or years, I could see how it’s easy to stop engaging. I don’t remember to like every YT video or tumblr fanart I see, much less comment on them.

When we are constantly consuming free content it’s hard to remember to engage with it or what that engagement means to the creators. And lol, honestly that sucks. Certainly as consumers we should be better about it. But also like, as a creator be kinder to yourself by setting a realistic bar of what you can achieve. 

And IMO, if numbers matter to you (kudos, comments, etc) be honest about the fact that you CAN improve those things by marketing yourself better. The ‘I just produced my art and put it out there and got insanely popular because it was just so brilliant’ is less than a one a million chance. Lots of amazing content is overlooked every day because there is a lot of good content and a metric fuckton of mediocre to bad content. You can only SORT of judge the quality of your work based on the audience it generates, but if what you WANT is an audience there is way, way, WAY more you can be doing than simply producing whatever you immediately feel like. Marketing yourself is a skill and if you want the benefits of it you have to practice it.

I have a professional background in internet marketing as my day job and a moderate hobby business. My definition for “moderate” is “it pays for itself, keeps me in product, and occasionally buys groceries.”

In the day job, which is for an extremely large global company, there are entire teams of people whose entire purpose of employment is to ensure a 3% conversion rate. That’s it. That is for a Fortune 100 company: the success metric is for 3% of all visitors to a marketing web site to click the “send me more info” link.

My moderate business that pays for itself has a 0.94% conversion rate of views to orders. Less than 1%, and it’s still worth its time – and this is without me bothering to do any marketing beyond instagram and tumblr posts with new product.

I know it feels like no one is paying attention to you and you’re wasting your time if you don’t get everyone clicking kudos or commenting but I promise, I PROMISE, you are doing fantastically, amazingly well with your 10% rate. You probably aren’t going to go viral AND THAT’S FINE. You’re only hurting yourself if you’re expecting a greater return – don’t call yourself a failure, because you’re NOT. You’re just looking at it the wrong way. I promise, you’re lovely just the way you are.

This is actually really good to know – helpful.

I keep track of what stories are doing well based on the reading to kudos ratio. I aim for close to 10%…and a story that hits between 5% and 10% kudos, to me, is considered a success. That means 10% of all readers liked the story enough to slap the kudos button. For me – that’s a big deal. Enough to struggle with writers block, re-writes, edits, writing when I’m tired, etc etc etc.

A story with a low kudos ration may get taken down as a “not enough liked it to deal with the stress of writing it.”

I just got some people interested in a story I haven’t touched in 2 years. I checked its kudos ration. It’s almost 7% on a self-insert. Damn. I should work on that story. See?

And oddly enough – sometimes I look not at total hits or kudos, but a kudo ratio to see if a long story is worth trying out. Because you may have low numbers, but if you’re hitting close to 10%…I’mma give that story a solid chance and 99% of the time add to that kudos ratio because that means 10% of the readership loved it.

I think…no, I know that I don’t understand marketing numbers well. I know that 10% kudos ratio seems low. Especially since hitting that kudos button is so easy. But then I think about stories I’ve read where I haven’t hit the kudos button and yeah…ok…I get it. I’m guilty of it too. We all are.

So hey – kudos to the people who leave me kudos.

CAKE to the people who leave me a comment. Even if it’s just a whole bunch of <3 <3 <3 <3. 

I love you too!

This is interesting because I actually teach online engagement at university. And most online content is lucky to get a 2% “like” rate on a facebook post or a blog. TO expect a 10% response rate is an unrealistic expectation IMHO. If people leave a comment, that’s a higher degree of engagement- it shows a level of personal investment that NO so called “published” author gets to see unless you count Amazon reviews (which are dubious and in the so tiny % per purchasers that it isn’t appropriate to compare).  I think authors should also consider the QUALITY of engagement- and also whether it is a one shot or a multi-chapter fic. If it’s long (and I am currently at 50 of a 55 chapter story of over 250,000 words in length, I know that every one of those hits is someone who is *really* engaged with the material. And I write for them. And the comments and exchanges and feelings that get shared are better than leaving a pile of books on a table that says “buy me” as a way of measuring my worth as a writer. Which is why I write fan fiction.  Thank you for starting this conversation. I think that my current co-authoress J_Baillier would agree.

As someone who broadcasts online without expecting interaction from others, all of this fascinates me.



ao3′s orphaning option is cool and a good idea but mostly very fucking funny. i posted this work for fun when i was younger and i still want people to be able to come back to it if they liked it, but now im an adult professional and i dont want it attached to my name. whats the word for that? umm, anonymously posting? no. i want something that indicates i murdered this story’s parents 

technically the story’s parents faked their own death and disappeared to go have an office job, and that’s even funnier

This Blog Is Unrepentantly Pro- AO3!



This blogger remembers when we didn’t have AO3.

This blogger remembers when we had to put disclaimers at the head of our fics and pray that someone didn’t take it into their heads to sue us for what we created.

This blogger remembers brilliant artists and writers getting decades of work obliterated on LJ because someone who wanted to tell people what they were allowed to create went running to someone who wanted a profit, and told them the artists and writers had been naughty.

This blogger remembers just how hard the creators of AO3 worked to build the thing we all seem to take for granted now.

This blogger watched friends dive into the creation process so heartily and determinedly that they all but disappeared from the writing/gaming/artistic side of their fandom for YEARS while they worked to make the archive happen.

This blogger remembers the sense of giddy wonder that there would possibly be LAWYERS involved, willing to defend our right to create these works, and not leave us hanging at the mercy of corporate legal teams.

This blogger is aware that she reads between twenty to fifty books’ worth of material every year on AO3, and is never REQUIRED to pay a penny for the privilege of getting access.

This blogger is aware that she will not ever see advertisements on AO3, and that her personal data and reading preferences won’t be sold to advertisers in order to raise the money that AO3 needs to pay for the services they provide.

This blogger is aware that AO3 is, and has always been, a labor of love; by fans, for fans, and not for profiting off fans – and this is what makes it unique in the whole of the media universe.

This blogger has NEVER taken AO3 for granted, and has ALWAYS been damned glad to have access to it.  Even in years when this blogger didn’t have the means to support it financially.


On the AO3 all these years later












The tenth anniversary of the OTW and all the AO3 discussion going around this week inspired me to go look at astolat’s original post about creating an An Archive Of Our Own, and found my comment on it:

“I think this is needed and long past needed.

There are of course huge fanfic archives out there like ff.net, but the bigger and more public the site, the more restrictive it is, the more stuff around the edges gets cut off. I don’t WANT the public face of fanfic to be only the most easily palatable stuff, with the smut and the kink and the controversial subjects marginalized and hidden under the table.

And I particularly don’t want to see us all sitting around feeling frustrated while this fabulous community is commodified out from underneath us.

I’m not fit to be a project manager, but I’m great with details and general organizational work. If someone takes this and runs with it, I’d love to help.“

Eleven years and rather a lot of volunteer-hours later, I stand by every single word.

And then I found my original post on the idea that became the OTW/AO3, which says in part:

“However, as I was reading the comments over there, I noticed a frustrating, but not surprising number of comments along the lines of “well, it’s a good idea, but it’s way too ambitious”

I’m not talking about the really useful and practical comments bringing up pitfalls and difficulties to be aware of from the get go with something this massive and complex, I’m talking about all the comments that go something like this:

Amen. I want a site like that. I’d pay money for an archive like that, and I’d invest time and effort to make sure it’s as great as it can be. […] But then I hit the realism switch in my brain and it goes ‘splodey. Because sadly it’s not a very realistic concept.

And this:

In a perfect world it could be an amazing thing and a great way to “rally the troops” so to speak and provide a sort-of one-stop shop for fan-fiction readers and writers. I see a couple potential problems, though.

Or this:

Oh god.

I like what you’re saying, I really do, but I think it’s actually impossible to achieve.

and all the various comments that start with

“It sounds like a cool idea…but”

or words to that effect.

Taken separately, these comments don’t seem like much, but every time a new one showed up I couldn’t help but be reminded of

this post by commodorified, and her oh so brilliant and beautiful rant therein:


And here are some notes:

Yes, you. Yes, everything. Yes, even that.

All of it. Because it’s true. We’re mostly raised to live on table scraps, to wait and see what’s going when everyone else has been served and then choose from what’s left. And that’s crap, and it’ll get you crap.

Forget the limited menu of things that you automatically assume is all that’s available given your (gender, looks, social class, education, financial position, reputation, family, damage level, etc etc etc), and start reading the whole menu instead.

Then figure out what you want. Then check what you’ve got and figure out how to get it. And then go after it baldheaded till either you make it happen or you decide that its real cost is more than it’s worth to you.”

And THAT is what Astolat’s post is about. It’s about saying “THIS is what we want, let’s make it happen.” It’s about aiming for the ideal, not for some artificially imposed, more “realistic” option.

And I think that’s fabulous. And I think we CAN do this, we CAN make this amazing, complicated idea happen. But in order to do so we’re going to have to be careful about those little voices inside our heads saying “well, it’s a nice idea, but” and “there’s no point in trying for that impossible thing, let’s aim for this ‘more realistic’ goal instead.”

Because, damn it, why shouldn’t we ask for every damn thing we want. And why shouldn’t we go out there and get it?”

I am so pleased to have been proved correct. 

(And also, in the category of “women need to ask for every damn thing they want”? I took those words to heart, which is one of many reasons Marna/commodorified and I have been married for going on eight years.)

ETA: I know some of the links are broken, they copied over from my original post and I didn’t have the energy to either delete them or track them down elsewhere.

Asking for it and doing it!!!

So inspiring. And yes – at the time this seemed such a pipedream, but look at it now!

Yup. I remember saying I’d support it regardless, but it would only really be useful to me as a poster if it allowed every kind of content. Heh.

God this brings it back.  People saying we couldn’t do it, that we would never be able to do it, etc. And then there was the sort of six months later moment where people were like, but where is it? (!)  Dudes, we had to found a nonprofit company first! so we could be legal and raise money and pay taxes and have a bank account and enter contracts – and moreover, the archive was written from scratch: from a single blinking cursor on the screen, custom-designed from the ground up.  I remember that I had the job of tracking wireframes in the early days as the real designers figured out how the flow of pages in the archive were going to go. Amazing.

Anyway,  I want to say that the group that came together around the OTW /AO3 in those first years had a track record like WHOA: so many of those people had been archivists, web-admins, fannish fest-runners, newsletter compilers, community moderators, listmoms (kiddies, you won’t know what this is) or had other fannish roles that gave them enormous experience in working collaboratively in fandom and keeping something great going year after year. And  OTW continues to attract great people–and so also, while I’m blathering, let me say that volunteering for the OTW also provides great, real world experience that you can put on your resume, because AO3 is one of the top sites in the world and TWC has been publishing on time for ten years and Fanlore is cited in books and journalism all the time and Open Doors has relationships with many meatspace university libraries and archives etc. so if you think you have something to bring to the table, please do think about volunteering somewhere. It’s work, believe me, but it’s also pretty g-d awesome.

I tell you what, if it weren’t for Ao3, 2013 would’ve been the last year I ever wrote anything for anyone other than myself. I was so disgusted and demoralized.

The first chapter of “This, You Protect” wasn’t a desperation move, exactly. It was the first time I’d had fun writing anything in months.

Putting it up, and those first few encouraging comments: that was the first time I’d had fun publishing in years.

And man, the people I have met through that place. I am eternally grateful.

So definitely 100% all of this, but I also have a question. And maybe it’s one of those stupid ones, but it’s something I’m honestly curious about. It has to do with this bit:

 "I want to say that the group that came together around the OTW /AO3 in those first years had a track record like WHOA: so many of those people had been archivists, web-admins, fannish fest-runners, newsletter compilers, community moderators, listmoms (kiddies, you won’t know what this is) or had other fannish roles that gave them enormous experience in working collaboratively in fandom and keeping something great going year after year.“ 

 My question is: how do you get there NOW?

 And I don’t mean that like “how do you become astolat or esporanza”-
because let’s face it, we only get one of them since they are, in fact, themselves, and I’d much rather people try to be themselves than somebody else- but I mean it as in how do you rack up that record now? Because so many of those roles have vanished or gotten diluted in fandom, like, I genuinely don’t know how you’d position yourself into this, and I kinda want to know if only so that I can see the next wave of such fans coming.

I was going to be like, I don’t know! except then I was like, wait, yes, I do know! IMO, the answer is a Mr. Rogers-type secret, which is that the way to do this is to help.  Be a helper! Help other fans, boost other fans voices/art somehow.  Run a fest or a challenge, do a recs page, reblog stuff, wave your arms in the air, encourage people to make things, offer to beta, make art, do podfics, offer to collaborate – and I’m sure the future will (for better and for worse) provide us new opportunities to help or think about helping each other. But one that comes to mind: help a fan navigate a new platform!  Confused about Tumblr/Twitter/Youtube/Pillowfort – can someone help? Will you hold their hand, tell them they’re wanted, get them to come with us to the new land?  (I HAVE EXPLAINED TUMBLR TO SO MANY PEOPLE).  I remember when I got into fandom, I was posting my stories to a mailing list and I didn’t have a website (because who did?) and MerryLynne came to me and said, like, I like your stories, can I help you host them?  I was SO GRATEFUL. Resonant made me a cheat sheet for html which is how I learned. The initial archives had what were called Archive Elves, people who behind the scenes had to format and upload every story by hand.  So, to me, true fandom is always encouraging of others, it’s COME WRITE FOR MY SHOW, make the thing, try the thing, do the thing, I will help you do the thing!

Aww. Yes, this!

I don’t think those kinds of roles are gone though, just changed. Maybe we don’t have so many people doing extensive Delicious-style bookmarking now, but plenty of fans run tumblrs with meticulous tagging that curate a great feed of a particular fandom or ship. [Thing] Weeks happen all the time. Someone’s organizing each one of those. People on tumblr have started and run fan conventions, most of which did not feature a deflating ball pit. There are zine presses started up through Tumblr!

As with a lot of fannish things, people start by loving something specific. They make their friends through a particular fandom. Pan-fandom meta, history, preservation, etc. are things people usually get into after they’ve been around a while and switched fandoms a few times or seen their single fandom change radically as people and platforms come and go.

If I had to guess, I’d say the next big organized fannish projects will come from circles of friends on Tumblr who started out shipping the same thing and have since moved on to being in different fandoms but still share the same taste in cons or in infrastructure or tools.

Yes to the above, but I will say that social media sites these days DO make community-building harder and less intuitive. 

Partly because of recirculating content (eg on Tumblr, you don’t actually have to follow people for their good stuff, because it gets reblogged, and reblogging actually discourages following too many people in a single fandom because you’ll see the same thing 20 times). And partly because they push unhelpful values on us (making the # of public likes feel more important than a private personal connection, because more #s means more advertising money for them). 

It’s the same underlying problem that made us start the AO3. Just like fanlib and 6A in the days of Strikethrough, the people who own and run these sites don’t give a shit about any of us, they don’t make these sites to use them personally. They’re making them to make giant sacks of money, not to build a community center. 

So they don’t really want us to talk to each other in private-ish nooks in the way that’s necessary to build personal connection. If you post your thoughts on a public reblog, they can use it as an ad vehicle for everyone following you. If you post them to one pal in private, they are paying server costs to host the same amount of content but as an ad vehicle it is much worse. A lot of terrible usability and human choices that social media sites make are based on very sensible financial decisions the owners are making for their personal benefit. 

So you have to deliberately go against what the site encourages you to do, if you want to build community. You can’t just sit there and read your dash and ticky the hearts and squash your own thoughts into tags. You have to make your own content, you have to send messages and chat, have conversations in comments, go to chatrooms, go to cons and meetups, build personal connections. 

If you want to build a thing, the public post where you start the thing is the first bit of the iceberg that pokes up above the water. If you don’t have a whole lot of iceberg underneath, it won’t stay up.