Hey everyone. Every once and awhile, people come around my blog asking for writing advice. I’m afraid I usually don’t deliver because there’s a bunch of better posts already written on all sorts of writing topics, but as of late, I think there’s some advice I’m actually qualified to give out that I haven’t seen floating around. And that’s how to market yourself (in my unprofessional opinion)
Note I’m not saying how to be “successful.” Success is different for a lot of people. What I consider success for myself and success for someone else are two different things, since no two people share the same limitations, work style, and experience. A lot of times when we talk about marketing in fanfiction, we use hits and kudos as a sign of “success” for a writer. And while those things are nice, I’d like to press that success isn’t either of those things but what success is for you. Finishing your project. Completing a section. A wider audience does not success make. It’s just “conventional” success. Which carries a lot of ableist ideas about work that I’m not looking to support.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk marketing.
Back when first started writing online back over six years ago, I was under the impression that if you wrote well and had a good idea, that meant you were going to get readers. It’s a pretty standard idea to think: if you’re USA born like me, it ties a lot into the “be good and what you do and you’ll succeed.” And while this line of thinking does have truth to it (good work and hard work will get you far) it also contains a lot of bullshit.
Simply put, if you only post your grand story and let it sit, you’re gonna sink in a sea of other grand stories.
This is a little more true with original fiction than fanwork (original fiction is 10000000% worse) but it does apply to fanwork as well. Publishing one story, even if it’s amazing, knock your socks off awesome, doesn’t mean you’re going to rocket to the top of the charts on A03 overnight. You’ll get some comments and kudos, but overnight success? Nah.
So how do you work against that? Marketing. Putting yourself out there (which is admittedly terrifying). But once you start at it, it gets easier. So here are five things you need to know about marketing you own work that might prove useful for both getting yourself more readers, and being less hard on yourself when your story doesn’t get the response you were expecting.
1. Be your own hype squad.
I take this quote directly from the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (used on a segment about Obama, look it up). Long story short, the best person to boost your own work is you, especially when you’re starting out. Unlike more established writers, you’re not going to have a base of readers lined up to read your latest work. So you gotta get people interested to checking you out.
Now I understand, this is pretty daunting, mostly because the last thing you want to do is look vain. Shouting how great you are is pretty awkward for a good chunk of us, and can often feel inauthentic. And thankfully, you don’t have to do that (if you’re a fanworks author, if you’re writing original fiction this is a bit trickier)! What I mean by hype squad is just giving potential readers a heads up you’re putting something out there so they can keep their eyes peeled. Got a tumblr? Announce you’re putting a fic up this Friday. Got a fandom twitter? Same thing. If you’re working on a Tumblr platform, maybe even include a preview of what you’re going to be putting out, either a summary, or a small preview.
Yes, if you’re just getting started, this won’t do much. But the idea is to get in the habit. Once you’ve put out a few things, this method means your latest work is less likely to be missed because people know when to expect it.
Also, if you’re brand new, crosspost, crosspost, crosspost. One platform really limits your readership. Put it up on Tumblr, A03 and Fanfic, and link to all three in your Tumblr post. Make your work as accessible as possible. It means more eyes on what you’re publishing. Also make sure to link to your Tumblr if comfortable on your about page on any fic website so people know where they can keep up with what you’re working on.
Also, try to publish during high traffic times. In the evening is when people get off work, so try to aim for those times since many people will be on. Of course, this depends on where your audience lives, so be aware of that. You won’t be able to nail it cus of the various time zones across the world, but pick one you know people will be around for and use it. Watching traffic on your dash is a good way to figure it out.
2. Don’t compare.
Okay real talk: if you’re just starting out, no matter how good your work is, no matter how amazing your prose is, you’re only gonna get a fraction of the attention of an established fandom writer who published the same day.
This really sucks to figure out, but it’s a truth. The matter is, an established writer has more readers who know the quality of their work, than someone just starting out. It has nothing to do with how good your work it. Only the time the other author has been writing that established a reader base for them.
Which is why it is CRUCIAL to not compare yourself to those writers. To do so is being unfair to yourself, and your work. You aren’t a bad writer because you got less attention: you’re just a newer one. I know it’s hard to keep that in mind, especially if you have anxiety disorder like me, but please, know this to be true. You don’t suck because you don’t get as many hits as someone else. You’re just newer. Or you write in a niche.
What I mean by writing in a niche, is writing on a topic that is less popular throughout the fandom at large. For example, if you write a less popular ship. Or you write a less than common AU. Or you write a genre that isn’t for everyone (kidfic for example). Writing in a niche isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it produces a lot of super interesting work! But it does mean you’re working with a smaller potential audience than some other fanfic writers, since Bruce/Clark banging in Justice League tower is probably going to be something more people want click on than Bruce and Clark being perfectly good friends talking about how hard it is to be parents (the difference here is one has a ship and porn and the other is gen. Porn will always get more hits than gen. Accept it and your self confidence will improve leaps and bounds since you will know to stop comparing your work to it).
Now, just because niche fic is less likely to be read widely does not mean you shouldn’t write it. Write what you want! Be as niche as you want! Just know that your work might has a smaller pool of readers than a fic with the biggest ship in the fandom. Look at them as two different audiences. And don’t compare yourself to work that has a bigger potential audience pool than your own. It will save your self esteem. Trust me.
3. Talk to your readers.
From a marketing perspective there’s an easy reason to do this: it lets people know their feedback and comments are welcomed, and encourages them to look at your other work.
From a life perspective, however, you should do this because a good chunk of your readers will be fucking cool, and have all sorts of great ideas. You should talk to them because they’re interesting people, and you might make some friends out of it, which is super awesome. That’s part of the reason we write fanwork: to interact with the fandom at large.
So yeah. Try to reply to comments if you can. If you can’t, totally get it, everyone has different stuff going on, but if you can, think about doing so. You’ll meet cool people.
4. Work, work, work.
So, I’ve been spending most of this piece talking about being new and starting out vs being established but that leaves one question unanswered: how do you become established?
The answer is less complicated than you’d think: time and consistency.
Time as in the passage of time. When you first put something out it wouldn’t become popular overnight, but as time passes, it will grow. It might get recced somewhere. More people will see it. The longer you write for a fandom, the longer your piece is posted, the more hits and kudos it gets. Sure, the biggest jump usually will happen on the first day you post, but don’t discount the passage of time, especially if you write in a niche. Because people looking for niche work will go straight to yours if you tag it right as time passes.
Now consistency is tricky. Once again, everyone has different limitations, and a lot of people have jobs, so don’t think this means “publish every week ect” If you can, cool. If you can’t. Also cool. By this I just mean letting people know when to expect updates and informing them of delays. If you have something going on in your life, that’s totally fine, but if you can, just throw up a quick post saying you might not publish anything for awhile. Just so people know what to expect. Most people will be chill about it (some won’t, in which case, drop kick them, they’re terrible).
5. You do this for you.
Now this has nothing to do with marketing, but after this big post, let me stress again: hits and kudos are not an indicator of success. Writing can be success. Publishing can be success. Making a friend can be success. I know it’s super hard to keep in mind, and I know somedays it will feel like the pits, but at least try to keep it in mind, if only for your own well being. Don’t beat yourself up over factors you can’t control. Don’t measure your accomplishments on what factors you can’t control. Measure them on what you’re done and how far you’ve come. It’s hard to do, but trying is the first step.
Writing fan fic shouldn’t seem like a job. If you hate what you’re doing and it feels like a chore, walk away. Don’t stress yourself out if what you’re working on seems thankless. Do what’s best for you. And have fun.
Alright let’s weeb it out murrika style with some dark chocolate Nutella mochi
I used to not be about that microwave life, but after a few sessions with some modernist cuisine books involving microwaving in some super complex recipes, I’ve gained respect for the lil convenient mofo
This recipe is painfully easy and you’ll like insanely hardcore and awesome when you give these to people, they last like 2 days so if you make them you’ll feel justified devouring them in like 2 mins flat
Dark Chocolate Nutella Mochi
Servings: 10 mochi
- 3 cups water - 1 1/2 cups mochiko flour (sweet glutinous rice flour) - ½ cup hot cocoa powder - ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup plain cocoa powder - hella Nutella
🔹mix 2 cups water with the mochiko flour in a larger microwaveable bowl, cover and microwave for 5 mins
🔹after 5 mins, take bowl out and gradually mix all the remaining ingredients (except the Nutella) add the rest of the water until it looks like a weird lumpy brownie or cookie batter, wet but not like…toooooo wet u feel
🔹microwave for 5 more mins, then let sit for 5 mins in a fridge to cool down a teeny bit.
🔹Shits gonna get real messy now. Take the bowl with ur mess of what, as a dear friend of mine remarked, looks like elephant shit, and take a solid spoonful out
🔹flour your hands with some mochiko and pat the hella hot dough into a disk that’s slightly larger than your palm, add a lil dollop of Nutella, and then close the disk like a pouch, pinching it until it’s hella closed. Roll it in some more mochiko, dust it off and then let it sit for like 5 mins. Repeat until you’re done with all the dough, and then proceed to eat everything until you hate urself
AND THATS THAT GUYS ENJOY YOUR EASY AS BALLS MOCHI RECIPE
Usually I’m all about that tough shit, like I just made this weird smoky foie gras chocolate cookies yesterday but like tbh sometimes you just gotta make some easy convenient shit while you read fed up Internet stories to your buddy u kno
SO ENJOY, YA LIL FUCKNUGGETS, ENJOY AND REJOICE
The signs and their qualities based off of people I know
compassionate, selfless, can be shy and quiet at first but then can become your best friend
stubborn, but has a huge heart. They come off as introverted but when you get to know them they are very social people.
super outgoing, easy to make friends with. Sometimes they talk too much but they are also really good listeners. They're passionate about what they do.
THE CUTEST SIGN. They look out for everyone. They're like the mama bears of your friend group. They're selfless and overall awesome people. Definitely emotional people.
Superrrrrr attractive like holy crap. Leo's are humble, but reallyyyyy good at what they do. They put 100% into everything. Make awesome friends. Everyone needs a Leo in their life tbh.
the awkward one, but super awesome friends when you get to know them. They come off as shy but become more talkative when you get to know them. Definitely weirdos, but lovable weirdos.
literally the sweetest omg. They're also like the mama bears of their friend group. They're super lovable and easy to get along with. They are talkative, but are never annoying about it.
at first they come off as weird or scary but they are literally sweethearts. They can come off as stand-off-ish but if you get to know them well enough they are very out going and can be friends with anyone.
THE BEST SIGN YOU CAN ALL GO HOME BECAUSE THEY WIN.
your first impression of them might be the same as Scorpio's, and you also may think they're emos, but literally Capricorns make the bestest friends ever. They're great listeners and the most selfless people you'll meet. But you have to get them to like you first, because they hate literally everyone.
they are one of the most selfless signs, and super easy to be friends with. They usually have a great sense of humor and can make your bad day way better. They are very unique people and have the best conversations.
they're definitely likable when they're not annoying. They're super outgoing and can be very perverted people.
Head cannon for Bobby, who interviewed for a position with Leverage inc finding out about Hardison/Parker/Eliot OT3?
I suspect it would take Bobby like two and a half minutes, in the company of all three of them, to work out that they were an item, but I don’t think he gets the chance to figure it out on his own because Parker is SUPER PROUD of her boyfriends and how she has TWO BOYFRIENDS, which is clearly way superior to just having one. So while he’s in training with Parker (pocket and lock picking, basic grifting, lots of falling off buildings, etc) she’s just constantly talking about them. Not in a creepy way, just, making it super clear that they are her boyfriends and that’s awesome.
So once he actually passes Parker’s Crash Course In Crime, which he absolutely loved but only got a 3.2 GPA in (it’s easy to enjoy the idea of picking pockets, harder to actually do it), she brought him back to the gastropub and Eliot and Hardison saw him and were like “Parker said a lot, huh.”
Bobby’s never really been exposed to much real life polyamory, or even much theoretical polyamory, so he’s not really sure how to deal with it on a day to day basis. But baffled acceptance has gotten him this far, and eventually he gets used to it.
Parker keeps trying to set him up with nice couples she thinks could be good for him, until finally he has to explain to her that while he’s flattered he’s really only capable of handling one romantic partner at a time. At which point it’s Parker’s turn to practice baffled acceptance. :D
Hi, I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm currently having a stab at nanowrimo and I need some advice about writing real people. Because I want to see more characters like myself, my protagonist is supposed to be A-gender, but using They/Them seems.... clunky? (I feel guilty thinking that.) Do you have any suggestions on how to write a non-binary character from a 3rd person standpoint? Thank you, you're awesome!
I actually love having they/them as a pronoun option in fiction, because paragraphs that are two girls talking, or two guys talking, or whatever require a lot of “Mark said/Paul said,” and so having a third set of pronouns to bring to the party is a real relief. I just finished a book where the main characters were female, male, and genderfluid, respectively, and it was a delight to be able to trust the pronouns to ground people in which character was speaking.
There is no need to feel guilty for thinking something you’ve been told is true for your whole life. We are all trained by the world around us. If you’re making an earnest, honest effort to improve, you are already doing everything that can be asked of you. Just asking this question makes you awesome. Gold star you.
I haven’t written non-binary in third person yet, except for one minor character in “Velveteen vs.”, but I found that none of my readers had an issue with they/them as a pronoun set. I’d say just roll with it, and you’ll get where you need to be.
I am super proud of you for doing this. It is not an easy thing to do, writing a book, and just trying is an accomplishment.