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.
THE SUCCESS OF THE U.S.-FRANCE STATE DINNER IS IN JEOPARDY WHEN A CIA OPERATIVE IS CAPTURED BY FRENCH INTELLIGENCE, ON “MADAM SECRETARY,” SUNDAY, NOV. 6
“The French Revolution” – When an imminent U.S.-France state dinner is jeopardized after a CIA operative is captured by French intelligence, Elizabeth must negotiate the operative’s release while keeping the event on track. Also, Russell tries to woo back big donors to Dalton’s campaign, and the McCords get an important lead in their family’s stalking case, on MADAM SECRETARY, Sunday, Nov. 6 (9:30-10:30 PM, ET/9:00-10:00 PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Back in May, we shared a bit about SisterReach’s efforts to counter the racist, disingenuous, anti-woman attacks erected in the form of billboards in poor, Black neighborhoods around Memphis by Pro-Life Across America. After a successful press conference, call-in, social media campaign, and the support of allies, we’ve been able to secure billboards around the city with our own positive, pro-woman, pro-Black family, pro-reproductive health messaging.
Today (and forever) we ask that all those who love and TRUST BLACK WOMEN take to social media and make this proclamation. We have to re-create our own narrative and refute the shaming of Black women and Black women’s choices.
Find us across social media platforms @SisterReach #TrustBlackWomen #SupportNotShame