LONG POST ALERT
Ever since joining AO3 and Tumblr, I’ve noticed some very interesting things regarding kudos, comments, likes, reblogs, reviews, and what have you. Collectively, let’s call it feedback.
The thing I’ve noticed is that there are great writers on here and on AO3 who are regularly screaming into the void, absolutely trying their hardest to will readers to give them feedback (read validation). Feedback is truly the best way to connect with both readers and writers, and feedback can be in the form of constructive critiques, aimless rambling about things one liked, or even flailing over the work when it really strikes one’s fancy.
So, you want feedback, eh? Below are three things you can do in order of “least likely” to “most likely” in terms of yielding results.
1. Put your stuff out there and wait. Patiently.
The first and laziest way is to simply post your work and not say a damn thing to anyone. But seriously, don’t hold your breath for feedback, because you may be waiting a long ass time (I added that “patiently” bit for a reason). Does this strategy always work? Rarely. It’s essentially the equivalent of handing your work to your cat, to which he or she looks at you with a scornful expression that says, “Ugh, this isn’t wet food, human.”
The thing I’ve discovered in this knit of writer-readers is that they love to lurk and scope out the quality of other people’s work, whether for self-validation that their work doesn’t suck in comparison to other work, or to figure out just how badly they do suck (spoiler alert, you don’t). There are a few people who will provide some sort of feedback without prompting–and I’ve also noticed that these people are usually not writer-readers, just readers (sometimes anonymous) who greatly enjoy fanfic and are happy to provide feedback.
However, there’s a curious phenomenon that goes along with writer-readers when it comes to lurking. They often consume other people’s work, but if they are intimidated, they won’t leave feedback. If they think the work isn’t on their level, they won’t leave feedback. It often stems from the writer-reader being on a spectrum that ranges from crippling insecurity to grandiose self-absorbedness (I know that’s not really a word). But listen, all writers are both painfully insecure and secretly think their stuff is the shit. That’s just the way it is. So, posting your work and crossing your fingers will not always guarantee your response expectations.
2. Simply ask for feedback.
This sounds super easy (because it is) and also sort of like begging (it’s not). You can literally say directly to someone, “Hey, here’s my work. I would greatly appreciate feedback.” OR, preface or endnote your work with, “Feedback is greatly appreciated and encouraged! Thank you!”
Does this always work? Not always, but it will get you more feedback than dropping your work out there and expecting it to get tons of response. Some writers think that if one of their works exploded across their fandom and they had a TON of feedback on it that they’re guaranteed (and sometimes too self-indulgently expecting a glorious rainfall of praise) to receive feedback on brand new stuff. It doesn’t always work like that for a myriad of reasons.
(And if you receive comments after begging for a reblog or asking for validation, FUCKING RESPOND TO THEM. It’s just the polite thing to do. Seriously. If you ask for someone to use their time to read your work and leave feedback, RESPOND TO THEM. No one is “too good” to just not be polite. *jumps back down from my soapbox*)
But the most important thing about this is to, for lack of a better phrase, “read the room.” If you ask someone to read a fanfic that’s not in their area of interest, you’re less likely to receive feedback from them. Check out what they like by scoping out the focus of their own fanfics, what they bookmark or reblog, and the things of which they tend to post. The chances of them actually reading your work and leaving feedback–or even better, giving it a recommendation–is always higher if you play to your intended audience.
Which leads me to the most difficult action, but the one most guaranteed to give you results:
3. LEAVE FEEDBACK
The BEST way to receive feedback is to give feedback.
The cool thing about being a writer-reader is that you can both give and receive feedback. If you admire the crap out of a writer or their work and you would love a response to yours in return, leave feedback. Hell, you can even ask them to read yours, too. It becomes sort of a symbiotic experience with your peers: read something you like, provide feedback, ask them to check out your work, receive feedback. Easy peasy, squeeze the lemon. Does this always work? Nope. But it’s a strategy that’s a hell of a lot better than the others.
Some writers may not even know your work exists–but as soon as you give them feedback, it puts you on their map. I always check out someone who takes time out of their day to leave me a lovely comment or do me a sweet reblog. And I’ll almost always read their work and give them feedback, too. (Sometimes I will creep for longer than I should before giving feedback-sorry, I’m trying to be better.) The only time I don’t is when the subject of their fanfics is something I know nothing about or it simply doesn’t pique my interest–like a fandom that I’m not a part of, a pairing that I don’t care for, etc.
So, unfortunately the flip side of that is when you DO leave feedback and the writer doesn’t give feedback in return. That’s okay. It really does suck when a writer is one-sided about receiving feedback and doesn’t provide feedback after you’ve given it to them–but it DOES NOT mean that your writing or subject sucks. Just keep your chin up, keep writing, and leave feedback on other works that are similar to your own and ask that they give you feedback.
Is this the be-all, end-all way to get your works read? Nope. But it’s a start for those who are struggling and desperately yearning to engage with their reader-base.
TL;DR: Give feedback if you want feedback in return.