Hi and welcome to: how to promote your fanfic online!
This guide will feature a quick 101 on how to tag your ao3 fanfic with a view to attracting more readers, and then promoting that fanfic online to social media sites such as tumblr and twitter.
These guides are by no means a rulebook, I’m doing this purely to help out a community by sharing tips that have worked for me.
As a general tip when promoting anything, it’s important to remember this: if you have a product (your fic) that you want to entice people to read then you need to make it look presentable.
For example, if you browsed a book market looking at all the stalls, what would catch your eye? Would it be the blank table with blank book covers that tell you little to nothing? With nobody sitting at the stall? (Probably not!)
Or would it be the table that has colourful book jackets with lots of info/keywords, blurbs, cover images and other promotional items, and a vendor saying hi to welcome you in?
That’s just a handy metaphor you can recall when you think about promoting your fic.
Want to know more? Let’s get started.
First, if you’re posting your fanfic to ao3 it’s good to label (tag) your work appropriately. There’s multiple reasons for doing this. Imagine if you’re browsing for products but none of them have labels/info, or very little info that doesn’t tell you much about the product. Not everyone wants to take a gamble on Mystery Products, but if you give more info to the potential reader about the product they can make an informed choice if they want to read or not.
Secondly nearly all all of the ao3 tags and ratings are searchable. That means the audience searches for what they want and they can come directly to you.
The more you tag, the more readers can find you.
If you wrote a coffee shop au with pumpkin spice coffee in it, I’d recommend tagging those keywords because no doubt there are readers who would search for the same thing. And by tagging it, they can find you!
Now, let’s break down the important bits on ao3:
On ao3 it’s: General, Teen and up, Mature, and Explicit.
Ratings really help readers decide if a fic is what they want to read. Some readers only read specific ratings, and it’s a helpful indicator about what sort of story they’re getting into.
If you need help picking the appropriate rating for your fic, check out that tiny question point on the ao3 edit page. It’ll give you a breakdown of each rating.
Now this is important too but a lot of writers will simply click on the ‘creator chose not to use archive warnings’ option; all that tells a reader is that this fic MAY CONTAIN rape/non con, underage, major character death, or very graphic violence.
It’s a shame, imo, when many fics that don’t feature any of those archive warnings are still marked as ‘creator chose not to use archive warnings’, because it can put some readers off reading the work (me included).
Obvs you can tag as you wish, it’s your fic. But if you want to reach a wider audience, consider tagging your fic with a little more consideration for the reader.
If none of the archive warnings (rape/non con, underage, MCD, graphic violence) apply, then select ‘no archive warnings apply’.
Again, see the small question point on ao3 for a breakdown of those warnings.
With regards to violence, if it isn’t that graphic you could still tag ‘no archive warnings apply’ and later use additional tags (more on that later) for ‘canon typical violence’ (depending on your canon/age rating), or ‘brief violence’, etc.
This is whether a fic is f/f, m/m, m/f, multi, Gen or other.
It’s a useful guide to readers for what theme the fic has, so try to use the appropriate option. If there’s more than one option, tick all that apply.
Just type in whatever media your fandom is, e.g. a movie name or a book name, and the fields should auto fill (unless it’s a brand new fandom). Some fandoms have multiple forms of media, some don’t. It’s really up to you what you put in but it’s good to try reflect the tone of the fic as best you can. If your fic is based on a movie, tag the movie.
Try to tag the main relationships only, e.g. the relationship(s) that feature as part of the plot/have a lot of speaking parts or focus.
As all these tags are searchable, one quibble that readers have is when searching for fics of their fave pairing they find it tagged in fics but upon reading the fic that relationship is barely featured. So consider that when tagging, and tag main relationship(s) only.
Remember you can add extra tags into Additional Tags, such as background characters/relationships.
Same as above.
These babies are important. They’re often the most searchable tags used by readers. These tags are like the big glowing neon signs that readers use to signpost their way to fics.
Want more readers to come to you? Tag your work.
I tag like this: the bigger elements of the story goes first, e.g. setting and plot theme. Then elements of the characters, esp if it’s an au. (Tag whether it’s an au or a canon/canon divergent setting.)
Then tag everything that could be interesting/informative to a potential reader. Tip: type in keywords and the fields will auto fill with suggestions for the most commonly used tags.
Lastly you can tag for themes and mood of the story too, like fluff or darkfic etc. Get a few good keywords in there so that readers can glance at tags, like glancing at a book blurb, and see if they want to read it or not.
Also they use these tags to search for fics. Use this free and easy promotional tool!
And that’s the foundations all done!
If your work is posted to ao3 and is tagged well, you’ve already done all the hard parts!
A note on fic summaries (aka a book blurb, that little summary on the back of book jackets):
Keep it short and simple. Use a hook to entice a reader to read more.
If you don’t know how to summarise your story, think of it like an elevator pitch, or how you’d quickly describe the premise to a friend. Keep it brief and simple but interesting!
Take a look at books and movies, see how they write their blurb/summary, and you can copy their format. You’ll notice most of them are short and to the point.
Or, use a quote you like from the fic. A paragraph or two will do!
So, now you posted the fic on ao3. What next?
This guide will focus on social media sites tumblr and twitter. There are other platforms where fandom is and you can use these same tips for those platforms too, if you wish.
The easiest way to promote your fic on tumblr is to check if your ship/character has an ao3 feed account.
Ao3 feed tumblrs are set up by awesome people so that when fics are posted to ao3, they’re automatically listed on the tumblr feed.
Do a search on tumblr like this to see what pops up: ao3 feed (+character name).
If you find a tumblr account for your character/ship, great! Go search their blog for your writer name, and see if the feed has listed your fic. (They almost always do unless there’s a glitch.)
When you find your fic on the feed, reblog it. Congratulations on promoting your fic!
Next step, or if you can’t find an ao3 feed account: make your own post!
Have a look at the format those ao3 feed tumblrs use. You can copy this format, but I recommend simplifying a bit. Get the important info in, and make sure to use tumblr’s link post, not a text post. Tumblr got all iffy about external links in posts last year post NSFW ban. So use a tumblr link post if you include an external link (to ao3).
Also good to remember that you can’t really post NSFW pictures to tumblr anymore.
Speaking of pictures, they’re really great at helping you promote a fic!
A picture is worth a thousand words as they say. If you wanted to steer clear of copyright, check out websites such as Pixabay or Pexels that offer copyright free photos to use.
Then you can choose a picture to go with your post as a header, or you can choose multiple pics and create a moodboard. (If you don’t know how to make a moodboard, head on over to Google play and download free collage maker apps, or use Instagram photo collage. They’re all free and relatively simple to cobble together an edit or title banner. It takes some practise but it’s an option!
Here is one I made in about a minute, lol.
You do what works for you, though!
Now you have your post, however you choose to make it, you’re ready to go!
Blog your post, tag it (although tumblr is a bit crap with its tags these days) and reblog it a couple times in your queue.
The reason you need to reblog multiple times is: not everyone is online at the same time, and everyone forgets to check stuff out so. Reblog more than once! There’s no shame in promoting yourself.
If you don’t believe me, go check out your fave authors/actors/artists on their social media and count how many plugs (aka promotional posts) they make.
Much the same as tumblr though the posts (tweets) are shorter.
You can post pictures (up to 4 on one tweet) or one picture. You can also post external links. Tip: if you post your tumblr post to twitter and it has a picture edit, it shows up as a preview on the tweet. Plus it shows followers you also have a tumblr if they want to follow you there.
You can simply post the direct link to your fic on ao3 if you wish. Doing this, you can still add a photo to the tweet!
Also: try to include some key words in your tweet as they are your searchable tags. (It’s not necessary to #hashtag key words as Twitter search is pretty good, but for smaller, lesser known names/ships/rarepairs or hashtags then definitely use the hashtag to guarantee you show up in the search!)
You should be doing a small summary in this tweet too; many people won’t click on a link without info about what it is! Write something simple like: I wrote a new #(ship name) fic and it has happy (character name) meeting a disgruntled (character name) in a coffee shop au!
Link, (picture if desired), send tweet.
Now your tweet is posted, don’t rely on one tweet to do all the work!
More things you can do: retweet your tweet at a different time (useful for followers in diff TZ) and later you can copy link to original tweet and post it in a new tweet (this is like a 2nd retweet!) and write ‘I wrote #(ship name) fic!’
Remember twitter moves fast and people all lead busy lives. They might not always see your posts (see also: non linear timelines annoying all users) but that doesn’t stop you from promoting yourself! That’s what Twitter is for.
Tip on building a social media following:
Social media platforms are a great way to meet other fans. I recommend following other accounts/people with similar interests you have. You can also strike up a conversation by replying to their posts, supporting their work and making friends! That way, by hopefully gaining followers too, when you do post your fanfic, they can see it and check it out.
Final tip: link your social media sites in your ao3 fics (at the end in author’s notes is fine) so fans can find you. Especially if your handles (name) aren’t the same!
And that’s it!
If there’s anything I didn’t cover but you’d like to know about, feel free to ask me.
I haven’t put external links into this post (see tumblr being crap) but if you want to read my twitter 101 fandom edition guide, please search my blog for ‘Twitter guide’.
As a parting note, fandom is supposed to be FUN.
If you’re not enjoying doing something, then don’t do it. If you tried out doing promo but you hate it, don’t worry and don’t force yourself.
But if you want to try promo out, why not give it a go? You might even enjoy it!
Just take it at your own pace!
Also, if anyone is rude/weird/mean to you on any social media, just block/mute/ignore them.
Please also adjust your dash settings as needed to curate your own online experience, and in turn please be mindful about posting NSFW or potentially upsetting or adult topics.
If you do post NSFW or upsetting topics, you can add keyword hashtags to your tweet, so followers can mute that keyword (similar to tumblr filtered words).
It’s nice to be considerate!
Thanks for reading, you can find me on tumblr/twitter @jro616