I am a fangirl. I am proud of that, and also of my fanfic so I’ve made a conscious decision not to hide that part of my life, as so many pro authors feel they need to do (you can find me on the AO3 orDreamwidth). I suppose it might bite me on the ass at some point, but I’d rather take that hit than live in constant fear of being “outed.”
What I really value about fandom, though, is what it has taught me about marketing in the digital era. There is a lot of talk about this, and some great blogs (Kristen Lamb‘s is particularly awesome) featuring very good advice. As “publishing” morphs from a print-only endeavor to one that has a strong digital component such as ebooks, people are getting freaked out about how to market their work because the old models (print ads in newspapers, book tours, etc.) just are not as effective as they used to be, especially not for writers like me, who publish exclusively digital content.
But I’m not fazed. What I know, I learned the hard way. What I know, I learned from fandom:
- Becoming a popular fanfic author requires two things: writing a lot, and writing it well.
- Staying a popular fanfic author requires one thing: community investment.
- Your true fans are few, but will follow you into any fandom and will pimp you harder than you can ever pimp yourself. Treasure them.
- There will always be someone who hates what you write, is squicked by it, and/or thinks it is shallow/stupid/lame. Ignore them; instead, write for the people who share your joy.
- You will never accurately predict the popularity of a story (some of my most popular stories are the ones I assumed would get me tossed out of fandom on my ear).
- Being a prima donna BNF might feed your ego, but it won’t feed the love, and will eventually break the fandom if carried too far…then where will you be?
- Don’t get involved in the wank. If you are dragged into it, bow out quickly and politely.
- Finally: fans are doing you a favor by reading your work, not the other way around. Forget that to your peril.
All of that ports over seamlessly to being a writer of original fiction. I think that fandom, in its own way, is a great training ground for authors. True, it doesn’t teach you everything, but if all you get out of it are the ground rules above, then I don’t think you can go wrong.