Gone are the days of distributing your fanfiction via printed fanzines, mailing lists, or Geocities pages. Today, we have modern conveniences such as archive sites, and if you’re not old enough to remember the uphill-both-ways-in-the-snow times, consider yourself lucky.
This article is going to cover the pros and cons of three major archives: FanFiction.net, Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad. Whether you’re just getting into fanfic for the first time or you’re an older fan looking for somewhere to archive your backlist, we’re going to find the right archive for all your fanfic needs.
Affectionately known as FF.net, this is the old dame of the bunch. Founded as early as 1998, the primordial soup era of the internet as we know it, the site has been around for aeons in internet time. The design has barely changed since I was in high school, and we won’t talk about how long that’s been.
- FF.net is the oldest archive and with age comes sheer size. Also, if you’re looking for older works—especially from more obscure fandoms—this is where you’ll most likely find them.
- FF.net has some unique features such as community forums, a solid private messaging system, and the ability to seek out a beta for your work if you’re having trouble finding one. These features make it easier to make friends in fandom—an increasingly difficult thing to do after the popularity of LiveJournal waned.
- The layout may not have changed much in almost twenty years, but it’s clean and readable, the font size is readily adjustable, and because there’s minimal graphics or fancy formatting, it’s mobile friendly. You can get your fanfic fix on the go!
- The filtering system is surprisingly good, allowing you to choose what kind of fics you do and do not want to see. Don’t like character X? Put them in the “without” part of the filter. As long as they were tagged by the writer, those fics won’t show up!
- Uploading a story is strange, and formatting can easily become a mess whether you choose to upload a word document or copy and paste.
- The rating system needs a guide of its own—it can be found in the guidelines, but it’s not remotely intuitive and that alone leads to a lot of miscategorized works.
- Unlike Ao3, FF.net will remove works from the archive which are based on the work of authors who have expressed distaste for fanfiction. Obviously, it’s their right to do that, but from my perspective, this is a weak solution to a big, important intellectual property question.
- They also ban second-person (you) perspective, among other styles of fic, which seems more like a bizarre value judgement than anything that might improve the functionality of the site.
- Also, if you’re bursting to post your latest masterpiece and you don’t already have an FF.net account, you’re subject to a 12-hour new account waiting period before you’ll be allowed to post.
- As nothing above an M rating can be posted to FF.net, you’re unlikely to run across sexually explicit material there. If you’re not into that and you don’t want to accidentally wander into it, this is a good thing! If you are, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Archive of Our Own
Archive of Our Own (Ao3) is a fan-built non-profit archive for transformative works. I have to admit I’m biased here—I’ve volunteered for the Organization for Transformative Works, Ao3’s parent organization, in the past because I genuinely believe in what they’re doing. I’d encourage others to do the same if you’ve got a little free time and transformative works (i.e., fanfiction and other fanworks) are important to you! But let’s get into Ao3’s functionality as an archive.
- Beautiful, clean interface for reading and writing.
- Fan-centric values—Ao3 is a by us, for us, non-commercial venture.
- Non-commercial also means no ads!
- The tagging system is robust and easy to use and allows for a lot of nuance, variation, and searchability that’s very well designed.
- Allows authors to “orphan” work if they want it to stay up and be read but without their name attached to it.
- Though it’s a younger archive, it is growing rapidly despite still technically being in beta. Adding a new fandom is as simple as creating a work in it which is easier than FF.net’s moderated system.
- Ao3 allows for multiple pen names under one account, in case you want to keep your cute MLP adventures well away from your Mass Effect interspecies smut.
- It has a built-in, easy-to-understand warning system (though you may choose not to warn and your fics will be marked as such).
- As a bonus, any kind of fanwork (fanart, meta, videos etc.) can be posted to Ao3. It’s really designed for text right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never add support for other formats!
- You can download fics for offline reading in a variety of formats with the click of a button!
- Dear fluffy kittens, the invite queue! At the time of writing, the queue is a little over 3,500 people long, and the archive sends out 1,000 invites a day, so that’s a three or four day wait if you put your hand up for an invite now. This is good for site stability, but if you want to start posting right away, you are, again, out of luck. (You can get an invite sooner if you have a friend who already has an account, so ask around your fandom for one first if you’re in a hurry).
- It’s in beta which means things could easily change in ways you don’t like.
- Occasionally, site features go down and stay down for days. Sometimes they don’t come back the way they used to work. Stuff breaks or is broken. Again, it’s in beta.
- It’s hard to argue with Ao3 as a good choice; it’s by far the most fan-friendly archive, and the Organization for Transformative Works is actively involved in protecting the rights of fans.
Wattpad is a relative newcomer to the archive scene. It’s unique among the archives mentioned here in that it is not exclusively for fanfiction. I want you to know that while I was poking around the site for this article, I came across an image of Dean Winchester’s head photoshopped onto Nicki Minaj’s body (NSFW, possibly NSFL), so I fully recommend checking it out.
- The general site layout is set up a little like an ebook store which makes for fun browsing.
- Wattpad has a specific feature which allows you to upload your own cover, and it displays attractively.
- The info page for the fic is separate to the text of the fic, allowing for more freedom in the blurb and other information without interrupting the text of the story.
- There are some great community features like clubs, writing contests, and challenges.
- There is a chance of having your work featured on the category front page!
- If you also write original fiction or you’re interested in doing so, Wattpad allows you to keep all your stories under one identity, thereby potentially introducing your fanfiction audience to your other work.
- It gives you the ability to post messages to your followers on your profile—handy if you’re going on hiatus, for example.
- The story posting interface is pretty straightforward and intuitive.
- There’s a mobile app for reading on-the-go!
- You have to have an account to read posted stories. Accounts are free and you can sign up with Facebook, but this isn’t ideal for everyone, and honestly, it’s annoying and unnecessary.
- In addition, the process to sign up for a new account takes you away from the story you wanted to read and requires a lot of, again, unnecessary information.
- Seriously, I did not need to add three stories to my library without knowing anything about them but what the cover looks like, Wattpad!
- Ratings are mature/not mature which isn’t the most nuanced system, and the rating can be changed from not mature to mature by popular vote, leaving room for trolling.
- The search system is extremely basic, and there’s no way to categorize work by certain fandoms. There are tags, but they’re hit and miss.
- You can’t really filter works by anything other than complete or not complete, so if you’re looking for a specific kind of fic, you’re going to have a hard time finding it.
- Wattpad is a nicely designed storytelling platform, but it’s very obviously not designed for fanfiction. There’s no reason you can’t post it there, but your work is unlikely to be discovered through the site unless it’s featured or you link to it. The other issue is that even if you do link to it, anyone who wants to read it has to have an account which immediately limits your number of readers.
- Point is, Wattpad is very pretty but only barely fit for fandom-specific purposes.
This concludes our whirlwind tour of popular multi-fandom archives. There’s obviously no reason you can’t crosspost between two or even all three of these platforms. If you want to reach the maximum possible audience and don’t mind the extra work, that’s exactly what you should do. This is also a good way to curb cross-platform plagiarism which has come up a few times in the past.
If you were going to pick just one, my personal recommendation would be Ao3, for ease of use and fan-friendliness. I’ve called it home since shortly after it was founded, and I don’t intend to move any time soon. The others are definitely worth checking out, though. Perhaps you’re a traditionalist who wants to stick to the simple-but-effective interface on FF.net. Perhaps you like the added privacy of requiring people to sign in to read your stuff on Wattpad. Maybe you will choose all three, because you’re less lazy than I am.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that it’s fun and safe for you. Let me know in the comments which archive(s) you use, and why!