The big thing I miss [about writing fanfic] is the feedback and interaction with that feedback. Yes when you write pro you get long detailed reviews, which you’re told not to read. There is amazon which you’re not supposed to reply to. It seems like Goodreads blows up at least once a month when an author responds to a review. I know to ignore the haters but there is this idea going around that you shouldn’t respond to the good reviews either.
I’ve realized it’s a matter of space and audience. Reviews are readers talking to other readers, not the author. Goodreads groups are again places for readers to talk to each other. Even if people are saying nice things about my book it feels like I’m listening in on a private conversation.
-Ada Soto on going pro.
One day I’m going to write one of those listicles about The Five Things Writing Fanfic Didn’t Prepare Me For In the Profic World. They’re all going to be things like this.
Because, yeah. This was one of the most jarring transitions I had, too. Back In The Day I was an MNF; not one of the cool kids, but “known’ enough that my fics would be in the first couple of pages of results on AO3. If I posted a new fic or chapter, I could expect comments and kudos to start coming in within the hour. People would make podfic of my stuff, write spin-offs and giftfics, do translations into other languages. All that sort of stuff. It was nice and, notably, it was immediate.
It also, I think, made me a much better–and much more prolific–writer. And the stakes were pretty low; if I tried something on, and it didn’t work… eh. It’s not like people were paying for it.
I had this perception that somehow the profic world would be… like that but moreso? Or something? So it was kind of confronting to realise that actually, no. No, it’s not like that at all. Profic writing–particularly in the midlist–is incredibly lonely. It’s long stretches of nothing punctuated by a week of panic and frenzy come release time, then a month of agonising over pretending not to read reviews. It’s this enforced wall of professional distance between yourself and your audience, no matter how much either side might year to leap that chasm.
It’s also, ironically, much more difficult to “make it” in the profic world–and yes, I’m talking about even after you’ve done the agent/publisher hurdle–than it is writing fanfic.
Quick quiz: How many book sales do you think it takes to make something like the NYT Bestseller list? 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?
Well, no. It’s actually closer to 3,000-6,000 sales over a single week’s period. I want you to think about that in the context of how many hits a fic from a popular fandom author can get within the same time period. You want to know why p2p and transitioning BNFs have been The Hot Shit in the professional publishing world in the past? Well, there you go. Similarly, if you want to know why some of those attempts have flunked dramatically, then there you also go; the structure of how profic is produced, marketed, sold, and received is fundamentally different that how things work in fandom. That means the same strategies don’t necessarily work across the two (and, if they do work, it’s usually not more than once, where those “onces” have already been tapped out).
This, incidentally, is also why I killed my fandom identity when I first signed with my agent. I knew I’d have to make a transition from writing-for-fun and writing-for-money, and that was how I chose to do it. Some profic authors can jump between their pro writing on the one hand and their fannish identity on the other. I knew that couldn’t be me. I’m too much of a procrastinator, and fandom was too “fun” compared to profic writing, which is for all it’s a lifelong dream, is still, yanno, work.
(There’s also the whole thing about how “reads like a fanfic” is still used to denigrate the works of, almost exclusively, female authors, including by people within fandom. I have Massive Feels on that subject, which I will reserve for another time.)
Anyway, point being, there are a lot of steep learning cliffs to jump off in the transition from fanfic writing to profic. Pretty much none of them are what people expect…