An open letter to fanfic readers


Do not leave criticism in fanfic comments. Even if it’s constructive. Even if you’re “just being honest.” This is not traditional publishing, and you should not treat fic in the same way you treat traditionally published works. AO3 comments are not Amazon reviews.

If you want to offer the author criticism, please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the author to see if they even want your criticism (their vision and intention might be different than yours; this isn’t for-profit publishing, so there’s a chance the author has no desire to make their fic anything than what THEY want it to be. Moreover, unless you’re some kind of literary genius, it’s possible that they might not give a fuck about your opinion)
  2. If they do, provide it in a private forum so that they have the opportunity to accept or reject your criticism outside the public grounds of AO3 comments (what I mean is: CRITICISM IN COMMENTS IS FUCKING HUMILIATING)
  3. Do not be offended if they don’t accept your criticism
  4. Thank them for their time and for listening to you speak your peace

Some additional notes:

  • Do not leave negative criticism/hate/wank on a WIP (or, see above: ever). Some people are enjoying the story and negativity might (will) make the author fall out of love with what they’re writing such that they don’t want to finish it. Also, you owe it to the author, who is writing FOR FREE, to hear them out to the end of their story in case they end up fixing what you were criticising. 
  • Do not leave a comment telling the author why you stopped reading the fic. The author isn’t going to fix it and it’s just going to make them sad and feel shitty. Seriously, these types of comments are everywhere and they help NO ONE.
  • If you read something in a fic you don’t like, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP READING IT. Please don’t let yourself believe that the way you see fic is the way fic ought to be. Everyone likes different things. It’s okay to exit silently. It’s the polite thing to do. 
  • Do not point out OOC. Ever. Period. End of story. Interpretation is the entire point of fanfic. If you don’t like someone’s interpretation, DO NOT READ IT. You’re not the IC Police.
  • Avoid backhanded compliments. Please don’t start a comment with, “To be honest I hated this at first, but…” or anything similar. If there is an insult in your comment that is turned positive somehow, it is still an insult, and it is still hurtful.

Please please please, I am begging you, readers of fanfic, to take into consideration that fanfic authors are not celebrities, even if you think they’re super popular and amazing writers and you get hearts in your eyes when they acknowledge you. If you cut them, they will bleed. If you talk to them, they will listen. If you tell them they suck, they will believe you.

Be kind to fanfic authors. They do what they do because they love to do it. Don’t take that away from them by leaving tactless or rude comments.

I agree with a lot of this, and this is what I do when I’m a reader.

And I’ve gotta say, the parts I don’t TOTALLY agree with are more tweaks to the original idea, not necessarily flat out “nope.”  And it’s a personal thing.  The main one is avoiding backhanded compliments/”to be honest I hated this at first, but…”

I delete flames.  I don’t want to see them every time I look in my comment section, I don’t want my readers to feel awkward or start a war with them, so I just quickly delete them.  However, I’ve left all the comments of “I didn’t like this at first, but…” because I find it flattering.  Not everybody does, but I do.

The ones I’m talking about were readers who didn’t leave ANY comments when they weren’t really liking it, just politely staying quiet, but then when they did start to like it, they said this “backhanded compliment” thing, then told me WHY they started liking it and how much they really would love to read more if/when I post another chapter.

That is flattering to me.  I was a little confused at first because I wondered why the hell anyone would continue reading something that upset them, but when I remembered humans are inquisitive by nature and can be stubborn, then I came to terms with it.

I can’t say as I’ll be putting “please criticize me” comments in my notes, but private discussion of my fics is always welcome.  If it’s just to insult me, no.  If it’s constructive and more of a discussion, yes.

Otherwise everything bettydays wrote?  It’s pretty much how I handle commenting when I’m a reader myself.  And now that I know other people don’t find the “I didn’t like it at first, but…” comments, I’ll make sure never to do that.