Saturday, September 14, 2013

A New Kid on the Block: Fan Fiction Writers' Newest Platform Poses Questions

I noted a sudden spike in my timeline of fan fiction writers discussing and moving to a relatively unknown fan fiction publishing platform. Naturally I had to take a look to see what the fuss was about; after taking a look around, I have more questions than answers.

In the last year we’ve seen new efforts to capitalize on fan fiction’s popularity;, which appears to have been started this spring and opened this summer, is one of the newest.

The site's home page is very spare, stripped down as if it was built from a free template in a matter of an hour. I didn’t register, though; perhaps there’s more backend, but the homepage is incredibly lean.

And then I noticed this next to the logo: it’s a beta. This is NOT a full production site. Why would fan fiction authors get excited about a relatively untried beta platform?

Many fan fiction writers migrated to Archive Of Our Own (AO3) last summer, when the mac daddy of fan fiction publishing platforms, (FFn), started yanking down thousands of published stories for violations of terms of service due to reader complaints about mature content. AO3 was launched in 2009 as a nonprofit site, but it had been in beta for quite a long time and had not experienced an explosion of growth like that of 2012. Service disruptions happened frequently, which should be expected for internet sites with a sudden vertical growth curve. The disruptions aggravated a number of users, who had been used to the more stable and much older FFn; consequently, there has been a mild frustration among some fan fiction writers waiting to be relieved.

Amazon’s new Kindle Worlds (AKW) did not provide that relief at its inception earlier this year. It offers writers a chance to be paid for their works, but the range of content it permits is ridiculously narrow, based only on a handful or two of Warner Brothers-based programming. It’s not clear whether Warner Brothers will view content published through AKW as an informal slushpile that might be used for extending their franchises.

Wattpad, an online self-publishing platform encouraging both original and fan fiction, has also not satisfied the frustrated fan fiction faction. The site, launched in 2006 and funded by both advertising revenues and venture capital, appears to suit the needs of young authors focusing on original rather than fan fiction.

AO3 and Wattpad both, though, are seasoned now; they’ve been around a few years and have already weathered steep growth curves while responding to users’ concerns. AO3, as a subset of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works, also offers a commitment to furthering writers’ rights and their fan fiction craft through legal representation, a fanlore wiki, and preservation of other historical fan content. Wattpad has also encouraged indie writers through their Watty Awards; the backing of big name published author Margaret Atwood is manifest in last year’s Atty Award. While Wattpad’s emphasis has been on original versus fan fiction, their support for non-traditional online, serialized publication serves fan fiction writers.

Perhaps it’s merely because FictionPad is new that so many fan fiction authors have expressed interest in their platform. It is its newness, however, combined with little concrete information about the platform or its originators, which should give fan fiction writers pause.