The Yellow Brick Road

As we approach another NaNoWriMo and people set up their projects on Rough Trade, it is inevitable that new readers will stumble upon the site and join. Most often, they’ve strolled into RT from fandom. They’ve followed a favorite writer, or they saw the sign-up, or they saw a recommendation on some site regarding a previous story, and they’re looking for it. We’ve had about 500 people join RT since October 1, 2016.

Once they get into RT though they are faced with a very unusual situation in fandom–Rough Trade is a writer’s site. Readers react a variety of ways to the structure of RT, and most of the time it is positive, if not hesitant. There are nearly 7k members on the RT site, and the vast majority of them are readers. This might make you think that RT is really a site for readers. After all, 99% of fandom is for readers.

Fandom is built by writers and artists, but it’s really for readers, right? It’s for the reader’s enjoyment.

If you look at the majority of fandom-centric sites, they are designed to be more reader friendly than writer friendly. Ask a single writer about fanfiction.net, and they’ll tell you that posting on that site is a nightmare because of the back end. The site owners don’t really care, either. Writers are a second class citizen on FF.net — readers are free to abuse them in the comment section with very little fear of being thrown off the site for it. They can troll writers, insult them, threaten them, etc and TPTB doesn’t often do a damn thing about it. After all, a place like FF.net makes their money from advertising, and reader activity drives that. So FF.net makes the money, the readers get to do what they want, and writers either suck it up and do their thing or they retreat to another site.

Then you have an inclusive place like Ao3 who has done a lot for fandom even if their stand against censorship has created some situations that put people off. No matter how you feel about their TOS, you can’t say that AO3 doesn’t stand by their principles. They wanted to create a site where writers could feel free to post without the fear of being censored due to politics, homophobia, etc, etc. They’ve succeeded — for good and bad. I don’t post there; that is my personal choice, but I don’t fault anyone who does, and I even allow the writer translating Tangled Destinies into Russian to post there because it’s easier for us both.  We also have several RT collections on A03 for different challenges because contrary to what some have told me in email, I don’t actually “hate” A03 or anyone involved with its creation/maintenance. I think they’ve done some amazing work for fandom.

With an archive A03’s size, no one could realistically expect the maintainers to be hands-on regarding reader activity and feedback. So, it’s not a surprise to see abuse in the comment sections of various stories and it was a relief to see the team respond to that with comment moderation in 2015. Still, you only need to look at A03 to recognize that it is a site designed for readers in mind–they had subscriptions and ebook downloads before comment moderation hit the table. It’s about priorities, and I’m not faulting the staff at A03 in any single way for this — readers have been coming first in fandom since the dawn of fandom.

When I started my site — my first thought was readability and organization so it would be easier for my readers to read my stuff and to find my stuff. I didn’t turn on comment moderation until about two months in because I got tired of assholes complaining about me leaving FF.net. I made ebooks, I answered questions, I built a comment form for those readers too shy to respond in public. I made my email address public. I did all of this for readers. I made announcements in groups, I had a mailing list at one time, I set up subscriptions on my site. I flitted through the SGA fandom like the Pied Piper, shaking my OTP enticingly at readers. Come read my stuff! They did. It was nice. I had readers!

Readers wanted Facebook notifications–I joined Facebook.
Readers wanted Twitter notifications–I joined Twitter.
Readers wanted Tumblr notifications–I fucking joined Tumblr.

Even now, I spend a great deal of time on my personal site doing maintenance and organization and checking posts, and correcting issues, and settling account problems (since I went members only) because readers come first, right?

Right?

Except there came a point in Rough Trade’s evolution when I realized that on that site, writers had to come first. The very nature of our challenge environment demanded it. It’s difficult enough to write and post in a rough form–the startling intimacy of it is hard to explain–without having to worry about some entitled reader coming along and pointing out a plot hole or a fucking typo.

You’d have thought I’d punched all these readers in the dick (theoretical or otherwise) when I told them they couldn’t ask questions. How dare I not allow them to ask questions of a writer in the middle of a time-sensitive challenge! What did I mean when I said that their plot advice wasn’t welcome? Why can’t they tell the writer what pairings they prefer?

It must have been so startling, honestly, to come into an environment where the writer wasn’t the second class citizen.

For the readers on RT, I would say–you’re not in Kansas anymore, darlings, and the rules for Oz are a bit different so watch your step and look out for flying monkeys.

-KM

 

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a "domestic engineer" in her 30's but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

69 Comments:

  1. I’ve been following your work (and everyone on your main site) for well over five years now, and as always, your ferocious defense of writer’s is awe inspiring. I only wish you’d been a little more ferocious in YOUR defense before you signed up for Tumblr. : D

    Life got in the way of writing AND participating at the main site, so I’ve been determined to comment on ANYTHING I let myself read on RT, because it IS a different beast altogether!

    I am grateful for every single hour you and all those brave enough to take on these challenges (and SHARE the results with us) spend on these works… so you know, bring on the Flying Monkeys…

  2. I’ve always admired the way you stand up for your views on what type of behavior you’re willing to accept from your members. You make it very clear when we first join your sites what is allowed and what is not and that we are free to leave at any time. At first, I thought it was kinda harsh to put it so bluntly, but then I thought about it and it really made sense: people can be *jerks* and when a writer puts so much thought and effort into a project only to have someone come along and tear it apart for any reason hurts. Thank you for being your awesome self and dedicating so much time to these sites. And thank you to all the writers who post to RT, for giving us new ideas and worlds to explore!

  3. I loved your last lines. Your way with words is what I love about your works. I don’t often make comments to stories I read not because I don’t appreciate all the hard work the author has put into their work, but because I don’t think my comments can do any justice to the shear awesomeness that is the work. I love how your site and Rough Trade are designed and I wish more sites were like them. As a reader, I am grateful for every wonderful story I get the chance to read and I love the authors who care more about their work and integrity than those who bully and threaten their readers to comment in order for them to keep writing. So again, I thank you for allowing us readers to have a chance to read all of your hard work and the work of all the other writers on RT. I wish the world was full or more people like you.

  4. I am an unabashed lurker/reader who deeply admires you, your work, and the writers who participate on RT. Thank you for all you do and write, for taking care of the writers and the concept of RT, and to the participant writers for sharing their work. As was said above – YOUR site, YOUR rules. We’re just the lucky and grateful readers. (I’m personally mildly terrorized by the idea of writing or posting work. I have such respect for y’all.)

  5. I’m glad you posted this. I’m happy to read what you’re happy to write. I left FF.net a long time ago due to reader comments, so I may check out RT eventually. (I wanted to put in here a picture of flying monkeys for giggles but apparently can’t c/paste?)

  6. I’m an reader only and I love what you’ve done with Rough Trade. Writers should come first, they’re doing all the hard work. So thank you for what you’ve created, it’s totally awesome.

  7. I’m so used to your don’t give a fuck at this point that it really annoys me when writers ask for comments and votes on things like pairings and the direction their story should go. You’re the writer, it’s your story and you can do whatever the fuck you want. Entitled readers can go suck a bag of infected dicks.

    I’m so glad you write, I rarely comment but I read your work and many of the RT works over and over. And I’m glad that you’re here supporting other writers against the awfulness of the internet.

  8. I’m really glad you’ve established a safe place for writers. I used to think that readers like me would realize that writers are doing this for free, on their own time, on top of their regular lives, and just be grateful. If they don’t like it, it’s so, so easy to just click back.

    Yet, there are all these morons that demand more, faster, and get angry when writers done, when they leave all sorts of nasty, immature, rude comments. It’s pretty obvious they’ve never written anything creative in their lives. I took a creative writing course in college, and holy cow, it’s HARD. Yet y’all are writing all these fic for free and being so generous as to allow complete strangers to read it. Goddamn readers like us should be grateful and heap praise. I just don’t understand how people can do otherwise.

    Haters to the left! And you keep being awesome, Keira!

  9. Honestly, the best and most well-written stories that I have seen in recent times have come from RT. I am not saying other sites do not have great works, because they do. It’s just that everything I have seen produced from RT is amazing. You made a site where the writer does not have to deal with readers hating on their work, and it has produced awesome stories. It is sad that many writers that I follow actually stopped posting work because of how nasty some of the reviews were. I am glad to see a site where you put writers first.

  10. Hi! I thought I’ll tell you, what roughtrade gave me as a reader.

    Before I found roughtrade I was at a point where I was reading maybe two fandoms, almost exclusively completed fics, or sometimes where the writer promised the story is not abandoned, and the longer-the better.
    Then I found your site (love your stories without exceptions by the way), and then roughtrade. First I found it in a state, when the actual challenge was just finished – and I used the site as any other – reading the fics which looked like long and completed :). Then came the cleanup, and I was like ‘What the hell?’ Yes, I read the warning, but it was at that point incomprehensible for me, that someone really will delete stories… Later I waited till the end of the challenge periods, to give time to the writers to finish so I can read in my usual style.

    The last three challenge was different for me – now I love the experience, where writers experiment in things, I follow for the moment it starts, holding my breath for the next chapter :). This site, your idea for a writers site gave me the challenge of growing as a reader, broadened what I read – more fandoms, short stories and non-comleted stories as well, and I really enjoy it.
    Thank you.

  11. As a reader I love that RT is set up for writers. A significant part of that is that I get more to read (and I unashamedly selfish about loving to read new works) but I also really enjoy reading them as incomplete works and then again as completed works.
    I’ve always thought that unlike published fiction, which is for the reader who buys, that fanfiction is for the writer – telling the stories that they can imagine. Maybe this is because I am someone who has always made up my own stories (although never had the finesse to write them down and show others!)
    As other people have said in comments it is now bizarre to me to see writers asking for direction and saying comment to make me post faster ( I can see how encouraging feedback can help but if you aren’t inspired by and enjoying writing the story why write it ?)
    Anyway this is a thank you for creating this environment, and oddly enough you have inspired me with this post to start commenting more on the stories that I love (dont worry it will all be cheers of amazingness)

  12. I’m mostly a reader, my life the last two years has been so crazy that I couldn’t find the energy to write anything but it is such a joy to know that if and when I’m ready again, there’s a safe haven for me on RT. Thank you so much for creating such a different and wonderful place.

  13. Readers can be demanding, petty and cruel [as well as helpful, supportive and patient]. I’m glad you set up a safe haven for writers.

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