If you've found your way here, chances are you already know what fanfiction is. Just in case, Wikipedia defines it as 'fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator.' I've written more about the history of it HERE, and its relationship with creators HERE, but all you really need to know is that its popularity - and legitimacy - is growing year on year.
Originally this was going to be a top ten list but, realistically, there are a handful of archives which you need to know about, and then the rest are either outdated sites you might find a few hidden gems on, or specialized archives catering to a particular theme or subsection of fandom. So, I figured I'd make this as complete a guide as I could to multifandom (i.e. multiple fandoms) archives still online.
As a writer you really have a choice of about five archives, and various social media and community platforms which are really better suited to promotion than hosting. It's worth trying them all out though, to see where your fandom is more active and which one will garner you the kind of response you're looking for. Writing critique is not an intrinsic part of AO3 culture, for example, but is said to be fairly commonplace on Wattpad. On the flipside, AO3 can be very sniffy about some of the genres and tropes which are Wattpad's bread and butter.
After a little trial and error you'll know which archive is right for you, and which ones you're going to ignore or perhaps simply crosspost your fiction to.
Archive of Our Own is a fic archive established by fans for fans on a nonprofit and noncommercial basis, meaning that unlike all the other major players on the list there are no onsite ads. Launched in 2009, it now hosts almost 4 million fanworks over some 30,000 fandoms. It is basically the place for most Western media fandoms (excluding Bandom) - it's where you'll find the big fanfic exchanges happening, it actively works to preserve fannish history by importing archives at risk of disappearing, and it's the centre for acafandom and research through its umbrella body, the Organization for Transformative Works.
Within transformative fandom it tends to be seen as the place fans graduate to from other sites like FFN, Tumblr, and Wattpad, and, as such, is seen as superior to its rivals. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Which archive is best for you will depend on what you want from it. AO3 is my archive of choice because it has an expansive tag system to help you find the kind of story you want to read, and is an easy, reliable and active place to post work as a writer.
Things to be aware of:
- There is no private messaging system.
- Hosts original fiction providing its fannish in nature - in topic or genre norms, etc.
- Officially still in beta, there is a queue to join unless you have an invite code. (I've got about 20 you're welcome to use HERE.)
- AO3 was set up in response to for-profit archives banning content they no longer wished to host. For this reason the archive is strongly anti-censorship and hosts things you'll probably find disturbing and / or offensive. Although everything has to be properly labelled, the onus is on you not to read it rather than the writer not to upload it.
- The underlying infrastructure of the site isn't great, and there is semi-regular lagginess and downtime.
Fanfiction.net was founded in 1998 and is the biggest fanfic archive on the web. When I started out in online fandom in 2000 it was already recognized as the place to find just about anything, however throughout the early 2000s FFN began banning and removing content. Songfics (stories built around song lyrics), RPF (real person fanfiction - e.g. pop stars), and explicit sex and gore had all fallen under the banhammer by 2006.
In wider fandom FFN is seen as the site people start out on, and that this is reflected in the quality of the content hosted there - you may see it referred to as the 'Pit of Voles' or simply 'The Pit'. The infamous 'badfic' My Immortal was hosted on FFN, for instance. In truth some fandoms are more active on FFN than AO3, and there are plenty of awesome fics to be found there.
Things to be aware of:
- Sheer size can make it difficult to navigate as there is no tagging system beyond fandom, characters, and genre.
- The ban on NC:17/18 rated content makes it more suitable for young writers.
- It has a sister site for original fiction, fictionpress.com.
Wattpad is a hugely popular writing archive established in 2006. Users skew young and female, and this is reflected in the fandoms which have made their home there - teenlit, boybands, and TV shows with young audiences. It is probably the best recognized archive among media industry professionals thanks to the number of stories which have been picked up for publication; Anna Todd's worldwide bestseller After began life on Wattpad, for example.
Although Wattpad has a huge userbase - over 65 million unique visitors a month - there is relatively little overlap between Wattpad and 'old school' fandom centered at AO3. Wattpad has a much more casual feel to it, with a lot of mobile functionality and stories written directly into the online editor, and more focus on visual elements like story covers and integrated multimedia.
Things to be aware of:
- It's a for-profit site which pushes premium membership.
- Hosts original fiction and fanfiction.
- Its popularity is a magnet for spam, plagiarism and hacking. I hardly ever use it and still had my account hacked to stick a link to a Russian porn site in my profile. :/
Given the popularity of the big three, there are inevitably smaller competitors out there. The main contenders are:
☆ Commaful. Building on the visual focus of Wattpad, Commaful focuses on (very!) short multimedia fan and original fiction. There is a lot of hype around it at the moment, but is unlikely to seriously threaten the popularity of the established archives due to the format differences. You can read my review of the Commaful experience HERE.
☆ FictionPad. A small automated fanfic archive.
☆ FicWad. Small scale fanfiction.net type site. Established in 2005 it has since been largely abandoned by admin, though still hosts over 50,000 stories.
☆ Movellas. An archive that also aims to be a writing community. The general feel of the site is quite similar to Wattpad, with original fiction and fanfiction - primarily Bandom - existing side by side. It has forums, competitions, and a microblogging format in the form of 'mumbles'.
Wherever fandom is hanging out, you'll find fanfiction. After Fanfiction.net began banning and deleting content, many people began to post their fic exclusively to LJ. Set up in 1999 by the then 19-year-old Brad Fitzpatrick, the journalling site quickly became the home of much of western transformative fandom. It was sold to a Russian company in 2007 and their decision to delete journals hosting content they deemed inappropriate lead to the creation of AO3. But. Although lots of authors, myself included, uploaded their fic to another archive, there is still great swathes languishing on LJ. Because the fandom infrastructure there has all but collapsed, your best bet is probably to use the LJ custom google search to find what you're looking for.
Other fandom bases which aren't optimized for fanfiction, but host large quantities of it nonetheless, include rival journal platforms InsaneJournal and Dreamwidth, art repository DeviantArt, microblogging platform Tumblr, and the now defunct Quizilla and its spiritual successor Quotev.
Originally a small Buffy/Angel archive hosted on Geocities, AdultFanFiction.Net stepped into the multifandom arena in response to the announcement of FFN's decision to ban NC:17/18 rated content in 2002. You can read more about the history of the archive at its Fanlore page. The URL changed to adult-fanfiction.org in 2013 and, though nowhere near as active as it was in its heyday, it's still worth visiting if you're looking for older fic.
Finding somewhere to host fic, especially fic with slash (M/M) relationships or explicit content, wasn't always easy back in the days of Web 1.0. Squidge.org was a fan friendly hosting option founded in 1994. So, if you're still hankering for more fic of yore, check out these multifandom archives which are still up and running on Squidge:
☆ Challenge the Muses.
☆ Citizens Against Bad Slash.
☆ DarkGate Archive.
☆ Multi-Fandom Mpreg Archive.
☆ WWOMB - The Wonderful World of Make Believe.
☆ Xover Fanfic Archive.
Asian Fanfics - for fanfiction based on Asian source material or featuring Asian characters and / or themes - was founded in 2009. With over 200,000 stories, it is particularly popular with K-pop fandom and also boasts an explicit section which users have to log in to view. Its sister sites - roleplayrepublic.com and fanficoverflow.com - are also reasonably active.
While AFF is kind of synonymous with Kpop, Jpop, etc, there are other archives out there with a more western Bandom focus. Wattpad, of course, is famous for its 1D and 5SOS fic, but there is also Mibba, a general writing site with a strong Bandom slant, and Rockfic which focuses on rock and metal bands.
Though little updated today, at one time mediaminer was the place to go for anime fanfiction. MM.org hosts fic and art, and used to have anime forums until a few crashes in the 2010s almost destroyed the site completely. It's still a great place to find fic for older anime though, with the most popular fandoms being DBZ, Gundam Wing, Yu-Gi-Oh! and InuYasha.
Bonus! Here are 20+ more multifandom archives of a certain age that are still up. Some of these are still maintained and updated, others exist now almost solely for you to behold the eye searing colours and 10,000 word disclaimers that made up the life of a fan in the late 1990s and early 2000s...
☆ Animexx.de. (German)
☆ Audiofic Archive.
☆ Bad Fanfic! No Biscuit!
☆ Brothers in Arms.
☆ Destiny's Gateway Romance Fanfiction Archives.
☆ DNashional Archive.
☆ Fan Fic Junkies.
☆ Fan Nation.
☆ Fan Works Inc.
☆ Fanfic FR. (French)
☆ Fanfiktion.de. (German)
☆ FHSA - Fandom Haven Story Archive.
☆ Gluttony Fiction.
☆ Haven of Fic.
☆ Merengő. (Hungarian)
☆ Movie Slash.
☆ Noire Sensus.
☆ Stained Glass.
☆ The Chamber.
☆ The Haven.
One of the smallest archives on the list, this is an old school style archive maintained by a single person. It is a dedicated repository of F/F fic and acts as a community hub for femslash fandom, with a presence across fandom hangouts and general support for F/F writers.
Passion and Perfection.
Here's another five femslash archives for your delectation:
☆ Connecting Women. (Russian)
☆ Realm of the Shadow.
☆ Shoujo-Ai Archive.
☆ The Paradoxical F/F Archive.
☆ The Pink Rabbit Consortium.
Kindle Worlds launched in 2013 and was the first big business attempt to commercialize fanfiction. Ebooks are published through Amazon based on specific 'worlds' - licensed properties, ranging from Veronica Mars to G.I. Joe - and writers are paid a percentage of the net sales. The terms and conditions are fairly restrictive, with a ban on pornographic and offensive content, but the sub-brand still sells well enough to justify its continuing existence.
If you're looking for fanfiction ebooks and don't want to pay, the AO3 offers downloads in various formats, while the Ebook Library and Feedbooks both have a selection of about 800 fics for free download.
If you're looking to make money out of your fanfiction outside of Kindle Worlds, you have to be aware that you're on shaky legal ground if you're taking commissions or explicitly selling fanfic, unless the source material is in the public domain. You're better off setting up an account with a service like Ko-fi, which allows people to buy you a virtual coffee - a tip system, basically - through Paypal.
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