A Guide to Selling Your Stories in an Overbloated Fandom.
By Ai aka Jen
Hey, folks! I have decided to do something I have wanted to do for a long time:
Teach you all how to whore yourselves.
Your fanfiction, that is. (That's exactly what I meant.) Now, you may say, "I know how to sell my fics. I make all my friends read, I try to be a good reviewer and build up feedback karma, and I self-plug at every opportunity, resulting in crowds of NORMAL people wanting to put me in front of a firing range!" Well, that's all fine and dandy, but how come you're not getting any reviews? Your fic isn't terrible; you didn't butcher the English language, plot is decent, and there are no major formatting issues. So where's the problem?
There's one thing, something you always forget, that is more important than any self-promotion anywhere else. It's the do-or-die, the single most critical plug:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, with those few blurbs, your fic will be arrested, arraigned, tried, and debated by the jury until a suitable verdict is reached.
Well, not that dramatic. But close. People will decide whether to read your fic based off the summary. Therefore, it is CRUCIAL that your summaries succinctly grab the reader's attention and makes them want to read.
So WHY are there so many lame summaries flying around in this fandom?
Well, I'm here now to educate the masses. (Break out the cheap champagne and Garbage CDs.) The following is a selection of summaries from ff.net I plucked specifically for this purpose. They fall into several major categories, and here we will dissect the major offenders, explain why they lack, and even offer good summaries for all of you to see and learn from.
I am a thorough bitch. Do not forget it. Okay, enough rambling. Let's get cracking!
'Absolutely Nothing' summaries belong to people who want you to read their fics but don't really care enough to even bothering coming up with a decent summary. By far, this is the most common crime, and frankly, if you don't want to put the effort in to sell your story to me, why would I, the reader, want to bother? You're the author, and you didn't even! Hence, pointless.
I hate to say it, but her fear is justified. Actually, this one has a battery of issues: redundancy, lack of actual description of the fic, double talk, and a good laugh for us all.
At least she was to the point. Pity she couldn't be bothered to do a summary; I might have wanted to read.
Now THIS gets me steamed. See this, kiddies? Whenever I see this, I make it a personal policy to bitchslap the person as hard as possible. Feedback is a gift, IT IS NOT A RIGHT. Don't blackmail the reader for more reviews. Some bitter, clever person will come along and make you pay for it.
Basically, SOME summary is necessary. Even if you suck at them. They're like writing itself, they get better with practice. Don't be one of these people. You can all do better than that.
'Absolutely Worthless' summaries are the ones that turn you off faster than a picture of Chris Farley naked. *winces at visual* They offer nothing to help us understand the story or what it is about.
OMG OMG!!!! That's like, soooooo cool and kawaii!!!! Now please excuse me while I go slowly bore my eyes out with a pair of dull pencils to repent for your shame.
To TRY to make sense of this, the author makes several mistakes here. TOTALLY ignoring the flame-worthiness of a Seiya/'Amara' pairing *seethes*, the teenspeak need to hit the road; and the only time I want to see that many exclamation points is when masses of Evil!Endymion clones are running around. Actually, one additional issue I must bring forth is that updating summaries to reflect the current chapter's highlights cuts new readers out of the picture. A short blurb about it at the end is acceptable, but you'll miss the chance to draw others into your story.
To quote one Crystal Rose: "I didn't know it was a quote from a fic so I thought the author made some kind of mistake and she's asking what she did wrong…"
Now to (try to) be serious. These drive me batty. Just a random quote, slapped in there and expected to pass as a summary? Embellish. The quote's fine. I have the loveliest quote for my "Requiem" summary and Sophia Prester used one too at ASMR for "Empire of the Sun." But they don't stand alone. Tack a real summary on afterwards.
Whoo, deep. I am drowning in the abnormality that is this summary. Or not. It's pretense without substance. At least when Pandora goes on an ego trip, she has a battery of quality fanfiction backing her up…
And boy, does she trip. A little ego is good, but keep a tight rein on the sucker or it'll get out of hand. Then you end up with summaries like this one.
All in all? These are places you don't want to go.
'And this has WHAT to do with Sailor Moon?' summaries have no mention of anything remotely relevant to the SM world whatsoever. Not even AU, where at least there's the pretense of the same names…just out there. Frequently littered with otaku senshi, but that's not the point right now.
I'm sorry, is this an SM fic? Because I'm REALLY not getting the Sailor Moon vibe here. Throw in an 'Usagi' or two. That might help.
Seeing as Sailormoon is founded upon ditzy blondes, I think they're sort of necessary if you actually want to write an SM fanfic. And, because I cannot resist the crack:
*clears throat* "This is the fic that never ends! Yes it goes on and on, my friends! Some baka started writing it not knowing what it was, and then continued writing it forever just because…"
Who is Kat and why do we care?
Basically, if you can't even tell it's an SM fanfic from the summary, then maybe it's time to rethink the summary a little. (And maybe the story, while you're at it.)
'Too Much Information' are summaries that manage to give away the entire plot so there's no actual point in reading the story. While hard to do on ff.net, many still find a way.
Ignoring the predictability of the plot laid out for five seconds, WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THEY GET TOGETHER?!?! LEAVE US WITH OUR ILLUSIONS!!!!
*rocks back in forth in a corner, muttering to self*
This doesn't read like a summary, but like a résumé of sorts. Summary, people. Quick, to the point, and not too revealing. In most manga, the basic premise is laid out in the first chapter: Girl finds out she's Sailormoon from talking cat named Luna. Two best friends find a book and end up in ancient China where they become Priestesses to the Four Gods of the sky. See? Not that hard.
Oh God, she's pairing him with an otaku character. Who is 'Darian'? Not only did she take ALL the surprise out of who Serena wants, but she didn't even have the decency to have it be DARIEN. The nerve of some people…
Okay, to be a bit more serious, she makes this big deal about a mystery man that Ami hunts down, and then she reveals the pairing. Granted, we all probably knew, but it's still not good.
Way to burst that bubble, Shadow of Mars! Not only do we know that Chad will try to kill himself, we also knows he lives. Oops, guess we don't have to read now…
The conclusion, kids? Leave some mystery for the readers. You want them hanging at the bit.
'The Battlefield' is where authors, desperate to defend their precious fics, must make a big stink about alternate pairings, yaoi or yuri (although these SHOULD have some sort of warning as many people aren't into that), or their clichéd plots.
Well, they DO say fanfiction is wish fulfillment. (Not that that's an excuse.) But no wish could make the English language look like this…anyways, why so defensive? Fine. We understand that this is a different pairing. We also know that Mamoru gets Usagi in the anime. Airing your irritation doesn't make me want to read.
Okay, number one, she didn't even bother to NAME it, although mad props for (passable) spelling. On one hand, a lot of people don't like homosexual pairings and this is relevant, but all you really have to say is, "warning: yuri." Overkill is bad. Too many disclaimers turn people off…
See? This author is so bitter, she's telling us not to read the fic at all. It IS simple. Not even SHE likes it!
This is so tragic I might cry.
And no, I can't say that with a straight face.
You want to write a dissertation on the merits of Usagi/Seiya? Fine. Write it. Maybe I'll read. But don't make your fic into one. Your story will be your own defense. Or at least do appropriate ANs first.
And finally, 'WTF?' summaries are so incredibly inane you might actually read out of sheer morbid curiosity. (This is NOT a recommended way to get readers.) There is no real way to describe their horrific nature…
There is NOTHING in this that spurs my curiosity in any way, shape, or form whatsoever. Where are my dull pencils?
Please explain to me how we got from a wasp sting to *that*. AP Calculus will suddenly look so very easy as I hear this… *LS and CR pry dull pencils from Ai's fingers*
Does anybody care enough to try? This offers no information to the reader about the fic, and doesn't even suggest a compelling main character. She at least could've managed 'stripper with a heart of gold' or something. Cliché, yes, but at least it tells us something. Unless the gold digger's the good person…in that case, I might have to read after all. You GO, shameless money-hungry wench!
Okay, am I the only one who felt dirty after reading that? I don’t think so. While that’s another rant altogether, kids, have your friends read your summaries. Especially your horny guy friends. Because inadvertent double entendre is NEVER a boon.
And, finally, one I MUST include but defied categorization:
BWAHAHAHA! I love this one. Fic probably sucks, but this chick rocks.
So, do you see these summaries? The best things any of these will earn you are some snickering and maybe a place on the Fic Bitch's list of "Silly FF.net Summaries." I've focused on the summary itself, for all I know Dante could be eating his heart out compared to one of the authors listed here, but nothing in the summary made me care enough to read. You should take the time to make a nice, clear summary that draws the reader into the story but still leaves them hanging.
To give you examples of successful fanfics and their summaries, I've hunted down a few to show and discussed their merits. See for yourself:
Stalkers are cool. Stalkers are sexy. And you have to wonder what stalker-boy is doing to turn Usagi's world upside down. This fic garnered 361 reviews.
Gets a little clunky at parts, but let's face it, sex sells. And this sets out to deliver by offering an exploration into fascinating themes; whether or not it delivers is negligible. 892 reviews don't lie.
This summary I always liked. Interesting premise, stated succinctly, and intriguing draw. You WANT to know what happened, and what has changed. Fic was nothing special, but I liked the summary, dammit. And apparently, so did 916 other people.
As you can see, a good summary does a LOT for a fic. Of course, your fic also has to have SOME merits to garner the sorts of review numbers my examples have (read: SEX), but the summary is a foot in the door. Next time you write one, follow the 10 Rules of Good Summaries:
1) Proper spelling and grammar are a MUST. Nothing turns off like a bunch of lame web lingo or Elite Capitals.
I hope everyone learned something today. Now fix those summaries!
[This public service announcement is brought to you by your local bitter summary reader and critic.]
*Special notes: all summaries were taken off ff.net, either by myself or by the Fic Bitch. Summaries were used without authors' permission, if they're upset then they can complain to me. And it's their own fault for making me need to write this anyways. Thanks go to Lady Solo and Crystal Rose, who sat there while I worked on this (actually, CR stayed with me, LS, who is a tramp, left me), Mizy for forwarding me the Halloween Mailing of Death, and the Fic Bitch, who inspired my bitchiness in the first place and from whom I ripped several summaries. Thanks, everyone!