The last month or so has seen lots of Fanfiction.net users joining the Archive of Our Own - you are all very welcome! As such, we've had a number of Support questions about the ways in which the AO3 differs from FF.net, so we've put together a quick primer to let you know about a few key details. (Although they're focused around the questions we've received from FF.net users, this post will also be relevant to any new user of the site.)
Getting an account
How do I create an account?
You need an invitation to create an account. This is to help us manage site growth (as you may have noticed, the recent expansion has caused a few performance issues). You can request an invitation by adding your name to the invitations queue.
The invitations queue is really long! Can I get an invitation any quicker?
Because so many people have recently moved to the AO3, the invitations queue is very long and wait times currently reach until next year. At the moment, we're still working on dealing with some performance issues, so we're not able to issue invitations any faster. As soon as we're confident we have those under control we'll review the number of invitations we're issuing and take measures to try to reduce the queue. We're really sorry we can't issue invitations to everyone who wants one right away, but we need to ensure the site can cope with the demand first. In the meantime, if you are concerned that your work might be deleted without warning, we recommend saving a copy to your hard drive so that you have a backup you can repost here or elsewhere. (And don't forget to save your reviews, which can't be reproduced elsewhere!)
I have an account - can I get an invitation to give to a friend?
We normally allow existing users to request invitation codes to give to friends, but because of the very high demand we've had to stop issuing invitation requests for now. We'll reenable this option when we have the performance issues under control - we're sorry to have to disappoint you right now.
Can I import my stories directly from FF.net?
Unfortunately, no. Fanfiction.net is blocking requests from our server. You can read more about this issue in our news post, Problems with imports from FF.net.
Can I import stories from other sites?
Yes, although there may be issues, depending on where you're importing from. To import a story, choose "post new" from the header menu and then click on the "Import From An Existing URL Instead?" button above the text entry fields. You can also go directly to the Import New Work page. For more information, see the Importing and Mass Editing FAQ and our Known Issues relating to imports.
Can I upload my story from a file?
This is not currently possible. You can copy and paste your text from a Word file or the FF.net document editor, but you can't upload or manage files.
How do I keep my formatting when pasting into the work text box?
By default, the text entry box comes up in the mode for directly entering HTML code. To paste formatted text in, click the "Rich Text" button above the box to switch to the Rich Text editor, then paste your text.
Since the Rich Text option relies on a third-party tool, which comes with its own set of bugs, there are currently several issues when pasting in formatted text. In particular, it does not work properly with Internet Explorer 9. Some of these issues should be fixed in an update fairly soon, but in the meantime you can read about them in our Known Issues. If you do have trouble formatting your work, please contact Support and we'll be happy to help you try to work around the difficulties.
How does tagging work?
There are 7 categories of tags you can enter: Rating, Archive Warnings, Category, Fandom, Character, Relationship, Additional Tags.
The Rating, Archive Warnings, and Category tags for your work are set by the choices you tick in the form while posting. You can read more about our policies on ratings and warnings in our Terms of Service FAQ. The important thing to note is that we usually consider ratings to be in the eye of the beholder, so you should use the rating that seems right to you. "Category" is the Archive term for describing a work based on its main relationship (or lack thereof), i.e. M/M, F/M, Gen and so on.
The Fandom, Character, Relationship, and Additional Tags categories are created by typing into the appropriate boxes on the posting form. Tags should be separated by commas. The autocomplete will show suggestions for existing tags, but you can also create completely new tags. The AO3's tag wranglers will link new tags to the "canonical tag" with the same meaning where possible (for example, all versions of a given character's name will be linked). To make it easier for readers to find your work, it's best to choose clear, non-ambiguous tags. You can read more about how tagging works on the Archive in the Tags FAQ.
How do I post a crossover?
Whereas on FF.net there's a special section for crossovers, a work on the AO3 can be marked as a crossover by adding all applicable fandoms as tags and, optionally, using keywords such as "Crossover" or "Fusion" under Additional Tags.
If your work is based on more than one fandom, all you need to do is to enter all the fandom names in the "Fandom" field when you post, separated by commas. So, instead of having to choose a separate "crossover" category, you would simply enter
Bleach, Homestuck, Hawaii Five-O (1968) into the Fandom field. Your work will then be listed under all three fandoms. If you include the "Crossover" tag in the Additional Tags, users will be able to more easily find (or avoid) your work in the appropriate tag searches.
Can I post explicit works? Can I post explicit works featuring underage characters? Can I post Real Person Fiction?
Yes, yes, and yes. If your work is fannish in nature and abides by our Terms of Service, you can post it here. We do ask that you label your work appropriately, which can include using the "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" and "Not Rated" options if you prefer not to warn or pick a rating. You may also make use of Additional Tags to add content notes that aren't covered by the Archive Warnings.
Does AO3 have "communities"?
The closest thing to FF.net's "communities" on AO3 are Collections. The main difference is that the collection moderator cannot post stories to the collection personally; that has to be done by the authors of the stories. The moderator can add bookmarks to a collection, which will point to the works instead of gathering them up directly.
You can read more about this feature in the Collections and Challenges FAQ (although this section is currently in need of updating). Collections can also be used to set up gift exchanges and prompt memes.
The Archive offers a search form to find exactly the works you're looking for. However, documentation of all its features is in need of an update. In the meantime, you can find lots of tips & tricks, including several example searches, in this post posts: Disabling filters: information and search tips.
One particularly useful thing to keep in mind is that because Ratings, Warnings, and Categories are all tags, you can search for (or exclude) them. So, for example, if you're looking for explicit slash but don't care for violence, you could enter
"Explicit" "M/M" -"Graphic Violence" in the Tag search box along with whatever other terms (fandoms, pairings, etc.) you're looking for.
At the time of posting, browsing filters are turned off for performance reasons (you'll see the grey box where they would usually be on work pages). They'll be replaced in a few weeks with all-new filters which will give you more ways to find things on the site.
Can I make the text bigger or smaller?
Yes! We don't have these options on the individual work pages, like on FF.net. If you're a logged-in user, then you can change the text size (and most other display features) with a site skin: see the Skins FAQ for more information. If you're logged out, or if you just want a quick and easy way to change the text size, then most modern browsers will let you do this by hitting Control + or Control -, or Cmd +/- on a Mac. (This will work on any site!)
Can I make the text light on dark, change the margins, or choose a sans-serif font?
Yes, if you're a logged-in user. These options aren't on individual work pages like on FF.net, but you can change most aspects of the way the site looks with a site skin: see the Skins FAQ for more information. For performance reasons, we've had to disable skins for logged-out users. We're working on ways of bringing them back. In the meantime, if you need a modified display for accessibility reasons and you don't have an account, please contact Support and they'll help you out.
Communication and Feedback
How do I leave a review? Do I need an account?
To leave a review, just type your feedback into the comment field at the bottom of the work you enjoyed (surrounded by a grey box). You don't need to have an account - if you're not a logged-in user, you'll need to leave a name and email address (your email won't be displayed, but the name you give will).
Can I send a private message to another user?
Currently, no. This is a very frequently requested feature that has been approved for future implementation, but at the moment the only option for private communication is email. Some users opt to display an email address publicly; you can check for one by going to the user's home page and choosing "Profile" from their dashboard. Some also link to their journal accounts (such as Livejournal or Dreamwidth) or blogs in their Bio section.
Can I block a user from leaving me feedback?
No. You can, however, delete user comments on your works, including comments left by users who are logged in. If you feel a user's comments constitute harassment (see our TOS) please submit an abuse report. Note that you should not delete the comments in this case, as once deleted they cannot be recovered for review.
Can I turn off comments/kudos from users who are anonymous/not logged in?
No. For several reasons, including avoiding the exclusion of users who have not yet been able to get an invite, this is not a preference we offer to authors. Comments can be deleted, and spam comments should be marked using the "Spam" button to notify our automated spam-tracking software.
Does the Archive have author/story alerts?
Yes, called "subscriptions"--when an update is posted, subscribed users are sent a notification. You can currently subscribe to authors, stories, and series. To manage your subscriptions, click on the "Subscriptions" link in your Dashboard.
Can I see who is subscribed to me/my works?
No. We know that many users want to know how many people are following their works, so we made the numbers available in our Stats feature. (You can read more about it in our admin post about the Statistics Page.) However, to protect user privacy, you cannot see specific information about subscribers.
I want to favorite an author/work/series. How do I do that?
You can bookmark works and series. In this case, unless a bookmark is set to private, an author can see who has bookmarked their works and what notes they've added. An option to bookmark authors is planned, but hasn't been implemented yet.
More Questions and Troubleshooting
What should I read to learn more about how to use the site?
After reviewing our Terms of Service, we recommend that new users should look through our FAQ pages. We also regularly update our news posts with Tutorials, so check there often!
Where can I read updates on changes to the site or known problems?
All updates and changes will be publicised in our News Posts, many of which are mirrored in several locations, including the OTW's Dreamwidth, Livejournal, and Tumblr pages. All code updates (deploys) come with a set of detailed Release Notes, listing all bug fixes and describing major changes.
Is there a way to know if the site is down/having issues?
You can always check our Twitter feed at @AO3_Status.
Where do I go for help?
Whether it's a question, a bug report, or a feature request, you can submit it all through our Support form. We promise to take your question, suggestion, or problem seriously. You can submit anonymous feedback if you desire, but if you leave an email address we will get back to you with an answer as soon as we are able! Your IP address will be registered for spam protection issues, but that information is never available to our support staff.