Friday, November 6, 2009

Money Matters:

Money Matters is a series of not so regular posts on this blog that reviews advertised sites or services for writers where some payment is required for participation.

Lately I've been reading a lot about FanStory. I guess I'm a little slow as the site boasts they've been around for nine years. The details of how it works, from rankings to awards to member cents, are pretty complicated, so I'll leave it to you to check out if you are interested. The site charges subscription fees that run from $67 for two years, or $2.80 per month, to $6.95 for payment on a monthly basis.

While they advertise that you can get started for free, they don't tell you what the free subscription (or is it a trial) covers. Right there a red flag went up as that usually implies one of two things. Either the site will entice you with a free subscription you will find provides next to nothing, or the free trial automatically feeds into a paid subscription unless you take some action to terminate your agreement before that happens. As I was loath to get roped into either of those for a community in which I have no interest in participating, I can only review FanStory based on what I read on the site.

FanStory appears very similar to a group I joined several years ago when I was a naive new writer, only use of that site was free. It was run, if I recall, by AOL/Time-Warner and there the reward for good ratings was the possibility of being picked up for publication. Of course, that was a long shot, and with all the writers posting, I found myself in a constant struggle for ratings and feedback. This particularly involved rating others work and hoping for reciprocation.

FanStory looks much the same with participants earning member cents for reviews that they then use to entice others to review their work. The highest reward, though, doesn't appear to be publication but a "Seal of Quality", some feedback to "help" writers get published, and for the annual top five, a trophy that looks like the offspring of an Emmy-Oscar marriage. They do run some "free" contests with prizes of as much as $100, but if you consider the subscription fee that is far more than you would pay to enter any other reputable writing contest.

Before you sign up for a site like this, even if it were free, there are some things you should seriously consider. First, how much time are you going to spend reading other writers' work and trying to get them to read yours? Could that time be better spent on your own writing, researching markets, and submitting? Say you receive the "Seal of Quality" or get that nifty little statue to set on your mantle, what will that mean toward your chances of future publication? It isn't exactly a Pushcart. What it does get you is the ability to sell your work on the FanStory site for "member dollars." These are not real dollars but the currency of the FanStory site that allow you to buy certificates for more reviews. (If you're still with me on this, I give you credit.) Some writers rave about the great feedback, but there are plenty of sites where you can get feedback for free and have the opportunity to determine ahead of time if the posted work and/or the feedback is of the quality you are looking for.

If you view your writing mostly as a hobby, and you aren't aspiring to anything higher, joining a writing community like FanStory could be fun. The writing prompts and contests might inspire you, and you can interact with other writers about their work as well. If you are in any way serious about your writing, this site is probably not for you. Whatever awards you receive will be meaningless in getting your work published anywhere else, and the time you put into reviewing and trying to get reviewed could be better spent writing, reading, and researching markets.

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