February 13, 2015 | Posted in FAN FICTION | By

Secret Santa FanFic Exchanges – Popular Every Holiday Season!

The Avengers: One of the biggest media and comics fandoms today.

The Avengers: One of the biggest media and comics fandoms today. Poster available at Amazon.

Within media fandom, one of the most popular holiday activities is to participate in a Secret Santa-style gift exchange. More often than not, these exchanges revolve around fan fiction, where participants receive a story they’re requested in return for writing a story for someone else. These exchanges are a wonderful way for fans to enjoy stories about characters, couples (or “ships” ), or fandoms that may not otherwise be frequently written about, or just to help spread the love for their favorite fandoms.

It can sound like a lot of fun to organize and run a Secret Santa fic exchange. However, there is also a lot of work involved in making sure the exchange goes off successfully – that stories meet what the requesters wanted as much as possible; that no one ends up without a story; dealing with people who drop out of the exchange early and never submit their required fic. Here I’ll talk about some of the things you need to consider and plan if you want to run a good Secret Santa fic swap. I’ll also share links to some of the popular ones out there today, so you can see how they’ve done it – or maybe sign up to participate this year before it’s too late!


Setting the Basic Parameters for Your Secret Santa Exchange

Purpose, Rules and Structure for Your Fan-Fic Swap

BBC Sherlock

Sherlock, the BBC series, also incredibly popular with fandom today. Poster available at Amazon.

Before you get started, you need to figure out the basics of your fan fiction exchange. These factors include the following details, which you should be sure to have clear before going any further. I’ll talk more about some of these specifically later on, but here is your basic checklist:

  • What is the focus of your fic exchange? Are you concentrating on one particular fandom – tv show, movie, comic book, etc? One particular character or couple from that source fandom? Or is it a multi-fandom fic exchange, perhaps focusing on smaller fandoms, science fiction fandoms, comedy fandoms, etc?
  • What kind of fan fiction will be allowed? Is there a minimum and/or maximum word count for stories (1,000 words is often used as a minimum)? Will adult content be acceptable? Will only adult content be the theme? Must the stories be gen, het or slash in nature – or some other genre such as hurt/comfort?
  • Who will be allowed to participate in the exchange? Is it open to anyone at all, or only certain fannish communities? Do those who wish to participate have to show samples of previous writing to prove they are up for the challenge? If adult fiction is going to be allowed, you should also mandate a minimum age for participation as well.
  • What will be the deadlines for signing up, and submitting assigned stories? Have a timeline ready to go from the start. That way interested participants can check their calendars and decide if they’ll have the time to participate, and know when they must get their stories submitted to you or posted on-line.
  • How will you deal with defaults? Inevitably some people who sign up for your exchange will not complete their assignments on time – or disappear completely on you. Have a plan for how to deal with this – we’ll talk more about this later.
  • Where will the stories be shared? Do you have a website or archive set up to host the stories? Or will they be posted to a particular fannish message board or community such as on LiveJournal?


Where and How to Host the Exchange

Building an Archive for Your Secret Santa Fics

Once you’ve determined the basics for your Secret Santa exchange, you need a place to organize it and where people can participate in the signups and organization. If you’re limiting involvement to members of a particular fannish community, archive or messageboard, of course a thread or sub-board of that community will work fine. You can also set up a community for it for free on a journaling site such as LiveJournal or Dreamwidth. On Facebook, too, you could set up a page or group for the exchange, although a lot of fan-fiction authors don’t like to talk about their fannish activities on Facebook. A WordPress Blog can work as well. The decision depends a lot on your website know-how and familiarity, as well as where most of the fandom that you’re looking to “target” with your exchange hangs out.

Archive of Our Own

Archive of Our Own – the large fanfiction archive which has become increasingly popular for hosting and running fan fiction exchanges today.

You also need a place to actually have the stories posted once complete. Of course again a LiveJournal community or messageboard is fine and easy for some communities, and quite a popular solution. You can also set up a dedicated fiction archive for the exchange, which is often the best for a very large exchange such as Yuletide, an annual exchange for rare fandom fiction.

Archive of Our Own has become increasingly popular for hosting fic exchanges and challenges, as it is relatively easy to set up a “collection” of stories there, gift stories to other people, and even now manage features such as sign-ups, author reveals, even the matching of authors to requests! See their FAQ on Collections and Challenges for more information on how you can use the site to easily organize a fic exchange.

No matter what site you choose, let participants know in advance where their stories will be hosted, to be sure they are comfortable with that choice.


Matching Authors with Recipients

Sometimes the Most Challenging Part of the Exchange Process

If your fic exchange gets rather large and involves multiple fandoms or characters, you might find matching recipients with authors a difficult task. The best way to do this is to make everyone who signs up request and offer more than one possible story or fandom. It’s like when you make a Christmas wish list – you can’t expect to get everything on your list, or only one item if that’s all you request yet it’s difficult to find. Exchanges featuring rarer fandoms or pairings often have this problem more so than large fandoms like Harry Potter, Star Wars or Glee. So try to make sure each participant offers and requests at least one story idea or pairing that’s reasonably more common, along with any rarer or more usual ones.

If you’re drawing close to your sign up deadline and worried about making matches, encourage participants to promote the exchange to their friends and communities who share their interests. And if you simply can’t make a match for someone, advise them that they need to alter their requests and offers if they’d still care to participate. It’s unfortunate but sometimes does happen in Secret Santa fic swaps.


Promotion is key!

Don’t forget to promote your Secret Santa exchange wherever appropriate! Announcements in fannish communities and messageboards will get you more participants.

When Authors Don’t Complete Their Stories on Time

Dealing With Defaults During a Secret Santa Fic Exchange

It’s practically inevitable – whether you’re running a small or large Secret Santa exchange, someone won’t complete the story they were assigned to write. It could be for any number of reasons – real life stress, illness or work getting in the way; taking on too many challenges around the holidays; thinking they could complete their story but then they can’t; simply forgetting that they signed up for the exchange in the first place!

Be polite and thankful to those who let you know in advance of the submission deadline that they can’t complete their story. That way you’ve got time to hopefully find someone else who can step in and write the story for the person they were assigned. If the deadline passes and you still haven’t received a story from someone, nor any notice, send a polite email asking about the status of their submission. If they are simply running late but swear they can complete the story quickly – and you can believe them – you can let them keep working on it. But you might want to have a “pinch-hitter” ready to go in the meantime nevertheless.

So-called “pinch-hitters” can be lifesavers in a fic exchange. These are people who have offered to write a story for the exchange if need be, without receiving any giftfic in return. Sometimes they are also participants who have said they’d be willing to write more than one story without receiving a second story in the exchange. It is always good to have at least a few pinch-hitters ready to go, to make sure no one ends up without a story who deserved it for their participation.


Participant Etiquette: Always Say “Thank You!”

Remember, the story you received in a Secret Santa exchange was written especially for YOU. Even if it is not exactly what you had wanted or envisioned, always be sure to thank your offer for her hard work in writing it!

One Direction

Fan fiction and Secret Santa exchanges aren’t just for tv and movie fandoms – fans of bands like One Direction run similar exchanges, too. 1D poster available at Amazon

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

Be the first to comment.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>