Huggy Bear's Guide to Getting More Feedback

AKA How to Pimp Yo' Stories, Man!


After a long day of raping Starsky, giving Hutch crippling guilt complexes, and otherwise abusing the guys, Rebel and EH chose to kick back at the Pits.

It was a slow night at the bar. It was Parcheesi night at the Dobeys, and Ladies Night at Sweet Alice’s House of Ill Repute. Starsky and Hutch were at home, presumably in bed clutching each other after their admittedly hard day. Fully clothed and gen, or naked and slashy, your choice.

Then completely randomly, without any connection to anything else, the topic of feedback came up.

“Feedback,” pontificated Rebel, trying on her horn-rimmed glasses for size. “That stuff we pretend we don’t care if we get, but which we can’t live without. We act as if we write for nothing more than the pure and unadulterated pleasure of torturing... uh, I mean, worshiping Starsky and Hutch. But honestly, how many of us would take the trouble to put words to paper without the reward of feedback?”

EH slammed down her medication, stopped washing her hands, and protested, “I would! I’ve written hundreds of pages of things I’ve refused to show anybody!! It’s a compulsion, I tell you!!!”

Huggy, ducking the extraneous and airborne exclamation marks, sauntered over to their table. He was resplendent in his usual sartorial splendor. Unfortunately, Rebel and EH had used up their adjectival quota for the night, so they couldn’t do justice to his elegance. Besides, EH just wanted him to serve up another Shirley Temple.

Huggy gave Rebel a dirty look, because she was still nursing her Long Island Ice Tea. He should have known better. Not only does Rebel never pay for her own drinks, she’s quite capable of making one glass last all evening. EH would never take her out, if she wasn’t such a cheap date.

“I am willing to concede,” said EH, in a fake British accent, “that it is discouraging when you actually muster up the courage to put your work out in public and all you get...”

“Is the sound of crickets chirping?” asked Rebel.

“Crickets might be welcome sometimes.”

Huggy placed his palms on the table and looked at them each in turn. “Let me guess. You two fangirls are bitching about feedback, and the lack thereof. Am I right?”

“I’m not bitching!” said Rebel.

“Yeah,” added EH. “Apparently, the other fangirls want her to rape Starsky.” She glared at Rebel. “And no, I’m not going to do it, and you can’t make me.”

“At least,” Rebel muttered, “it doesn’t take me over a year to get him up off the bathroom floor.”

“I have a doctor’s note!!!!” EH scrambled to find her documentation in the depths of her many, large shopping bags.

As empty pill bottles, Kleenex boxes, spare undies, and books flew through the air, Rebel explained to Huggy, “We’re not complaining, we’re just discussing the issue philosophically. I’ve been getting tons of feedback lately, so I’m perfectly happy. EH hasn’t had much, but too much feedback makes her nervous, so that’s fine, too.”

“But I’m willing to take more medication to make that better,” said EH, abandoning her search. She cursed as she realized Rebel had made her doctor’s note into an origami cocktail umbrella, and stuck it into her Shirley Temple.

“But,” continued Rebel, unfazed, “we know lots of really great writers who aren’t getting the love they deserve. And we’re not sure why. Some of them write a lot better than we do, and have been around a lot longer, too.”

“Ah,” said Huggy, nodding wisely. “That’s because you’re not just a writer, girl, you’re a pimp.”

EH was busy trying to rescue her soggy Doctor’s note. “Who’s a pimp?”

“I am!” said Rebel, delighted.

“Wait,” said EH. “That’s not a good thing. It’s illegal, and you have to wear silly hats.”

“Listen and learn, children,” said Huggy pulling up a chair. “All successful writers, whether they’re writing for money or for feedback, are pimps.”

Before You Send Them Out on the Street


“First off,” said Huggy. “The thing to remember is that your stories are your girls.”

“I don’t remember that being in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style,” said EH.

“Hush!” said Huggy, sternly. “If you want to learn, you’ve got to listen.”

EH and Rebel folded their hands primly in their laps, sat up straight, and pretended they were in a nineteenth century instructional manual for young ladies.

“Your stories are your girls,” repeated Huggy. “You dress them up, send them out, and they bring you back the goods. Because it’s illegal for your fanfic stories to earn the filthy lucre, what they’ll be working for instead is feedback.”

“Now just like the pros, you can’t be sending them out in their skivvies, imagining people will pick them up and shower them with praise. No matter how cute you think your story looks when she rolls out of bed in the morning, you’d better get a second opinion. She just got you off – you’d think she looked hot in a polyester muumuu. Best to get your friendly neighborhood beta to give her a once over, comb her hair and make sure her makeup isn’t running down her face.”

“So now your story is looking fine, but she still might stick out like a Brother at a KKK meeting if you don’t know the neighborhood.”

Rebel interrupted, waving her hand in the air. “What do you mean by neighborhood?”

“I know!” said EH, eagerly. “That’s street-speak for the Yahoo Groups, LJs, and Archives. You know, the InterWebs!”

“Keener,” grumbled Rebel, kicking her under the table.

“Street-speak?” Huggy looked askance. “Leave the jive to the pros, please. Know your neighborhood means know the rules of dress and decorum. You might be able to let your story stroll around without a header down on the beach, but if you’re in Beverly Hills you’d best make sure she’s not showing skin. Some joints even specify black tie. If the sign on the door says gen, make sure she’s not wearing her kinky slash boots. Her special talents are not going to be appreciated in that venue.”

“So now that you’ve dressed your story up and decided on a destination, it’s time to hit the streets.”

Working the Streets


“Remember,” said Huggy, “You’re her pimp, not her bodyguard.”

“You mean,” asked EH, in a very small voice. “We slap our stories around instead of protecting them?”

“I beg your pardon!” said Huggy, offended. “I never slapped any girl of mine.”

“Yeah,” said Rebel. “But that’s because you never were a pimp, right? Just an entrepreneur? Or should we be calling up Starsky and Hutch?”

“I doubt they’ll be taking phone calls from either of you for awhile,” said Huggy, smugly.

“He can’t be a real pimp,” said EH. “Diane would have fed him his teeth.”

Huggy simply smiled very much like a Cheshire Cat with a velvet fetish. “Returning to our metaphor... Unless you’d rather retire to another fandom and discuss your
NC-17 Sentinel Bonding Ceremonies?”

“No, don’t hurt Blair!” cried EH.

“Please continue,” begged Rebel.

“Right,” said Huggy. “Your job is to make sure your story gets exposure. You can’t rely on anyone else to pimp her for you, and she can’t pimp herself. She’s not going to become popular with the Johns if she’s always hanging out on the same street corner.”

“Um, what are the Johns in this metaphor?” asked EH.

“The readers!” said Rebel.

Huggy pretended not to hear either of them. “If you want her to get noticed she’s got to work a variety of different neighborhoods. Anywhere you think she’ll be allowed in the front door, that’s the place to send her.”

“You’ve also got to make it easy for the Johns. They don’t know your girl, and they sure ain’t gonna bust their ass trying to find her, either.”

“Maybe you’ve just got one or two stories, or maybe you’ve got a whole stable of them. Set up a whorehouse, if you can, or at the very least tag them, so that finding one means the John can easily find the others.”

“Keep them organized. Line them up and sort them by type. Remember, you’re trying to make it easy for the Johns to find just the kind of girl they want.”

“But what about the feedback?” said Rebel. “People are finding stories just fine. The hit counters prove it!”

“I love hit counters,” said EH dreamily. “It helps me fantasize that people might be reading my stories, instead of accidentally landing there after googling office supplies.”

“Hits are not feedback,” said Huggy, getting huffy. “If you want feedback, you’ve got to make it easy for people to send it. If your Johns don’t see a collection box sitting right there with “Leave a comment” writ large, they’re likely to walk away without paying. It’s not that they’re trying to rip you off, but the rug rats are yelling about dinner and their main squeeze is home and grumping at them.”

“Damn,” said Rebel. “I’ve been meaning to create a ‘feed the author’ button for our archived stories.”

“Also, remember,” said Huggy, “|while most of your feedback will be given to you in public, some Johns are more comfortable with a private room.”

“Yeah, we forget to include our e-mails sometimes, too,” said EH.

“That’s another reason why it’s good to put your girls out all over the place, as far and wide as you can. People don’t travel far from home. You want to make sure your girl is standing right on their street corner, at the precise moment they’re thinking, ‘Man, I could sure use a good hard fic right about now.’”

“So that means,” said Rebel, “we should put our story out on LJ, and Yahoo, and all the other groups, as well as on your own page?”

EH squinted at the far end of the bar. “I guess so, but I can’t quite see the teleprompter from here. I need new glasses. Who wrote this shit anyway?”

“Quiet! You’re lucky the Sex-o-Rama is having its half price Blowout Sale tonight, or I wouldn’t have time to throw my pearls of wisdom before swine.” Huggy pointedly glanced around the empty bar.

“Did he just call us swine?” asked Rebel.

“Being called pigs is a compliment in this town,” EH pointed out.

“Pimping ain’t just about getting your stories out there,” said Huggy. “You’ve got to get your own name known, too. Once you’ve got name brand recognition, people will assume that your stories are worth spending time with. They’ll come to trust you to provide a first class trip around the world.”

“You’ve got to give, in order to get. You’ve got to spend time with the other pimps’ stories, and let them dogs know how much you appreciate their product. In fact, you’d do well to join up with rec communities like Crack Van and rec some of the older girls. That’s how we keep them all feeling young, with that new whore smell.”

“Ew!” said Rebel.

EH guzzled her Shirley Temple, to get rid of the nasty taste in her mouth.

Huggy mixed her a new one. “Join challenges! Teach your stories to jump through hoops. That’ll get you noticed every time. If you’re very ambitious, you could even run some challenges of your own, thus earning respect and notoriety.”

“He’s got a point,” said EH. “I started getting a lot more feedback in the Trek fandom when I ran Slutfest.”

Rebel pretended she didn’t hear.

“Nomination lists for awards are another excellent way to get your name out there. Don’t be shy about telling people you’re interested, if your friends don’t know about the awards, how can they nominate your girls? Yeah, it’s a popularity contest, but ultimately whether you win or not, you’ll get more of that sweet, sweet feedback.”

“Feedback is good,” said Rebel. “It keeps me writing.”

“It’s a drug,” sniffed EH.

“But it’s a legal drug!” Rebel nodded happily, and fired up her laptop in order to get her next fix.

Working the High Class Joints


“After a while, you may start to receive invitations to certain exclusive clubs.”

“Wait... wait...” Rebel was trying decode this latest analogy.

“Zines!” shouted EH. She managed to dodge Rebel’s kick this time.

“They are indisputably an honor,” said Huggy. “But the thing you need to remember is that when your stories are in the club, they’re not out on the street earning their keep. Most people either can’t or won’t spend their money on the entrance fee to the club.”

Rebel gave EH a dirty look. “Yeah, we know where all your money went.”

“My Man From Uncle DVDs are purely an educational expense,” protested EH.

“Historical research into the Cold War, my ass,” said Rebel. “You just like seeing pretty men strung up in chains and flogged.”

Huggy cleared his throat, pointedly. “Regardless, a club girl is serving a smaller clientele. And, while there’s an undeniable cachet to being a club girl, she won’t be getting feedbacked at nearly the rate the street girls do.”

“It’s harder for club members to feedback her, and people are naturally disinclined to do what’s hard. After all, they’ve got so many other hard things they can’t avoid, and hanging out with your stories is supposed to be a pleasure. Some of them will assume they’ve done their bit just by paying the entrance fee, and that might be the only kind of feedback you ever see.”

“You mean, by purchasing the zine,” said Rebel.

“Right, Captain Obvious,” said EH. “Net fics are free, and I don’t even have to leave my comfy bed to find them. And feedback is as easy as pressing ‘Post a Comment’ and typing ‘Squee!’”

“My favorite kind of feedback ever,” said Rebel with no apparent sarcasm.

“So the lesson is,” said Huggy, “If you really want the feedback, don’t put all your stories in zines. If you’re not out there on the street, people are going to assume you gave up the pimping game.”

“The other important thing to keep in mind is that after a year, your club girl usually has the option of returning to the streets. Don’t just quietly tuck her into your whorehouse and assume people will know where and when to look for her. This is a golden opportunity to pimp her to a brand new clientele. It’s like she’s a virgin all over again!”

“Ouch,” said EH, quietly.

“Not all first times are painful,” said Rebel, optimistically.

“Pimping your stories takes work.” Huggy frowned at them. “Even the pros know that! They never just toss a story onto a shelf and assume a reader will wander by, pick it up, and make them lots of bread. They pimp their stories on every street corner, they go to conferences and shake hands, they sign books, enter contests, and answer every little bit of mail. Even the big name publishers know they have to advertise.”

Dealing With Dissatisfied Customers


“What you’ve got to remember,” continued Huggy with an inordinate amount of patience, “is that there’s always an element of chance. Sometimes you’ll do everything right. Your story is dressed in her finest, you’ve got her on all the right street corners, and maybe that day it rains cats and dogs. Or there’s a glut of new girls and no one notices yours. Or sometimes there’s no damn explanation for it. She’s just not getting the feedback.”

“That’s happened to me!” said Rebel.

EH anxiously waited for Rebel to go into a harrowing flashback, but Rebel was firmly in denial about how traumatized she was.

“Here’s where you’ve got to start being shameless,” said Huggy.

“Just like Rebel!” interrupted EH, confident now that the danger of flashbacks was past.

“Hey!” Rebel glared. “So says the coordinator of both Slutfest and Wetfest!”

Huggy kept talking, rolling over both of them. He had no intention of keeping the Pits open 24 hours for these two. “While you’re working on your next stories, feel free to mention the one who got overlooked whenever the opportunity presents itself. Someone might be talking about French kissing brunettes in general, and you can casually mention that there’s this brunette you happen to know, who just happens to be in your stable. Now maybe she’s never French kissed but she does this amazing thing with ping pong balls, and everyone should check her out!”

“Um... Huggy?” said EH, tentatively. “Are you sure you never were a pimp?”

“If you suspect,” continued Huggy, “that your latest story sucked, and not in a good way, then don’t hesitate to approach a big name on the QT and ask for their opinion. Make sure you tell them that you’re okay with getting your ass kicked, as many are nervous about expressing what’s really on their minds. Sometimes you might believe you’ve been sending out new stories, but really she’s just the same tired old whore in a new pair of pumps. Trust me, if that’s the case, you want to know.”

Rebel wibbled, quietly. “But clichés are clichés because they’re loved!”

EH patted her hand. “Critique is character building. And besides, crucifying Starsky isn’t a cliché yet.”

Huggy winced. “On the other hand, sometimes you’re going to get feedback you’re not going to like. Sometimes you’re going to send that girl out, and you’ll hear back that the John absolutely can’t stand brunettes. That’s not the time to give up the pimping business. You should sit yourself down and ask how many other people have told you that they love brunettes. You also have to decide whether or not you want to pimp blondes.”

“Not every John is a good match for every girl. Some might criticize your stories for reasons you think are unfair. Try to consider whether their points are valid for you and your girls. Once again, ask a big name for a second opinion if necessary.”

“Sometimes it’s not just one John. Sometimes it seems that everyone is ganging up on your girl, telling you that she’s an example of everything that’s wrong with the world today.”

“That hasn’t happened... recently,” said Rebel, her fingers crossed behind her back.

“I choose to believe that making somebody’s eyeballs bleed is a compliment,” added EH.

“Remember,” said Huggy. “When you’re a pimp there’s no such thing as bad advertising. Feel free to go back to your pad and sob into your pillow. But resist the urge to yank that girl off the street. Even with all the bad press, you’re still going to be bringing in more feedback. People will definitely notice the story everyone’s throwing beer bottles at. Some of them will have to check her out, just out of curiosity. Some might even decide she’s not so bad.”

“Now, a week or so later, you might want to take a fresh look at her and ask yourself, does this girl need a new dress? Is there any way to make her more palatable to the masses? Is it worth your time trying to rehabilitate her? Or is she just the sort of skanky ho who’s going to offend the vast majority of readers?”

Rebel giggled.

EH looked innocent.

“Don’t forget,” said Huggy. “She didn’t offend everyone. You thought she was hot the first time you met her, and without a doubt, someone else out there liked her, too. Maybe it’s just that you’re servicing a very small clientele. You’re the one who has to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s entirely up to you.”

Rebel and EH were nodding enthusiastically when the front door banged open. Surprised, they turned to find Starsky and Hutch standing in the entrance looking oh so very manly in their tight, tight jeans and matching black leather jackets.

Starsky grabbed Hutch’s arm. “Hutch! It’s them! The ones who hurt me!”

Hutch was looking pale, but resolute. In that special way only he can pull off without looking the least bit emo. “I think it was just that one that raped you.”

“Yeah, but remember?” Starsky pointed at EH. “That one murdered me and then you went on a killing spree!”

Hutch’s eyes narrowed to splinters of cerulean blue ice. “I hated that story!”

“Get ‘em!” shouted Starsky, pointlessly vaulting the table next to him.

While Hutch was rolling (which always helps) and drawing his Magnum, Rebel and EH ran out the back door. They’d decided they didn’t need this kind of feedback.

Starsky and Hutch tried to follow them, but ended up hopelessly tangled in empty ‘zine boxes. “Damn! They got away! Again!”

“Now metafiction,” Huggy mused, quietly adding the girls’ drinks to Starsky’s bar tab, “that’s a whole different can of worms.”

~what it is~