AO3 – Archive of Our Own

AO3 – Archive of Our Own – The Complete Guide.

In the vast and ever-evolving landscape of the internet, there exists a hidden haven for fanfiction aficionados and fandom enthusiasts – the Archive of Our Own, affectionately known as AO3. It’s a realm where creativity knows no bounds, and a sanctuary for those who wish to explore and celebrate their favorite stories, characters, and universes beyond the limits set by canon.

As a longtime citizen of this charming website, I have finally decided to write a complete guide for newcomers and old fans. Have a specific problem? Then see my FAQ section at the bottom.

What is AO3?

Imagine a vast, labyrinthine library filled with endless shelves, each holding countless books of fanfiction, encompassing every conceivable genre and fandom. This library is AO3, a non-profit website that was established to provide a home for fan-created content. Fanfiction, for the uninitiated, is a form of creative writing where fans of a particular show, book, movie, or other media, write new stories using the characters and settings from the original work. AO3 is the embodiment of this passion, a place where fanfic writers can share their works with the world.

It’s not just about fanfiction, though. AO3 also hosts fan art, fan videos, and podfics, making it a multidimensional platform for fans to express their love for their favorite stories and characters. With millions of stories spanning an array of fandoms, it’s like a digital playground where imagination and creativity flourish.

AO3’s History.

AO3 was launched in 2009 by the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit that is dedicated to preserving and promoting fan culture. The OTW saw the need for a platform that could safeguard fanworks and ensure that fan creators could continue to share their art without fear of censorship or copyright infringement. Over the years, AO3 has grown exponentially, with fan communities and creators flocking to the site to share their work and connect with like-minded individuals.

The history of AO3 is a testament to the power of fandom and the dedication of fan creators. It’s a place where fans have come together to create something beautiful and enduring, a true testament to the idea that fanfiction is a legitimate form of creative expression.

Is it or

One of the first questions that may arise when diving into AO3 is about its web address. Is it, or is it The official domain is, but fans often affectionately refer to it as AO3. So, whether you type in the full domain or take the shortcut, you’ll end up in the same site. re-directs visitors to the official site at

How Do I Sign Up for AO3?

Entering the magical world of AO3 is a breeze. To join this wonderful website, you need an invitation. These invitations are usually given out by existing members, and they can be a bit of a hot commodity in certain fandom circles. If you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation, you can create an account, choose a username, and set up your profile.

The invitation system serves a dual purpose. It helps maintain the site’s stability by preventing it from being overwhelmed by a sudden influx of new users, and it ensures that the community remains tightly knit. Remember, patience is a virtue in the world of fandom!

To join the AO3 waitlist, go to the home page at, and click on ‘Get Invited’.

How do I get an Invitation to join AO3?

Getting an invitation for Archive of Our Own (AO3) can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Here are some ways to get an invitation:


  • Ask Friends or Fellow Fans: If you have friends or acquaintances who are already AO3 members, they may have the ability to send invitations. Politely inquire if they could send you one.
  • Participate in Fandom Communities: Engaging with fandom communities on social media, fan forums, or fan conventions can help you connect with people who have AO3 accounts. Some fans offer invitations to newcomers who are active and respectful within the community.
  • Request Invitations on Fan Forums: Some fan forums have specific threads or sections where users share AO3 invitations. Keep an eye out for such opportunities and politely request an invitation.
  • Follow AO3’s Official Social Media: Archive of Our Own occasionally holds events where they release a limited number of invitations to the public. Following their official social media accounts can help you stay updated on such events.
  • Contribute to Fandom Activities: Some fandom communities or fan projects might have opportunities for fans to earn AO3 invitations by contributing to their activities or events.
  • Join the AO3 Waiting List:  Archive of Our Own has a waiting lists where you can put your name down for an invitation. It might take some time, but it’s the easiest option to consider. You can join the waiting list at

Remember to always be respectful and patient when seeking an invitation. Many fans are protective of AO3’s community and want to ensure that new members will contribute positively to the platform. Engaging with the fandom and showing your appreciation for fanfiction can increase your chances of finding someone willing to invite you.

You can check your Invite Request status here.

How Do I Log In to AO3?

Once you’ve received your coveted invitation and set up your account, logging in is a piece of cake. Just go to, click on the “Log In” button at the top right corner, and enter your username and password. You’ll then be whisked away to your personal AO3 dashboard, ready to explore the countless stories that await.

Note, that there is not a dedicated AO3 login page for users, either on desktops or mobile phones, just a drop-down panel.

The AO3 login panel drops down when you clicn on Log In in the top right corner.

How do I Reset a Forgotten or Lost AO3 Password?

If you forgot your AO3 password, do the following:

  • Go to the homepage.
  • Click on Login in the top right corner.
  • Click on forgot password.
  • Enter your Username or Email address and click on Reset Password.

You can also go straight to the AO3 Reset Password website at

A recovery email will be sent do your email address with instructions.

To check if a username exists, go to your address bar and type in, then replace “USERNAME” with your own username, and you can see if your account still exists.

TIP: If you don’t remember which email address you used to sign up with, then to go to the ‘New Password’ page shown above, and try to fill in your email address, then click “Reset Password”. If the email you enter is not correct, you will see an error message, so no email will be sent. You can then do this with all your known email addresses (if you are like me, you will have many different email addresses). And then you can easily find out which one you used when you signed up for your AO3 account.

To reset your AO3 password, enter either yourAo3 Username or associated email address, and click on ‘Reset Password’.

How Do I Find Out if AO3 is Down?

As with any website, there may be times when AO3 experiences technical difficulties. If you ever find yourself unable to access the site, don’t panic. You can check the status of AO3 by visiting their official Twitter account, @AO3_Status. They provide regular updates about the site’s status, so you can stay informed about any ongoing issues and when you can expect the site to be back up and running.

I have added a page on how to check if AO3 is down quickly, at Is AO3 Down?

Is AO3 Legal?

Ah, the age-old question of legality when it comes to fanfiction and fan art. The answer, in the case of AO3, is a resounding yes – AO3 is entirely legal. It operates under the umbrella of the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit entity dedicated to promoting and preserving fan culture.

The legal aspect is largely thanks to the concept of “transformative works.” In essence, fanfiction and fan art are considered transformative because they take existing characters and settings and create something new and original with them. While copyright laws can be complex, fanworks often fall under the fair use doctrine, which protects the rights of creators to transform and reinterpret original content.

It’s worth noting, though, that AO3 has strict policies against plagiarism and the distribution of explicit or offensive content. The site maintains a robust system for reporting and addressing issues, ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all users.

Is AO3 Safe?

Safety is a priority at AO3. The site has implemented several measures to ensure the security and privacy of its users. For instance, it allows users to block and filter content, as well as manage who can interact with their works and profiles. Additionally, AO3 has strong policies against harassment and abuse, and they actively work to address any reports of such behavior.

In the realm of fanfiction, there’s a strong sense of community, and many users are more than willing to help newcomers navigate the site and provide support when needed. The AO3 community takes its users’ safety and well-being seriously, making it a welcoming and secure place for fans of all backgrounds.

Who Owns the Content on AO3?

One of the unique features of AO3 is that it places the power in the hands of the creators. When a fan shares their work on AO3, they retain ownership and control over their content. This means that fanfic writers and artists decide how their works can be used, whether it’s allowing others to create derivative works based on their content or setting restrictions on how their work can be shared.

This approach empowers creators, giving them the final say over their creations, while also respecting the boundaries they set. It’s a far cry from many other platforms where the ownership of content can be murky at best.

AO3 Alternatives.

While AO3 is undoubtedly one of the largest and most beloved platforms for fanfiction, there are other alternatives out there. Here are a few:

  • A longstanding platform that hosts fanfiction in various categories and genres.
  • Wattpad: Popular for original and fan fiction, it boasts a large and active community.
  • Tumblr: A social media platform where many fans share their fanfiction and fan art.
  • LiveJournal: Though not as popular as it once was, it still has active fan communities.

Each platform has its own unique culture and features, so it’s worth exploring and finding the one that best suits your preferences.

The Top 10 Subjects of AO3.

One of the most fascinating aspects of AO3 is its diversity. The site is home to an astonishing variety of fandoms, each with its own fervent following. While the list of popular fandoms is extensive and ever-changing, here are the top 10 subjects that have consistently captured the hearts and imaginations of AO3 users:

  1. Harry Potter: The beloved wizarding world continues to enchant fans with new stories, adventures, and alternative endings.
  2. Supernatural: The adventures of the Winchester brothers and their battles against supernatural threats remain a compelling topic.
  3. Marvel Cinematic Universe: The expansive MCU offers a multitude of characters and worlds for fanfiction exploration.
  4. Sherlock: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s detective escapades never get old.
  5. Teen Wolf: The supernatural drama series has inspired numerous fan works.
  6. Doctor Who: Time and space offer endless possibilities for fan writers.
  7. Star Wars: A galaxy far, far away provides fertile ground for fan creativity.
  8. My Hero Academia: The world of quirks and superheroes is a recent hit among fanfic writers.
  9. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The demigod adventures keep on going in fanfic form.
  10. The Witcher: Geralt of Rivia’s monster-hunting tales have a dedicated following.

These subjects are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have a favorite show, book, movie, or game, chances are there’s a vibrant fan community on AO3 waiting to share their fanfiction and art with you.

My Experiences with AO3.

Whether you’re a seasoned fanfiction writer, a curious newcomer, or simply someone looking for new and imaginative stories, AO3 is simply the place to be. It is by far my favorite of the fanfiction websites. If you are a fan of fanfiction, there is someone for everyone. Is one of my favorite websites by far, and I can’t imagine the internet without a website like this.

Yes, signing up can be a bit of a pain. I suppose the sign up process is convoluted for a reason, so that they avoid spam bots and empty accounts. It works well, as it is now a site for true fans.

Let your imagination run wild and join the ranks of A03 fans. Those secret poems at the bottom of your desk deserve to see the light of day.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Archive of Our Own (AO3).

If you are a beginner/new to Archive of Our Own, I recommend watching this video from the 2.31 minute mark, as it explains how to get started, what Kudos, Hits, and Bookmarks are, how to search AO3 with filters correctly and how to post your own fan-fic.

For everything else, please refer to the questions and answers below, and to the other pages on this website.

What is Archive of Our Own (AO3)?

Archive of Our Own, often abbreviated as AO3, is a popular online platform dedicated to hosting and archiving fanfiction and other transformative fanworks. It was established by the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) and is designed to be a welcoming and inclusive space for fan creators.

How does AO3 work?

AO3 allows users to create accounts and publish their fanfiction stories, fanart, podfics, and other fanworks. Users can categorize their works by fandom, pairings, tags, and content warnings. The site’s tagging system helps readers find the specific content they’re interested in.

Is AO3 free to use?

Yes, AO3 is completely free to use. It’s a nonprofit platform that relies on donations from users to cover operating costs.

What is the OTW, and what is its role in AO3?

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization that supports and manages AO3. OTW is dedicated to preserving and promoting fanworks and fan culture. AO3 is one of the projects under the OTW umbrella.

What kind of content is available on AO3?

AO3 primarily hosts fanfiction and related fanworks. You can find stories and works of art related to a wide range of fandoms, including literature, TV shows, movies, video games, and more.

How do tags and warnings work on AO3?

Users can add tags to their fanworks to help readers find specific content. Tags can include information about pairings, genres, themes, and content warnings. The AO3 community encourages the use of content warnings to make the platform a safe and inclusive space for all users.

Is AO3 only for fanfiction, or can I post original works there?

AO3 is primarily for fanfiction and fanworks. It does not host original content. If you’re interested in publishing original works, platforms like Wattpad or self-publishing on Amazon may be more suitable.

Can I monetize my fanfiction on AO3?

No, AO3 is a non-commercial platform, and you cannot monetize your fanfiction works on the site. It strictly prohibits the use of fanworks for commercial purposes.

How can I support AO3?

AO3 relies on donations from its users to cover its operational costs. You can contribute to the platform by donating through the OTW. Donations help keep AO3 free and accessible to everyone.

Is AO3 available in multiple languages?

Yes, AO3 supports fanworks in multiple languages, making it accessible to a global audience. Users can filter and search for works in specific languages.

Can I download fanfiction from AO3 for offline reading?

Yes, you can download fanfiction from AO3 for offline reading. AO3 provides an option to download works in various formats, such as EPUB, MOBI, and PDF.

How do I navigate AO3 and find the fanfiction I want to read?

AO3 offers a robust search and filtering system to help you discover fanfiction. You can search by fandom, tags, pairings, ratings, and more. There are also user-created collections and challenges to explore.

Are there any content guidelines on AO3?

AO3 has content policies that prohibit illegal content and harassment. The platform promotes freedom of expression but within legal and ethical boundaries. Users are encouraged to add content warnings to their works for sensitive or potentially triggering material.

How do I create an account on AO3?

To create an AO3 account, you need to request an invitation, which is usually granted within a short period. The website provides instructions for requesting an invite and creating an account.

Can I interact with other users on AO3?

Yes, you can interact with other users by leaving comments on their works, subscribing to their profiles, and participating in discussions in the site’s forums. However, it’s essential to be respectful and considerate in your interactions.

Is AO3 banned in some countries?

AO3 was not banned in any countries, As far as I know. However, internet censorship and access to websites can change over time, so you should verify its accessibility in your region if you’re concerned.

What is the longest book on AO3?

The title of the longest work on AO3 can change over time as new contributions are added to the platform. Currently a 6.87 million word terminator fanfiction is the longest. It is still not finished and is still regulary being updated, now with 1524 chapters with an average of 4500 words.

Why did China ban AO3?

China banned AO3 in 9th February 2020, after a celebrity Xiao’s fans reported a piece of RPS titled ‘Xiazhui’ as well as Archive of Our Own (AO3) that hosted it, causing AO3 to be blocked in China on 29th February 2020. Xiazhui features real celebrities so it was bannned on moral concerns.

How is AO3 better than Wattpad?

AO3 and Wattpad serve different purposes and have distinct features, and the choice between them depends on your preferences and what you’re looking for:

AO3 is primarily for fanfiction and related fanworks, emphasizing a tagging system for content warnings and categorization. It is known for its inclusivity and respect for diverse voices.

Wattpad is a broader platform that includes various writing genres, not limited to fanfiction. It allows writers to publish and monetize their original works and includes social features like comments, votes, and interaction between authors and readers.

What fandom has the most fanfiction on AO3?

The fandom with the most fanfiction on AO3 can vary over time, often influenced by current trends and popular media. Some of the popular fandoms on AO3 included Harry Potter, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sherlock, and various anime and manga series. To find out the current stats, you can check AO3’s official statistics page.

Other Helpful Resources.

Please leave a comment or question about AO3 in the comment section.

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