Archive FAQ > Tutorial: Creating a Collection


This tutorial will guide you step-by-step through the New Collection form on Archive of Our Own (AO3). It assumes you have no prior knowledge of creating a collection. It also assumes you're accessing the site in the default skin. Please make allowances if your site customization is different.

If you're planning on collecting themed works or bookmarked recs, this tutorial should guide you through all the steps you need. If you're planning to use your collection to run a challenge, continue to the Prompt Meme Tutorial or Gift Exchange Tutorial for step-by-step instructions on how to set up your challenge settings after creating your collection.

For more information on collections, please refer to the Collections FAQ. If your questions aren't answered by the Tutorial or the FAQ, please contact Support, and we'll do our best to help you.

You can change your collection's information or settings at any time from its Collection Settings page. If you're unsure how to get to this page, refer to How do I return to my Collection Settings page?

This tutorial frequently refers to owners and moderators. To learn more about these roles, check out What is the difference between a co-owner and a moderator? and, more broadly, What membership levels are available for collections?

Getting to the New Collection Page

You must be logged in to your AO3 account to create a collection. If you don't currently have an account, you may request one from the Invite Requests page. For more information, please refer to the Invitations and Your Account FAQs.

To get to the New Collection page:

  1. Go to your Dashboard by selecting the greeting "Hi, [username]!" and choosing "My Dashboard" from the menu, or by selecting your profile image.
  2. Select "Collections (#)" from the menu found at the side of the page or at the top in a mobile device.
  3. Select the "New Collection" button towards the top right of the page on desktop (or below the [username]'s Collections heading on mobile).


This section covers the basic information about the collection and its blurb. Only the collection name and display title are mandatory, but providing more information helps others understand the purpose of your collection.

Owner pseud(s):

If you have pseuds, this is where you can select which pseud is listed as the collection's owner. If you don't have pseuds, this field won't appear on the form.

For more information on pseuds, check out the Pseuds FAQ.

Collection name:

The collection name is the unique identifier that will appear in your collection's URL ( The name can contain letters, numbers, and underscores (although it can't begin or end with an underscore), it can be up to 255 characters, and it must be unique across the site. Due to the Archive's technical requirements, collection names can only be created using basic Latin script without spaces or diacritics, and without punctuation such as periods or commas.

You can change the collection name at any time, but if you do, any existing links to the collection will no longer work, since the name is part of the URL.

Display title:

This is the title that appears wherever your collection is mentioned, such as on the AO3's collection list and on collected works. The display title can be the same as the collection name. However, in the display title you can use spaces, non-Latin characters, symbols, diacritics, and all forms of punctuation except commas.

The collection name doesn't need to match the display title. For example, the collection hightownfunk2015 can have the display title Hightown Funk. Unlike collection names, display titles don't need to be unique, so hightownfunk2018 and hightownfunk2021 could also have the display title Hightown Funk.

Parent collection (that you maintain):

If you would like this collection to be part of another collection that you own, you can enter the parent collection's name here. For example, if you want to have a collection of works based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can make an individual subcollection for each of the films.

A link to the parent collection will appear in the menu on your collection's page, and all owners and moderators of the parent collection will be added as owners and moderators of the subcollection as well.

For more on parent collections, check out Can I create a collection of collections? in the Collections FAQ.

Collection email:

Any alerts or messages about the collection will go to this email. This feature can be useful if there is more than one person looking after the collection and you'd like all AO3 emails to go to a central location, or if you want potential contributors or challenge participants to have a place to send their questions.

Be aware that any email address you enter here will also be publicly displayed on the collection's page. For this reason, you may want to avoid using your personal email address. You can only enter one email, so if you want multiple people to receive updates, you will need to create a shared email address or mailing list and add its address here.

If you provide an email, you can also request to be notified anytime a new item is added to the collection in the Preferences section below. However, if you don't list an email, notifications for new works or bookmarks won't be sent whether you select that option or not.

Gift Exchange emails will be sent regardless of whether an email is provided. If no collection email is given, all owners and moderators will receive an email when potential assignments are generated, when assignments are sent, and when a user defaults on their assignments.

Custom header URL:

In this field you can link to an image that will display at the top of your collection page, like a banner. The image URL needs to be a complete URL, and must end in .jpg, .jpeg, .png, or .gif, but can't be hosted on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) itself. The image will display as-is; it will be cut off if the screen width is smaller than the image, and will tile if the screen width is larger.


An icon is a 100 by 100 pixel image that helps to represent your collection visually on AO3. The icon will appear on your collection page below the header image, and next to your collection's blurb when users are browsing collections. You can upload larger or smaller images, but they will be resized to 100 by 100 pixels, and images that aren't square will be distorted. Images must be in jpg, png, or gif format.

To add an icon, select the button beside, or below, the "Upload a new icon" title. This button’s name will depend on your browser; for example, it might be “Browse” or “Find file”. Locate the desired icon on your device and select it. The image must be stored on your device; you can't upload or link to an icon hosted elsewhere.

Collection icons must also comply with our User Icons policy. You can find this in more detail in our Terms of Service and Terms of Service FAQ.

Icon alt text:

The purpose of alt text is to provide a text alternative to the image. This explains its content if the image is not displayed, or to users of assistive technology. Icon alt text is limited to 250 characters. Please don't use alt text to credit the image creator, as users will be presented with either the alt text or the icon, but not with both.

Icon comment text:

At this time, text entered in this field won't appear on the site. If you want, you can add an attribution or any other comment here for a future time when it is displayed. Otherwise, leave it blank. Icon comment text is limited to 50 characters.

Brief description:

This is a brief summary of your collection and can be up to 1250 characters in length. HTML formatting can be used, and will count towards the character total. The description appears on your collection's page and is part of the collection's blurb.

If you have more to say about your collection than will fit here, don't worry! There will be room for exact details in your collection's profile, which we will go over further later in this tutorial.


This section helps you manage how the collection operates. Select the appropriate options based on your collection's needs. The checkboxes are located next to or above the relevant text, depending on your screen size.

This collection is moderated:

A collection is unmoderated by default. This means that any user can add a work or bookmark to the collection without your approval as long as the collection is open.

In a moderated collection, only collection members can freely add works or bookmarks without your approval. Any other Archive of Our Own (AO3) user can still submit a work or bookmark, but the owners or moderators will need to approve it before it appears in the collection. For more information on adding users to a collection, refer to How do I add members to my collection?

Please note that owners and moderators can reject any work or bookmark at any time, whether the collection is moderated or not. Check out How do I remove a work or bookmark from a collection? for more information.

This collection is closed:

Once this box is checked, no works or bookmarks can be added to the collection except by the collection's owners or moderators.

This collection is unrevealed:

All works added to a collection after this box has been checked will only be accessible to the creator, collection owners and moderators, and Archive site administrators. Unrevealed works will display across AO3 with the title "Mystery Work", and the byline "This is part of an ongoing challenge and will be revealed soon!" Check out What does it mean that a collection is Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, or Anonymous? for more information.

This feature is particularly useful in Gift Exchanges when you don't want the participants to know what they're receiving before the reveal date. You'll need to return to this page and uncheck the box when you want to reveal the works.

Please note that works can only be added to unrevealed collections by their creators, and creators will be notified if a work in your collection becomes unrevealed.

This collection is anonymous:

All works added to a collection after this box has been checked will display as anonymous across AO3, with the byline "by Anonymous". You'll need to return to this page and uncheck the box if you want to reveal the creators' names. For more on what this setting does, check out What does it mean that a collection is Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, or Anonymous?

Like with the unrevealed setting, works can only be added to anonymous collections by their creators, and creators will be notified if a work in your collection becomes anonymous.

Show random works on the front page instead of the most recent:

This option gives you a choice over the order in which works or bookmarks will display to users.

The collection's dashboard can display a maximum of five works and five bookmarks. By default, these will be the most recently created or updated items. If you check this option, the items will display in a random order which changes every time the page is loaded. This can be particularly useful in challenges or other large collections, to ensure all works or bookmarks get the opportunity to appear on the front page.

Send a message to the collection email when a work is added:

When you select this checkbox, the email address you entered in the collection email section will receive an alert every time a work or bookmark is added to the collection. If you didn't provide an email in the Header section, you won't receive an email notice even if this box is checked.

Type of challenge, if any:

This section gives you two different options for the type of challenge your collection will host, if any. A collection doesn't have to host a challenge, so this section can be left blank. The two types of challenges currently available are Gift Exchanges and Prompt Memes. More information and guidance related to these challenges is linked at the end of this tutorial.


In this section you can add details such as the collection's rules, its purpose, and custom messages for challenge emails. You can format the information in these fields using HTML markup; check out Formatting content on AO3 with HTML for more information.

If you are creating a subcollection and the Introduction, FAQ, and Rules fields are left blank, they will inherit information from the parent collection. If you don't want this to happen, you can enter other information in these fields, or use a non-breaking space ( ) to keep the fields blank.


The Introduction provides information on your collection for potential submitters, such as what your collection is about and what fandom(s) are involved. You can put everything in the Introduction, or divide it between this and the other two sections: FAQ and Rules. Information entered here will be included in the collection's Profile page.


Are there any questions someone might ask about your collection? You can put the answers here. This section can be as creative or as straightforward as you want. Information entered here will be included in the collection's Profile page, and will also generate a FAQ link in the collection's menu.


Are there guidelines that users should follow when posting to this collection? If so, you can put them here. Some examples of things you can include are:

  • An end date for submissions.
  • What kind of ratings you want the works or bookmarks to have.
  • The recommended size of the work.
  • Any features such as tropes, themes, ratings, warnings, etc. that works must or must not include.

Information entered here will be included in the collection's Profile page, and will also generate a Rules link in the collection's menu.

Assignment notification message:

Anything you enter here will be sent out with assignments in a Gift Exchange. You can only include plain text in this field, no formatting or HTML. The message can be a reminder of the exchange's full timeline, certain rules, or just wishing the participants luck!

The message will read like this:

You have been assigned the following request in the [display title] challenge at the Archive of Our Own!
Recipient: [username (pseud)]
Prompts: [all of the recipient's prompts in full]
This assignment is due at: [date/time]
You can look up this assignment from your Archive Dashboard.
[Your assignment notification message]

Gift notification message:

Challenge participants will receive an email message when a work fulfilling their prompt has been posted or revealed. You can only include plain text in this field, no formatting or HTML. If you want to add any extra text to the bottom of the message, such as thanking them for their contributions or reminding them to tell the creator how awesome they are, this is where you can put it.

The email will read like this:

A gift work has been posted for you in the [display title] collection at the Archive of Our Own!
[title] (# words)
by [username (pseud) or "an anonymous responder"]
Fandom: [fandom]
Summary: [box with summary]
[Your gift notification message]


When you're satisfied that all the information you entered is correct, select the "Submit" button (or "Update" if you're editing an existing collection). If you're creating a challenge, you will be sent to the Challenge Settings page. For help on setting up your challenge, please refer to the Prompt Meme or Gift Exchange Tutorials.

Where can I get more information if my question isn't answered here?

If you need guidance on a particular part of collection or challenge creation, please check out:

Some frequently asked questions about the Archive are answered in other sections of the Archive FAQ, and some common terminology is defined in our Glossary. Questions and answers about our Terms of Service can be found in the Terms of Service FAQ. You may also like to check out our Known Issues. For help with your specific collection that isn’t covered in these FAQs or Tutorials, please add AO3_Support as a co-owner and then submit a Support request and we’ll do our best to help you.