What makes someone a BNF?

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Title: What makes someone a BNF?
Creator: Emma Grant
Date(s): July 7, 2005
Medium: LiveJournal post
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: What makes someone a BNF?; archive link page 1; archive link page 2; archive link page 3
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

What makes someone a BNF? is a 2005 post by Emma Grant.

The meta is mostly in the 210 comments.

There are many comments about Cassandra Claire, Aja, Maya and other Harry Potter fans.

NOTE: while there are many references and comments to Cassandra Claire's plagiarism, the infamous expose, The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle, was still 13 months away from being published.

Excerpt from the Post

I was just looking over starrysummer's list of underappreciated authors, and saw a few names there that I was surprised people consider underappreciated. And that got me to thinking about where exactly the line is between being an underappreciated author and a BNF. Not that there's nothing in between; it seems to be a continuum with those labels on either end. But that begs the question, where is the line above which one is considered a BNF? What are the qualifications? Why is it such a politically charged label? And how is it that one actually becomes a BNF? It seems to be like becoming a Maestro: someone else has to apply the label to you first, and then it's just a fact.

Excerpts from the Comments

theduchess: I think it takes skill, for one thing. And I think it takes luck, time, and patience. If you write well enough, you're sure to get noticed. And when you're noticed by one person, they end up telling a friend, who may tell another friend, and eventually, everyone knows about you. So mainly, I think it's luck combined with skill.
charlottechaos: I wonder if some people got offended at the idea of not being considered BNFs :) Because that would be funny.

I'm not sure what the qualification to be a BNF really is. I see loads of people I've never heard of offering advice on how to become a BNF. I'd say that the status of Maestro would be more applicable, but in practice, it looks like if you call yourself a BNF, you are. At least to some. Which never ceases to make me giggle.

[snipped]

Until there's better parking for being a BNF, then I don't get the point.
nmalfoy: I was once considered a BNF, but then I didn't update MPI for a long time and people quickly forgot about me for the most part. The same thing makes a BNF that makes someone famous: a lot of people know who you are, even if they don't know you personally. So someone who's known for causing wank, say, could be a BNF in theory. Authors often get quickly known if their fics are popular, so that's why a majority of BNFs are authors.
shikishi: To me, the difference between a BNF and everyone else is not really that the BNF is any better than someone who is well known, but they do tend to have a rather fanatic/rabid fanbase. These are the authors that will post a 100 words about Ron's breakfast and receive 30 comments on how wonderful it is before they have even checked it for an edit. It is not (usually) the quality of the writing so much as the fact that they have written one (or more) extrememly well know novel length fics. They are the first names that everyone hears when they enter the fandom, they are the ones on everyones friends list.

Then there are the "in-betweens". The ones who have a good amount of readers/commenters. They have done alot of footwork and eventualy become a recognised name in most areas of fandom. This is in comparision to the "under appreciated" authors - the ones who may or may not be recc'd, who may or may not be read. The ones who have completely awed you with a story and when you get to the end it has one comment (usually from a best mate or their mother) but has been posted for days. The ones where you can't believe no one has even realized the story exists.

My feeling however is that the BNF is sort of becoming a thing of the past. In a fandom with 9723792919 writers and just as many readers there is something for everyone - and it is a heck of alot harder to make that "big" name for yourself.
darththalia: I have no idea how to define a BNF, but I will say, the HP fandom is so fragmented that there aren't any fandom-wide BNFS... well, except maybe Cassie Claire. There are Harry/Snape BNFs that I'm sure you've never heard of, and there are H/D BNFs that I've never heard of. So it's possible that whoever compiled that list just isn't in the exact same part of fandom as you are, so there are names that you know well that were less familiar to the compiler.

Just out of curiosity, do you consider Telanu a BNF? Ballyharnon? Minx? AJ Hall?

Or, you know, they could just be on crack.
emmagrant01 (original poster): That's a good point. I doubt it's possible for someone to become a BNF in HP as it was originally defined.

Of the folks you've mentioned, the only name that's familiar to me is AJ Hall. Lust Over Pendle, right?

Have you heard of Aja, Frances Potter, Fearless Diva, Resonant?
musesfool: I've heard of everyone you two listed here, though I've only read Minx, Resonant and AJ Hall, and yet only Minx has written in the pairings I read.

I think a lot depends on how you come to the fandom (being multi-fannish and having other fandoms pre-HP, or being mono-fannish and having HP be the first fandom, or various combinations of those factors) and who you know when you do influences things a lot, as well as *when* you come in. Numerous people who are BNFs now were unknown when I started in HP, some were BNFs in other fandoms and brought their fans along with them, and some were just starting out and made a name for themselves.

I do think that mostly Isis is right - one person's BNF is another's WTF? but there are names that will crop up as *known* even if people in certain segments of fandom don't read them, and I think there are also still cross-fandom BNFs, who write in multiple fandoms and are known even in fandoms they don't often write in (e.g., Te, Resonant, Cesperanza).
marksykins: This is the second time starrysummer has run the underappreciated authors thing and, despite her being one of my good friends, I still kind of object to it on principle. I think a new authors list or underappreciated stories list might be handy, but of all of those comments, I only didn't know the writing -- not didn't recognize the name, but had never read the fics of -- eight people.

I think this kind of list is not only impossible in the HP fandom because it's so fractured, so while I might be familiar with most of LJ's segment of fandom, I don't know anyone on FF.net and only a small fraction of Fiction Alley writers. Like florahart (who I'm sure won't mind me using as an example) is on that list. Whuh, huh? She has over 500 people on her friends-of list, she's a member of pornish, and has been in the fandom for two years now. Yeah, she doesn't post at all off of Livejournal, but even though I adore her writing with a fiery passion, she's one of the last people I would think of as 'underappreciated'.

Also, there's the difference between 'underappreciated' and 'unknown' that doesn't sit well with me, either. I bet people with thousands of readers sometimes feel 'underappreciated', too.
oxoniensis : I would say that I don't think a BNF need be a writer. There are many other aspects of fandom - artwork, maintaining archives, meta etc - that someone can become well known for.

I'd say that there are also degrees of BNFness (heh, I like that word). There are those that are known within a section of their fandom (for example the H/D fans in the HP fandom, although that probably only applies to the really large fandoms like HP), those known throughout a fandom, and those known across fandoms.

I think there's also the stalker factor - the quantity of weird emails etc received is directly proportional to the degree of BNFishness. *g*
maeglinyedi : The idea of a BNF might work in a small fandom, where there can be a few people everyone's heard of. But the HP fandom is just too big for that. Too many categories and ships. I know a few people I consider well-known in my corner of the fandom, but if I take those names over to the Harry/Hermione or the Gen side of fandom, people won't have a clue who I'm talking about. And that's why I think the whole idea of a BNF doesn't work in the HP fandom, because *gasp* there are even people out there who haven't a clue who Cassie Claire is. ;-)
titti: Underwater Light never held my attention. I don't like school!Draco, because there is no way to reconcile him with canon, unless he wakes up and turns into a Gryffindor, and I like my Slytherins to remain bastards.

I don't read Sirius/Remus. It's just a personal preference, and that's why I haven't read shoebox.

I think the fact that the HP is so fragmented is the reason why for me there are no BNF. Mention a great het writer and I'd have no clue.

CC is in a different category. Is she a BNF? Probably the only one. Has she done anything good for fandom? Unless you count ending up on F_W on a regular basis. I don't think so. Will I read her stories? Not for a million years. Once you've been caught as a plagiarist, I can never trust anything you write.

Cluegirl recently joked that there are only 4 Harry/Sirius shippers, so yes, I agree, but I think the Sev/Harry, the Sirius/Remus, the Hermione/Sev *shivers* the Harry/Herm, the Ron/Herm would say that their ship is the largest.

In fact I know plenty of snapeslashers who have never read/dealt/heard of CC.

I think being associated to CC as a writer is demeaning. When I came to HP, I was already a slasher, and proud of it. I also came from the Buffy/Angel fandom so I found her use of Joss' scripts as her dialogue insulting. It took her a year or something outrageous like that to admit that she had stolen from Joss Whedon. Anyone else would have been stoned to death.
ladycat777: Ah, yes. I'm actually in a different fandom, and only just dipping my toes into HP, but in my primary, some people think I'm a BNF, some people don't know me from Adam. I really think BNF is a) a derrotory term and used that way and b) a holdover from list/zine culture. Back then, things were far more centrilzied then they are with online fandoms, so a BNF was more possible -- I went to conexxions (slash con) this past March and for fandoms like Starsky and Hutch, which is still very much zine based, everybody really *does* know everybody else. Here? With us? The internet makes it too hard, let alone the slash/het divide -- something I'm kind of glad I don't see so much of in the HP fandom. It tends to break down to pairings -- if somebody writes in yours, chances are you'll discover them. If they don't, you probably won't ever see them *shrug*

But yeah, BNF is overrated. It's more embarrassing than anything when I'm called one, for all I admit to being obsessive about how recognized I am or well liked. And when someone claims to be "underappreciated" what it really means is "give me feedback".

Which I admit to shamelessly seeking out m'self. I'm just more blunt about it :)
emmagrant01 (original poster): I've had the odd experience of being basically a BNF in one fandom, leaving it for a while, and then coming back to it and having a few folks think I'm a newbie. Fandom memory tends to be short! The consensus here so far is that the label doesn't actually mean much.
amberleewriter: I'll put a toe in the water here. I only know two names in the HP fandom: Cassie Claire and Aja. I don't care about HP fandom and I only read in it rarely. I know Aja because she's from IU and so am I. As for Cassie... I think it's because she's a BNF.

Of course, I couldn't tell you the names of BNF's in SW fandom either. Are you one? Is Helens? Is Rita? What about Mrs. H? Lori? Honestly, I don't have a clue. *blinks*

I think I was one in my older fandom. I run two of the lists now and have some pretty well known epic fics that are often pointed to by others but I don't really do much writing in the fandom anymore and only mod lightly. I don't feel like a BNF there, but I don't think it's for me to say. I suppose I should find out, shouldn't I? *is so clueless*

I guess, to me, being a BNF has more to do with other people saying you are than it does thinking you are one. The only fandom I've been exposed to where a BNF seems to be a bad thing is in HP where more wank goes on than I've ever seen in one spot (with the possible exception of the disaster that occurred when the SAAB fandom split and went south) so I don't really think of the label as some kind of scarlet brand.
sciencegeek: Does anyone actually call themselves a BNF? If you term it by people with a big following, I think you may count as one, but I never have thought of you as one.

I've only seen it used to describe someone with a big following and (...I want to call them henchmen, but it sounds so mean) fans that are extremely defensive. Like, if someone dared to comment on a fic and say that they didn't like it (but thought it was well written), or didn't like a chapter or something they'd jump down their throat.

In my head (I'm not sure if it's true or not), they tend to have a bit of a snobby better-than-you attitude, and don't tend to reply back to feedback unless it's from someone who followed them from the beginning.

One of the reasons I love the writers on my flist is that even if they have tons of comments on a chapter/fic they reply with a quick thank you to everyone. I know it sounds stupid, but like writers, readers like to be appreciated (...at least this one does).

But, I'm in general unaware of these things, so I may be completely wrong.

I think the definition of BNF may have been warped over time, or by fandom. Or maybe the definition changed as fandom got bigger and people got jealous. It sounds like an innocent enough thing, but I haven't really seen it used often (...or really at all), in a positive context. Maybe it's because I came late to the fandom scene.
yaycoffee: A BNF is simply someone who has a lot of readers in their genre. I'm most familiar with H/D authors at this point, but I started out in the gen/het side of fandom. Some BNFs seem to have really earned their status, whereas I really wonder what some people see in the work of others. I generally read what I like, whether four thousand people have read it, or only six. The first fanfic I read was Lori's Paradigm of Uncertianty, and I found out later that she was a BNF. Just like Cassie and Maya--I found out later that you get no fandom indie cred for liking them. I can't help it. I do. I love their stories, actually. *hides*
pfftmg: I think the crucial ingredient is probably a heck of a lot of charisma.

See, this is what I was looking for - and if it wasn't here, I was going to post it! There are some people who just don't have what it takes to be a BNF because it's not in their personality.

An example, if I may, I'm sure a large number of people have heard of The Theban Band - they produce cross-pairing and cross-fandomal (o.O is that a word?) art. They have an enormous hit counter, as well as feedback, they have been publicised outside of the slash and fandom community, in fact, they have been publicised outside of the internet, on national television and in mainstream newspapers/magazines.

However, I have never heard nor believe anyone refers to them as BNF. By any of the definitions above (if you refer to art and not writing) they should be - the only thing they seem to lack is active involvement in promoting their work and/or speaking out in the many fandoms they are a part of. They do moderate a number of lists in various fandoms, however, so I would consider them active fandom members, they just tend to remain silent.

Then again, imho, it does help to have the right friends.
starrysummer: Well, if you have opened a can of worms, I was probably the one who gave you the can-opener. Eek. ;)

I have to say that some of the names that people brought up are people who I think of as fairly well-known and well-regarded as well. But I really was looking for others' general input and didn't take any sort of editorial license short of (I believe, maybe I'm silly and forgot) putting a few notes and comments at the top of the entry.

Ack! BNF is SUCH a loaded term. It's almost like you can't have discussions concerning that since it has such strong connotations - in either direction - for some people. But, really, I don't see it as an antonym of underappreciated. There are people who are well known for, say, meta, but whose fic doesn't get the attention that it deserves. But even more than that, I didn't set out any sort of guide as to what constitutes underappreciated, any sort of level of notoriety above which people should not have been brought to my attention.

My intention was simply to collect a list of author recs that people felt were worthy of more readership than they were getting - to put names of authors out there who weren't always that easy to find. I know a lot of people tend to read primarily from recs lists and invite-only communities, so that was really the only sort of guidance I gave in the original post.

It was actually really interesting for me to see the comments come in to the post. At first, the response was almost entirely from my flist, and people were reccing authors that I was fond of, some of them being the same people I had in mind as underappreciated, others being ones I'd thought of as better-known. Later, people came in from the various newsletters, and listed authors I'd certainly never heard of - but they were often from different subsets of fandom, so for all I knew, they could've been huge in, say Harry/Hermione.

When I compiled the list, I found that one author - who is someone I had thought of as amazing and little-known - had gotten something like ten mentions. Which begged the question of was she really that underappreciated? Or did she just have a very dedicated yet small following and a lot of fandom hadn't heard of her before? Or do us Blackcest people live in a little passionate dirty hole in the ground assuming we're all alone?

Part of me thinks that it would be fascinating to see a seperate list of who isn't underappreciated - who gets the recs, the invites, the reviews, the regard and writes fics that totally deserve it. But that's no less subjective, and a far bigger can of worms. I have can openers, but none that size...

I actually have like 500 other things to say on the topic, because this really, really is a fascinating one. But I really should actually do some work at work...
musesfool: I think the problem is that it's all a matter of perspective. We may look at Fan A and say, "She has a huge f-of-list, everyone reads her stories, she's a BNF!" and she may turn around and go, "I'm underappreciated, because nobody gives me meaty feedback, they just squee at me. If I post a story not in my usual pairing, nobody comments." Or something.

I think if you asked people about themselves, a lot more would say they feel underappreciated than actually are underappreciated.

You and I have had this conversation before, I think. *g*

I think perhaps as Marks mentioned, making a list of underappreciated/less-well-known *stories* would probably work better, though even there I'm sure some folks would be going, "Oh, she totally got thirty comments for that! How is that unappreciated?" But it's all a matter of scope. To wit - I was nominated in some awards thing or other (since I loathe fanfic awards, I don't recall what it was) where the categories were based on number of reviews the story had received. The stories were culled from LJ, from FA, SQ, FF.net etc. My story was in the lowest category, the "less than 100 reviews" category, so even though the thirty or forty comments I got on it were a flood of feedback to *me*, there were stories listed that had reviews in the thousands. Which I find staggering. So, do I start to feel underappreciated, because I've never gotten more than 100 comments* on a story? I don't, because I remember being in XMM and SV where if I got five comments it was a red-letter day.

That's why this is all so amorphous and hard to pin down, because there's so much baggage involved with calling someone a BNF. The only criterion should be that the person's name is well-known for something fannish, but there's so much other stuff that's involved, so it becomes a big headache no one wants to talk about.

*It's possible I have once or twice, I'm not sure.
primroseburrows: As far as BNFs go, I agree 100% with bookshop: there's no such thing. It's all a matter of opinion. Some people think they're BNFs, some people have favourite authors, but really, no. The term is pretty obsolete. Maybe it used to mean something, but I don't think it does anymore (and that's a GOOD thing, I think). The only thing BNF-ery does these days is incite wank, IMO.
spessartine: Tough one, this. I have to say though I think most of what goes into constituting a BNF has very little to do with the writing and everything to do with the wank.

Or, for that matter, everything to do with online presence, how they go about engaging with fandom as a whole. A few people I might consider BNFs hardly write at all, but concentrate a lot more on discussions/recs/things of that ilk.

I also think it bears mentioning that there are very, very few BNFs - the term just gets knocked about, and everyone latches on.
novembersnow: Ah, BNFdom! That most subjective of terms! That great inspiration for wank everywhere! ;)

To be perfectly honest, I've considered making a post like this a half a dozen times because the whole BNF thing boggles me. I think Isis's legendary BNF-WTF observation is about as apt a comment as we're ever going to find on the subject.

When I started lurking around the H/D corner of the fandom a few years ago (and once I'd figured out what "BNF" stood for), it all seemed pretty simple: BNFs were people who wrote long, interesting fics and had a massive (relatively, anyway) following. From what I could tell, H/D folks seemed to agree on five people as the BNFs in our corner of the world: Cassie Claire (subtextual as her H/D is), Ivy Blossom, Aja, Maya, and Rhysenn. Since then, of course, Rhysenn and Ivy have all but left the fandom, and a host of new writers have cropped up. The H/D fan base is much, much bigger than it was then. There isn't that sort of (perceived) consensus anymore.

Honestly, I think "BNF" is a term used much more often by relative newbies than anyone else, because they're trying to figure out the hierarchy of the fandom. The thing is, I don't think it's so much a hierarchy as a set of interconnected cliques (see BNF-WTF comment). People labeled "BNFs" tend to be ones perceived as having some sort of status within their particular clique(s)--but the "perceived" part is the key. I've seen a fair number of people referred to as BNFs who made me go "Wha...?" (and I don't mean that in a "not in my part of fandom" way, but in an "I didn't think that many people knew you" way).

Hell, even I've been called a BNF, which makes me laugh. I explained to a friend once that I am in no way a BNF, because BNFs are the fandom equivalent of bestselling authors--your Nora Robertses and John Grishams and whatnot, the ones who have a huge fanbase that will read anything the author writes, and whom everyone knows, even if you've never read a word they've written. I'm more like a mid-list author, I said--someone who occasionally writes something that's critically well-reviewed and who has a fairly loyal readership, but who doesn't have instant name recognition. But you know, that's a good place to be. I might never have people jockeying for "OMG FIRST COMMENT???" on my posts (speaking of WTF?), but I've never been a target for wank either. ;)
abbycadara: Love the topic, Emma. To diagnose someone with the "condition" of BNF, you have to first have an overall assessment of fandom, which is always SO much fun. ;)

Like so many others have said, can there even BE such a far-reaching, HP fandom-wide BNF? Would it be Cassie Claire, or as someone else mentioned, Maya? In the case of Cassie, I would say she comes the closest, though a lot of her fame is also infamy from the various things she’s said and done in the past (like, say, being a plagiarist and then being an absolute b00b over it).

Or is HP fandom so big that there HAS to be some kind of division, and do said divisions ultimately detract from someone’s BNFness? These authors/artists/reccers are, after all, only known to their own corner of fandom. But H/D writers aren’t exactly seeking out a Snarry demographic and trying to win them over. But are the separate divisions in HP large and diverse enough to be considered fandoms unto themselves? Personally, I say, Why not? When I write a story with only Harry and Draco in it, I don’t look back over it and think, “Damn, you know, I really should have used Ron and given him and Harry some subtext so that those Harry/Ron fans will read and like this.” I don’t think that just because someone who I would consider a BNF, who isn’t a BNF to het readers, isn't any less of a BNF.

And that stance is important in understanding the rest of this, because who I will mention as a BNF WILL be someone else’s WTF? But for argument's sake let's just say that BNFs exist.

So now I take into account the notion of pre-OotP BNFs and post-OotP BNFs, which is a subject that I’ve been wanting to dig my claws into for a while (not necessarily the BNF aspect you know, but rather how much fandom has changed). The fic that was written before OotP is FAR different from what’s being written now. Maya, Cassie, Aja, Frances Potter and all the rest of the authors than many consider BNFs are BNFs because they were among the first to write novel-length fic. Thing is, most if not all of those stories are set in Harry’s sixth or seventh year at Hogwarts. And most are hopelessly mushy and dramatic romances. And there is NOTHING at all wrong with that, because that was what fandom wanted from H/D.

But now fandom wants something else. They want fics set AFTER the war. They want Harry and Draco to be 25 and have steady jobs and comfortable flats downtown. They want Draco to live in San Francisco and Harry to be all kinds of fucked up and they want Draco to look like Boyd Holbrook. All of which would have been crazy three years ago in fandom, but now is the natural progression.

[snipped]

I don't have Cassie friended, or Maya or Resonant, and they might be BNFs, but, honestly, I don't care have much of an interest in their fics anymore, which is why a lot of people have them friended. I think we're in the midst of a BNF shift, because fandom does have such a short term memory.
ladysorka: A BNF is someone well known in their corner of a fandom.

No more, and no less.

If I turned to someone who reads generally the same pairing and same type of fic that I do, and say "Hey, what did you of think of ____'s newest?" and they know who I'm talking about, and I do that and get the same result with ten other people (who I'm not buddy-buddy with), ______ is a BNF.

A BNF can be known for anything - for good writing, for meta, for fanart, for archiving, for being a massive wanker, whatever. If the majority of people in a certain segment of fandom know who they are, they're a BNF. For that portion of fandom, at least.

I don't consider it politically charged at all, I just think it's a matter of numbers.

Yes, this means that if your entire fandom consists of 12 people, you're all BNFs, because you all know who the others are.
meri oddities: I found the listing of BNFs (real or imagined) fascinating. In the greater world of cons and other fandoms, most of those names would not be known -- except by those who are in HP. There are whole other worlds out there that don't intersect with this one at all.

Add to that that you've proven, in HP there are so many splits and ships that even among the big names there isn't one who is *the* name. Cassie Claire aside since she really is a parody of herself at this point. Does she even write anymore?

It really is as Isis said, one person's BNF is another WTF. And I think last month's BNF can be this month's WTF if they haven't posted or said anything in a while.
bambooanime: I guess it depends on how well the rest of the fandom knows of the author. When I first entered fandom, and ff.net was basically the ONLY place for fics (that long ago, yes), people like Eliza Diawana Snape and Kate S. were THE people to keep tabs on (while FuBaR [1] was the only troll). At one point, I was a minor BNF with my Real Tom Riddle filk. But those were the days of harrypotterfans.net and fanfiction.net wasn't even thought of as the "pit of voles". The only modernish "BNF" I am familiar with today is Maeglin Yedi. It all depends on where in fandom you haunt and what the people are after. Seems most BNFs today are slash writers. I remember when Slashfiction was taboo. *shrug* It just depends on the trends.
queenitsy: Hi, here from metafandom and I'm not at all a member of the HP fandom. Have never read a single HP fic, and have no interest in doing so. But even I know who Cassie Claire is, and have heard both the pros and cons about her writing ("It's great!" "It's plagiarised!" and so forth). I think that's kind of an ultimate BNF type thing, almost [cl]oser to an "All Your Base Are" meme which everyone runs into online. You don't have to be in the fandom to know who she is, you just have to be in *a* fandom.

Anyway. I think that, at least in part, being a BNF doesn't just mean having a devoted following, but having a devoted following that will defend you, even if you do something rotten. Someone calls you (generic you) on your rotten-ness, and the followers defend you anyway, explain away all wrong you do, and so on. Thus you also have the ability to create wank at a moment's notice.

My fandom (Newsies) is, though not small, very tightly knit. I've been told I'm a BNF, because I'm pretty well known in the fandom; on the other hand, it's very easy to be a large fish in a small pond. So maybe in small fandoms it's more possible to have a BNF who's known by *everyone*, but on the other hand, you also have a lot more people who are known by everyone, so BNF loses it's exclusive status. Or... something like that.
luthien: Before I got involved in HP fandom a number of years ago, my own working definition of BNF included that a BNF was someone whose name was familiar even to people outside their own fandom. At that time, people like Te and Torch were on my list of BNFs. And so was Cassie Claire, since I heard of her before I ever went near HP fandom. HP is *way* more obsessed with the concept of BNFness than any other fandom I've been involved with. It's probably something to do with the sheer size of the fandom. I find that sort of amusing in a way, since virtually no BNF in HP fandom is ever going to rate as a BNF according to my pre-HP criteria. As everyone else has said, it's pretty much impossible for anyone to be known throughout the whole of HP fandom - but that doesn't stop people *thinking* that the people whose names they know well *must* be known throughout the fandom. In HP fandom, if your name gets mentioned in connection with the same thing more than twice, someone, somewhere, will call you a BNF. It's just the way the fandom works.
daah ya: I think it's much easier to be a BNF for drawing than for writing. That's because many of the really great, well-known fanartists draw lots and lots of different characters or pairings - even if they're a Harry/Hermione shipper and I'm a Harry/Draco shipper, I might be a fan of their Harry drawings, for example. Maybe they also do requests, and therefore draw just about everything. But then there are lots of people who aren't even interested in art. =/
catkind: Here via Daily Snitch.

Rule of thumb number one: You are a BNF if your friend-of list is three times the length of your friends list on LJ. Or for people who automatically friend-back, if the majority of people on your list friended you despite your not knowing their username.

Rule of thumb number two: You are a BNF if, say, a thousand people in the fandom would recognise your name and say, oh yes, so-and-so writes (pairing)/essays about x/etc.

Rule of thumb number three: You are a BNF if there are, say, a thousand people out there who would click on the link to one of your fics without reading the summary first.

For most fandoms I'd say the majority not a thousand, but HP is a monster, and very compartmental, as many have already commented.
ms mindfunk: I think a BNF (stupid, stupid term, btw) is someone who has garnered enough attention to make others jealous. That's pretty much it. Yeah, there are many readers and squeeing and all that, but there's also bitching and moaning about both the work and the person. Sometimes it's warranted, like when someone whose writing lacks sophistication and depth gets a lot of attention. Sometimes it's not, like when the bitching comes from jealousy and other more evilE motivations rather than a genuine critique of the work. Either way, you're nobody until somebody hates you. Once people care enough to do that, you're in with the alleged, intangible in crowd.

References

  1. FuBaR, Archived version