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View Full Version : Putting a piece online makes it unpublishable?



Dave Veri
08-30-2011, 08:13 AM
If one publishes a poem on a blog is it therefore unpublishable to a literary journal? Will publishing excerpts of a novel render it unpublishable to a book publisher? Is there one standard for this, or does it depend on the situation and publisher. What do agents say about that? Good question for me.

Jonathan Dalar
08-30-2011, 08:15 AM
I'm not the expert here, but everything I've ever heard of this is yes, it makes it almost completely unpublishable. Unless you're Stephen friggin' King, you can expect nothing further from it because agents and publishers won't touch it.

Wesley Kang
08-30-2011, 08:19 AM
I'm sure much more qualified people will answer you, but I know that people turn blog excerpts into books ALL THE TIME. I think the problem is if you publish an excerpt in any kind of work (electronic or otherwise) if someone else owns the rights. But you would know that because you would have signed a contract of some sort.

The problem for many people is self-publishing. Self-publishing doesn't take you off the market but it tends to make you less marketable because publishers apparently don't like to publish things that have all ready been out there unless it was super popular or sold very well. I guess one way to look at it is: if you couldn't sell it, what makes you think they will be able to?

Kathleen_
08-30-2011, 08:35 AM
From what I understand when someone pays to publish your work they usually pay for first publication rights. If you have already published the work (like putting it up online) then you have already used those rights and cannot sell them. You can still sell it for reprints and so on but I think publishers want first rights more.

I submitted a piece to an under 25 magazine once. In the submission guidelines they stated they only wanted unpublished work. They then went onto explain that if you had put it up online for general viewing then that counted as being published and you wern't allowed to submit it even if you went back and took it down.

Mark W.
08-30-2011, 08:43 PM
As for novels, sometimes you can get away with a single chapter of the larger story being posted online. It depends on the individual publisher as to how much of a story posted openly online before it is deemed as "previously published". Some say none at all, some will allow a chapter or two.

You can publish poems or stories online if it is in a restricted, password protected area such as AW's SYW area. By having it in a restricted area, you protect your First Publication Rights.

James D. Macdonald
08-30-2011, 08:44 PM
It depends on the market's guidelines.

And reprints happen all the time. Depending on the market.

sunandshadow
08-30-2011, 08:50 PM
I've purchased several ebooks which were originally on the internet in part or in full. Some of them are also available in paper, some not. So, somebody published them, but I couldn't tell you if the authors might have got more money or been able to publish by a more traditional method if they hadn't been online first.

Maryn
08-30-2011, 09:11 PM
I agree, it depends. What's not all right is to sign a publishing contract which states that the work has not been previously published when in fact it has appeared online, in near- or complete entirety, with only minor changes between it and the product being sold for publication.

Maybe they won't care and will go for second rights/reprint, but you don't want to sign a legally binding document containing a falsehood.

Maryn, sensible

areteus
08-30-2011, 09:21 PM
In general, I think the best advice is not to do it because there is a risk of it being rejected purely on that basis (because while some publishers don't consider publishing on a blog to be 'first rights used' many do and you can bet it is going to be one of the ones you submit to...).

Extracts and single chapters are a different matter because they are often done for publicity. Though this is usually AFTER the piece has been accepted for publication and so has the full support of the publisher because they help market the brand.

veinglory
08-30-2011, 09:27 PM
Putting it online makes it published. That limits you to markets that take reprints.

Mutive
08-30-2011, 09:28 PM
As is said above, it depends on the market.

I'll add in that while most markets consider being published online in any form to be "first publishing", there are exceptions. For instance, the MOD anthology pretty much said, "If it's just up on your private blog/web site, we don't consider it published, but if it was published somewhere bigger, it is published".

So read the guidelines. The safest bet is to leave your stuff off websites that aren't password protected if you want to try to publish the story/poem/whatever later.

Dave Veri
08-30-2011, 10:03 PM
As for novels, sometimes you can get away with a single chapter of the larger story being posted online. It depends on the individual publisher as to how much of a story posted openly online before it is deemed as "previously published". Some say none at all, some will allow a chapter or two.

You can publish poems or stories online if it is in a restricted, password protected area such as AW's SYW area. By having it in a restricted area, you protect your First Publication Rights.

All I mean is a paragraph or two of a rough draft of a novel on a private blog for my friends and readers. It sounds like for some publishers that may mean too much. That sounds awfully strict in the new world of the Internet.

quicklime
08-30-2011, 11:33 PM
All I mean is a paragraph or two of a rough draft of a novel on a private blog for my friends and readers. It sounds like for some publishers that may mean too much. That sounds awfully strict in the new world of the Internet.


buyer's market, I guess.....


that said, I'm not sure these things would have been less an issue if you'd opted to run a piece in the local newspaper in the past. They want to buy something nobody has seen before, how much wiggle room they will leave in that is sort of up to the house. Knowing it is a problem, maybe just only share via email with a few close betas if you like..

SafetyDance
08-31-2011, 12:54 AM
As others have clarified, it really depends on the market. My novel was online before I sold it and my publisher is fine with that; the publisher I work for is also fine with a reprint so long as you expand/give them a new element to work with. Different strokes etc. When I was querying, there were agents who were fine with the fact that it had been online.

I wouldn't do it again, though. For many reasons--not least the fact that as has been said, some publishers do not want previously "published" material of any kind. But also, you're working on a draft. It could well be awful, and it could well get cached in Google--so even if you remove it, it'd be around for a while on searches. I didn't realise at the time, but my novel was most definitely in the draft stages, and I'm embarrassed now that so many people read it as it was.

So no, I wouldn't put your draft bits online.

ETA: if it's actually a private blog--ie you need a password to view it--then I'm 99% sure that does not class as "published." But why not just email it to them, just in case?

areteus
08-31-2011, 01:02 PM
It may or may not class as published if it is on a locked blog... however, I think the main thing to think about here is 'can a casual search find it?' If it is locked in some way then no.

Publishers do tend to check these things and a quick search through your social media, blog etc may be done (generally to check what sort of following you have and to see how contentious you may be on some issues). If a search like this shows up the work then they know about it, if it can't (because it is locked or passworded) then they don't.

Now, I also know that there is software that checks academic essays for plaguarism out there and that universities use them (especially important in a day and age when there are online companies selling essays...). I don't know how good this software is (being suspicious I am thinking they may lie about some of its capabilities in order to prevent plaguarism... fear being a far better preventative) but I do wonder if publishers could not also use this sort of software to scan the internet for work that is identical to yours? Just a thought...

jamiehall
08-31-2011, 06:17 PM
Putting up the whole thing is almost always a very bad idea.

Excerpts, especially if very short such as only a chapter or two, rarely matter much.

However, even with these it's best to put them behind some kind of protection against being shown to an extremely large audience and being archived by google. For example, the password-protected "Share Your Work" sub-forum here on Absolute Write would have that protection, and so would putting your excerpt on livejournal but friends-locking it.

GFanthome
09-01-2011, 06:21 PM
I found a site where a woman who worked in publishing wrote about first publication rights. In the article, she said that if you post an entire work online, you've lost first publication rights. However, if you only post a few chapters of a novel, you'll be alright. She suggested three as your maximum in this case.

I wish I could find the link to that article, and if I manage to, I will post it here for you all.

Another thing to keep in mind is to check the publisher's submission guidelines. Some want you to include a marketing plan on how you're going to generate interest in the story. I've seen this expectation from some publishers to be both before and after the piece is published.

juniper
09-01-2011, 09:47 PM
Places like fanstory.com post entire short stories and poems online, searchable. A lot of new writers flock to those places for the guaranteed 5 star reviews. I know someone who posts poems there, poems that actually seem truly publishable, and have been in small newspapers. She doesn't consider them "already published" so never mentions that when she submits to other places, AFAIK.

Fanstory.com stresses that the writer keeps the copyright - and many writers seem to think that's the only thing they need to worry about, not publishing rights.

Wiskel
09-02-2011, 05:33 PM
Sorry if this is a slight derail, but the thread has got me wondering which principle the Show Your Work forum uses to avoid this being a problem.

Is it the password protection, the nature of this community or the fact that only a part of the whole work is there?

Craig

RemusShepherd
09-02-2011, 05:59 PM
It's not unpublishable. I sold my first short story by putting it up on Usenet, which attracted the attention of a magazine editor who offered to buy it and publish it. (He paid a generous rate of 10 cents a word, too. Ah, the old days.)

However, it's much less likely that a publisher will want a story that the public has already seen. If the story's good enough they'll beat a path to your door, but they probably won't be interested if you try to submit it. Publishers almost always want first rights to a story. They're not interested in sloppy seconds.

As for password-protected forums like Share Your Work, they don't count as being viewable by the 'public'. They're necessary for authors to collaborate and edit, and publishers don't count stories in those spaces as being 'published'.

It's a strange system but at least it's inconsistent and frustrating. ;)

JenniferShepherd
09-10-2011, 12:07 AM
In my experience, this issue is somewhat flexible and subject to interpretation by the publisher in question.

Examples: I've had editors of anthology types of books ask for reprint rights of something that previously appeared online and paid me for the reprint rights. In that case, they did consider the online version the first publication and they purchased reprint rights.

I've also had editors simply buy something that I'd already published on my own website to print in a magazine -- and they didn't even worry about the online version, despite my showing them where it was still being published on my site. In this case, since it was "serial" rights they were buying (in a magazine or journal) and the only rights I had exercised thus far were ONLINE rights (publishing the article or quiz on my own website) they considered them different things. So they were still buying first North American serial rights from me.

I think in the world of poetry editors can be MUCH pickier, though. I wouldn't risk publishing poetry online if you are also trying to find an offline publisher. But for publishing excerpts of a novel, memoir, non-fiction book, or even a complete non fiction article or "feature" like a quiz, it's entirely possible to sell these things for a decent price after they have already appeared online. Just avoid publishing the ENTIRE novel or book if you can - in my opinion!

HapiSofi
09-11-2011, 06:36 PM
If one publishes a poem on a blog is it therefore unpublishable to a literary journal? Will publishing excerpts of a novel render it unpublishable to a book publisher? Is there one standard for this, or does it depend on the situation and publisher. What do agents say about that? Good question for me.

It depends on the publisher. Most don't care. The hardliners that'll reject a submission because a fraction of it once appeared on your weblog are what's technically known as "stupid". Gotta love self-thinning competition.


I'm not the expert here, but everything I've ever heard of this is yes, it makes it almost completely unpublishable. Unless you're Stephen friggin' King, you can expect nothing further from it because agents and publishers won't touch it.

Everything you've heard about this is wrong. The fact is, most online self-publishing attracts such an insignificant number of readers that it might as well not have happened. Meanwhile, writers who do get heavy site traffic tend to not have much trouble getting commercial publishing deals for their work.


From what I understand when someone pays to publish your work they usually pay for first publication rights. If you have already published the work (like putting it up online) then you have already used those rights and cannot sell them. You can still sell it for reprints and so on but I think publishers want first rights more.

If you have an article published on Slate or a short story published on Tor.com, it's fair to say your first rights have been used up. Putting an excerpt in your blog really shouldn't count.

If you're worried, make sure you don't refer to the appearance as "publication" in a later submission. If asked, say "I ran a bit of an earlier version of it in my blog, but there are telephone poles that get more readers than my site." This will make you sound pleasantly modest while making it clear that the piece hasn't gotten significant public exposure.


As for novels, sometimes you can get away with a single chapter of the larger story being posted online. It depends on the individual publisher as to how much of a story posted openly online before it is deemed as "previously published". Some say none at all, some will allow a chapter or two.

Some don't care if you put the whole thing up, or release it as a free download on its hardcopy publication date.


You can publish poems or stories online if it is in a restricted, password protected area such as AW's SYW area. By having it in a restricted area, you protect your First Publication Rights.

Maybe there are publishing houses that keep track of such fine points, but I haven't heard of them. The deciding factor isn't whether the area required a password; it's how much the publisher wants your book.


I agree, it depends. What's not all right is to sign a publishing contract which states that the work has not been previously published when in fact it has appeared online, in near- or complete entirety, with only minor changes between it and the product being sold for publication.

Maybe they won't care and will go for second rights/reprint, but you don't want to sign a legally binding document containing a falsehood.

True. What this means is that you should ask them whether it's a problem. Don't preemptively self-reject your work unless the publisher's submission guidelines clearly rule out your specific circumstances. Let them handle triage.


Putting it online makes it published. That limits you to markets that take reprints.

With all due respect for your considerable expertise in other areas, I have to disagree.


All I mean is a paragraph or two of a rough draft of a novel on a private blog for my friends and readers. It sounds like for some publishers that may mean too much. That sounds awfully strict in the new world of the Internet.

Good call. That interpretation is way too strict. No way does a paragraph or two of a rough draft on a private blog qualify as publication.

eqb
09-11-2011, 06:45 PM
I did an informal survey of SF magazine editors a few years back, and many of them said they won't take a poem or short story that's appeared on a public website or blog, except as a reprint. Some didn't care, but they were in the minority.

(I'm curious to see if I would get the same answers today.)

Polenth
09-11-2011, 07:27 PM
The times I've seen SFF short fiction editors mention it (either in interviews or submission guidelines) any public appearance counted as published. When I was in the position of trying to sell a flash piece that had appeared publicly, I only found one market that'd even consider it. They rejected it.

I couldn't sell the rights to things like podcasts, as they only wanted reprints if it had been published in a proper market first.

So that was the end of that story's chances. Others may decide it's worth the risk, but I wouldn't do that with a story I wanted to sell again. Once was enough.

Filigree
09-11-2011, 08:18 PM
By the way, the genre reprint market is worse than the new-fiction market. Unless you have a 'name', most short-fiction publishers don't want to reprint previously-published work at all. The ones that do may offer no more than one cent a word, if that.

I have a lovely UF story that actually got into an anthology eleven years ago, my first fiction sale. It was fairly well-received. Then the publisher went bust, so there was never even the possibility of another anthology or further royalties from the first. Fast forward to last year, when I decided to try re-selling the thing. I queried every market I could. Got lots of compliments on the story, but no one would buy it because of the anthology publication. I'm not really focusing on that one now, since I have five other shorts out on submission, and two longer mms I'm working on.

The first story is now at a market that just opened up. If they bow out, I'll hold the story in reserve or put it online at my website, as a freebie.
Once I do that, it will become utterly unpublishable -- but it might serve as value-added content to promote later work.

eqb
09-12-2011, 12:02 AM
Unless you have a 'name', most short-fiction publishers don't want to reprint previously-published work at all.

Not true. Or at least, not true as a sweeping statement.

I've sold numerous short SF pieces as reprints over the past ten+ years. Some for one-cent a word, some for more. Most of them more than once. The key is whether the story had lots of previous exposure, and more important, whether the market likes the story.

Filigree
09-12-2011, 02:14 AM
I know, Eqb. I didn't mean for that to be such a sweeping statement, just a caution based on my limited experience. For this particular story, its chances seem to be running out. I might bat it around for a bit longer, but I'd rather focus on newer stories. I want to get the best use out of it that I can, since I'm trying to rack up publishing credits while I have a big fat fantasy novel out on submission.

Filigree
09-12-2011, 02:20 AM
Eqb, I also checked your short story sales. Good work! I've never sent anything to Interzone or Stange Horizons, but I'll look out for them in the future. Were a lot of your anthology sales new work or reprints?

Izz
09-12-2011, 04:41 AM
Sorry if this is a slight derail, but the thread has got me wondering which principle the Show Your Work forum uses to avoid this being a problem.

Is it the password protection, the nature of this community or the fact that only a part of the whole work is there?

CraigPassword protection, mostly. That means the search engines bots can't trawl through and find your story. Plus, only site members can access the password-protected areas.

James D. Macdonald
09-12-2011, 05:26 AM
Once I do that, it will become utterly unpublishable -- but it might serve as value-added content to promote later work.


I wouldn't go that far, seeing that I recently sold (for money) a short story that had been on my website for years as a freebie. (Which the editor knew darned good and well, because that's where he got the text of the story for his anthology.)

(The story is "Uncle Joshua and the Grooglemen," available here (http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/L_unclejoshua.htm) on my website, here (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52187) on Smashwords, and reprinted here (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sense-of-wonder-leigh-ronald-grossman/1103504613) in hardcopy.)

Filigree
09-12-2011, 06:14 AM
Thanks for the hope!

eqb
09-12-2011, 01:06 PM
Eqb, I also checked your short story sales. Good work! I've never sent anything to Interzone or Stange Horizons, but I'll look out for them in the future. Were a lot of your anthology sales new work or reprints?

Mostly reprints, but several new ones here and there.