Stop Being Afraid of Posting Your Work Online *

PhotobucketAt Writer’s Digest, we host an event twice a year called the Writer’s Digest Editors’ Intensives. It is completely staff run and presented, hosted at our headquarters in Cincinnati, and offers an opportunity to get the first 50 pages of your manuscript critiqued.

Chuck Sambuchino and I usually serve as the key presenters. After a recent event, I realized—after talking to one of the attendees—that Chuck and I had delivered some starkly different advice.

Now, this in itself is not unusual. Many times you’ll find varying perspectives among editors and agents. But our disagreement was this:

  • Chuck advised writers not to post their work online, as it might adversely affect future potential for the work.
  • I advised writers not to worry about it—that writers often benefit from posting their work online.

Talk about a mixed message!

I recently read this blog post that also advises writers not to post their stuff online, and it’s not uncommon advice.

But I find it an utterly archaic sentiment given where the publishing industry is headed.

Here’s why:

  1. Test marketing is one of the best things you can do to improve your work and build an audience. Agent Michael Larsen even recommends it in his classic, How to Write a Book Proposal.
  2. Getting feedback on your work (whether you’re specifically asking for a critique, or just hoping for reader comments) can be critical to a writer’s development. No writer should ever be discouraged from posting their work online in a critique environment, EVER.
  3. No sane agent or editor would disagree with points 1 or 2, since doing these things advance the quality and marketability of your work. Hiding your work in a closet until you feel it is “ready” for a “professional” to consider it? Folly. Hasn’t anyone told you that the gatekeeper era is coming to a swift end?
  4. If we’re talking about novel-length works, then sharing pieces of it, or even serializing it, over a long period is NOT going to affect its market value. (Anyone who says it does has a very antiquated view of online media, as well as where traditional publishing is headed.)
  5. Offering a work online, whether in serialized format or in an alternate media (e.g., audio), can increase interest and demand for a physical, print product. This is proven out by people like Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood who serialized their work as podcasts, made them absolutely free, and secured traditional book publishing deals after developing a significant following.

People who post their work online can do so in a very smart, strategic, and targeted way that feeds into demand for a traditional book that a publisher would love to produce (or that an agent would love to sign).

Posting your work online is not to be feared. Wake up.*

* Unless you’re in the MFA community. It’s true that the literary market is stuck in the Dark Ages. All of you poets and short story writers who want to strike it rich in the literary journals or academic presses? Sorry!

** And I do follow my own advice. You can find my essay-ish blog posts and poetry (if you look hard enough) over at JaneFriedman.com.

photo courtesy Flickr’s visualdensity

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About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.

Comments

  1. says

    I wrote a series for the internet (starting end of ’08 and finished it this year) and it has definitely done wonders for me as a writer.

    First and foremost, I wrote it “for fun,” thinking it would provide a respite from my more literary manuscript. Instead, it woke me up to the fact that I should be writing “for fun” all the time! Now I’m keyed in to writing Young Adult and “New Adult” fiction (yes, I know it’s not a real genre) and I’m so much happier.

    Second, like you said, I got feedback on the series, which has made me a better writer and helped me build an audience.

    Third, I entered it into a contest with St. Martin’s Press and it’s now being considered for publication. (!!!)

    And last but not least, it connected me to a couple of my friends in a way I never expected. We’re closer than ever thanks to my writing. That reward alone made the series “worth it,” regardless of anything else.
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..On the radio =-.

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    • Stephen Southey says

      Hi Kristan

      I am a new writer and like you am writing a series. My question is where must I go to make it available for the public to read?

      Thanks

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  2. says

    A friend and I were just discussing this. This is such great info. It seemed as though I was reading conflicting information which did not mesh with things I’d observed (the blog to book idea, for example). So thank you. Now I have to tell my friend to whom I offered some bad advice.
    .-= lisahgolden´s last blog ..Then and Now =-.

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  3. says

    This is a great wake up post.

    I know that short story writing is stuck in the dark ages mentality of the literary market.

    But having posted a story weekly on my blog for some time now, and having readers comment favorably and become fans, I believe it is time to go to the next step in writing. A book.

    I used to be a journalist, and also enjoyed writing essay-ish stories.

    Your post is a great reminder that the publishing world is changing in many good ways, and learning/using online tools can only help not hinder.

    Thank you, Jane.

    I enjoy reading your blog, too!
    .-= Marisa Birns´s last blog ..Transient =-.

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  4. says

    Thank you for this very common sense viewpoint. I moderate a poetry critique website and yes, poetry journals are firmly stuck in the dark ages. It’s more than silly, especially since most of them don’t pay anyway and have a readership of about 17 people. As a writer, of all the things to worry about, losing my ‘first publication rights’ over a poem that will earn me a contributor’s copy is not one of them.

    I also agree that posting snippets of novel-in-progress is a great way of connecting with readers and getting feedback. There is a world of difference between that and putting a complete novel on the web and calling it published.
    .-= LJCohen´s last blog ..So much of what we worry about doesn’t matter =-.

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  5. says

    I’ve posted essays and short stories online for quite some time. When it comes to printed publications, I’ve found that my non-fiction credits (i.e. articles) carry more weight than fiction I’ve had printed.

    I suspect it’s because editors know if you have non-fiction credits (especially several articles with a single publication), you’re probably easy to work with and open to making changes editors suggest.

    I recently watched a video of Richard Nash talking about the future of publishing (http://bit.ly/bVQwjp). In the presentation, he talks about how so many new writers are obsessed with the thought of publication, when what they are really seeking is connection.

    There’s no doubt that holding a magazine or literary journal with your work in it is a rush, but I agree with LJCohen: to fret about first publication rights for something that probably won’t be widely read is a stress I’d never invite into my life–unless I felt something I wrote was perfect for a journal I always wanted to publish my work.

    I’ve found being able to post writing online and having a connection with others is much better than tossing my writing into something that’s not widely read and only comes back with silence from readers.
    .-= Christopher Gronlund´s last blog ..5 Ways to Be Prepared for Seasonal Articles =-.

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  6. says

    I’m pleased to write that not all literary journal publishers don’t share the dark-ages attitude. The Island Writer (published by the Victoria Writers Society) is one that don’t. They support and encourage aspiring and established authors.
    Thank you Jane for this advice. I will continue to share my writing — now worry free.

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  7. says

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact I strongly encourage the writers in every single writing class I teach (memoir and non-fiction mostly) that starting a blog or a website will only benefit them.

    Writing daily (or regularly) on a blog is writing practice – you get opportunity to express ideas and try out your voice. Writing a lot makes you a better writer. Period.

    Also, writers who blog get the same benefits of journalling: enhanced “seeing” and awareness, enhanced ability to find ideas, enhanced awareness of what inspires them and enhanced critical skills.

    Publishing online gives you the experience of being read, and that is motivating. And you soon find yourself in the circle of other writers, many with similar interests as you, and as we all know, peer support and feedback is crucial to the process.

    One last thing – Diana Gabaldon (“Outlander” series) posted early drafts of her first novel in serial format online. Doing that certainly didn’t hurt her success!
    .-= Jennifer Morrison´s last blog ..green pop bottle thought process =-.

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  8. says

    I’m a big fan of posting work online… assuming the poster has a plan. Just giving away content by itself isn’t a plan :-) I did it, as many do, to build up my own audience rather than relying on getting a book out there and working backwards. Others do it to get feedback or attract attention or just for fun. Still, posting work and simply hoping good things will happen isn’t likely to be enough: you have to have a plan to get eyeballs there and get your name/work in front of others. I think this is true in fiction (or poetry like I post) as well as in non-fiction. In the latter, you can also establish expertise through the posted work… not a goal of serializing a novel, I don’t think.

    Thanks for the post. I side with you on this… as long as there’s a plan!
    .-= Greg Pincus´s last blog ..Great Info! But Now What? =-.

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  9. says

    Thanks for this insight. I have always been worried that whatever I posted online could not be “submitted” anywhere because it was then published. Now I may throw caution to the wind and go for it!

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  10. says

    I think what we need is lots more stuff like this piece, Jane, and these comments (thoughts for the shoutout, Chris!) A good chunk of the opposition does, yes, come from the literary journal editors who need to simply accept that their notion of first publication rights is based on a universe that has vanished, one in which 25,000 pople eagerly awaited the discoveries to appear in the next issue. People aren’t waiting any more. So the notion that the surprise of publication in, say, Ploughshares, has been spoiled by the fact that it was on the author’s blog already is completely fanciful. So we just keep educating, right?

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  11. says

    Having snippits, shorts or what have available and requesting feedback will also give you a feel for your audience.

    Put up a poll on your site, too. Perhaps you can then identify if your audience is predominately male/female, possible age range (old-f**t jokes go right over lots of youngster’s heads), genre, etc.

    This could get you quite a bit of your original market research for later work, plus a possible list of potential readers for down the line.
    .-= Bruce H. Johnson´s last blog ..Character Levels =-.

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  12. says

    It’s great hearing the two perspectives.

    While I don’t want to publish an ebook because I want to go the more traditional route, I wrote a YA vampire paranormal romance series (I know), the first of which is polished from a critique group and several other readers. When I first sent the query out, I didn’t stress what’s unique about it (Jewish teen who changes over time because her mother was bitten while pregnant).

    It was fun to write and I’ve considered putting some work on a website. Between my followers and the teen network I can tap into, it might be interesting to see what happens. If that garners interest, maybe I look into making an app. There are a lot of alternatives out there, and I’d rather try something than be intimidated.

    Here and there, I’ve posted beginnings on my blog, which has given me helpful feedback.
    .-= Theresa Milstein´s last blog ..Assessing Critique =-.

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  13. says

    I think you’re right. What it really sounds like is that people are afraid they’ve only got one big story/novel in them. I have a novel in the works and one in the rewriting stage and I will probably publish a couple chapters on my blog. I want to get people interested in my work–and I know publishers aren’t going to focus on advertising unless I’m a big name. Why not start trying to do it on my own for a bit? :)
    .-= Kari Wolfe´s last blog ..The Lure of Collecting =-.

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  14. says

    I often see writers posting the first chapter of their novels on the internet, which I think is brilliant. I’m forever going to Amazon to check out the “Look Inside” feature of new books, reading the first few pages or chapter, then deciding if I want to read them. If I’m hooked in the first pages, I’ll definitely buy the book or check it out of the library.

    So, although I don’t think I’d serialize my work or post a lot of it, I think a little can go a long way. I’d definitely consider posting my first chapter at some point in the future.

    Thanks,Jane!
    .-= Suzannah´s last blog ..Confessions of a Former Query Letter Addict =-.

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  15. Sharon Bially says

    Jane,
    This is right on. And it has been at the top of my mind for quite some time, as you will soon see…
    -Sharon

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  16. says

    Well done. You addressed many issues that have kept me from posting more than a couple of paragraphs online. But I still wonder about blog posts that, according to the Terms of Use, can be used by the server as it chooses. Isn’t that a violation of copyright?
    .-= Kathryn Jankowski´s last blog ..A Carbon-Neutral Blog =-.

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  17. Steve says

    I’ve been leaning increasingly in this direction for my own WIP. Maybe it’s time to take the plunge. Any pointers to good advice about strategies and venues?

    My WIP is contemporary YA, about a group of unconventional teens (Aged 14-16) who form an unorthodox rock band and confront mindless conformity in the exclusive Forest Park district of fictional Wood City – “Forest Products Capital of the Midwest.”

    I’m looking for ways to connect directly with prospective readers.

    -Steve

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  18. Annie Durfee says

    I think I fall between the two viewpoints. For nonfriction [sic] memoir, self-help, pre-promo excerpts and a teaser spray of talents, I think online is hotter than oil. But I am not convinced for the longer forms of fiction. Or even for poetry. In short, the literary arts.

    My fiction audience is part old friends and strangers on a train. Archetypes that are not likely to be searching out my blog on sleepless nights and I am going to be responding red-eyed to second-tier targets rather than honing and plotting and driving on. If I sharpen my focus in my blog or my Picassa, I’m liable to drag my prime audience through the droll period of doubt and transition. . We as writers must have these, and use these, but only our ex-lovers and favorite aunts are going to check in online to see where we’re headed, and possibly celebrate the mistakes.

    I think the point to watch is your motive. Do you need immediate feedback? Are you counting FB comments as vitamin doses? If you are short on time, skip the critique workshops until you have a first draft, skip the online posts until you have a whole to excerpt from, skip the comments until you are ready to reciprocate and grow the network. The work WORK of writing is still solitary and intuitive. The WORK comes first. The online world is a sandbox indexed on Google and until you’re ready, avoid that insensitive venue like the plague. The first person you submit to is your WORST critic. (Probably your brother ;-)

    But I DO agree, Jane and Greg Fincus, that once you have material and a plan, rush forth and part the seas. You then are switching brains from artist to marketer and giving up those dawn hours to the next step. Needs to be done. Post, Podcast, Link, Platform, and all else that’s emerged while you slept in creative indulgence. Reminder that I’m talking here of broad focus/singularly creative projects.

    Illustration: My friend moved to Hollywood. By force of his personality, made friends with SuperFolks in film and music. Submitted screenplays. They were rejected. SuperFolks said, Write a novel of the script first because it gives buyers credence. He did, it sold, and became an Oscar for best screenplay. The alternative works AFTERward.

    Illustration: Writers’ retreat speaker counseled the attendees on the imperative of a social media presence. Facebook out refers Google to websites now. But her own site is sloppily designed, her blog infrequent, her advice dated and self-published. She traveled 11 hours RT for a free appearance at the retreat to drum up business. In those hours of travel, posts, consultation and retreat, she might have written better chapters. Tough call for most of us in the margins.

    That’s why I say I equivocate between approaches. Online posting will not, in my humble opinion, improve your writing. Write/Rewrite then critique in a smart group, and afterward, viral marketing will improve your sales game.

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  19. says

    Thanks Jane, I’ve decided to take the plunge. Having years of work closeted in the computer has no value anyway, might as well risk it!

    And in any case, such fun things happen at the Chiropractic Coalface, I love to share them. Like the one I just posted in response to your blog. Priest in my Bed, you could have blown me over with a feather!

    Bernard Preston.

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  20. says

    Many publications (newspapers especially) won’t consider “reprints” which is what essays are if you’ve posted them online. The reason I trimmed back my old blog was because I was using all my “good material” online and then I could not use it to pitch to my editor.
    .-= amy sue nathan´s last blog ..Mom meets grill – asparagus love =-.

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  21. says

    I agree that times have changed and that it’s OK to share work online. Teasers, chapters, and even whole novels aren’t the future, they’re the now.

    So who’s doing it well, and what tools are they using? Text in a blog post? Scribd? PDF?

    Are there issues of content ownership on some platforms? For example, If I post my WIP on Facebook, have I ceded some core rights away for eternity?

    These are the questions authors need answered before we can confidently share our work.

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  22. says

    Thanks for posting this. YEARS ago I had posted the first 4-5 chapters of a “work in progress” novel online; both on Elfwood.com, and on its own site, with its own domain. I had since taken that site down, and removed the chapters from Elfwood’s Wyvern Library because of rights issues & fear I was hurting its salability.

    Now, however, I really regret having done that. It had garnished quite a following on Elfwood, and been bookmarked as “favorites” by quite a few “elfwoodians”…that could have helped sales-wise, and helped me develop my platform. Not that I can’t re-post them, but the work has since been re-titled and reworked.

    anyways thanks,

    K Crumley

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  23. says

    Interesting. I responded here:

    http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Be+Slightly+Afraid+Of+Posting+Your+Work+Online.aspx

    I suppose there is no right answer, but I feel a distinction must be made between putting nonfiction online (very much OK) and putting fiction online (not OK, I feel). It comes down to protecting your ideas and concepts, which can be stolen free of charge by sneaky writers (those sneaky sneaks!).

    Chuck Sambuchino
    Guide to Literary Agents

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  24. says

    My thanks to all for the wonderful comments and elaborations on this post.

    Regarding all comments thus far (except Chuck’s, which I’ll address separately), I think the most important points are:

    1. The publications that seem most stuck on this idea of having “first rights” are the ones also struggling, dying, and disappearing (e.g., newspapers, literary journals). Most savvy writers can find a wider, more engaged audience on their own.

    2. Christopher/Richard make an excellent point about writers being obsessed with the thought of publication, when what they are really seeking is connection. I couldn’t have said it better.

    3. I agree with Greg & Annie about having some kind of plan or idea of where you’re headed. The only caveat is that writers shouldn’t use that as a procrastination tool—waiting for the “perfect” moment, or waiting until they are “ready” to start a blog/site or online presence. BUT, as Annie says, you want to do this in a way that looks focused and professional.

    4. Regarding Kari’s comment about people being afraid they only have one big story/novel in them: YES! More elaboration below in response to Chuck’s post.

    @Kathryn: Regarding your question about terms of use and potential violation of copyright. Assuming you are posting on your own blog/site (or in a forum specifically for critiques), no matter what service you use, you should retain copyright. This may not hold true if you’re posting on a site like Amazon, which will often take nonexclusive rights to re-use your work. Always read the fine print of third-party sites when posting work with potential future value.

    @Jim: Which tools should you use? The best tool for the job. It really depends on what you’re writing and where your audience can be found. People are doing this successfully on blogs, Scribd, and through many other platforms.

    [drawing a big breath]

    Regarding Chuck’s post, while I don’t disagree with the heart of what he is saying—that you face the danger of idea theft (not just online, but at events, too)—I believe this view is far more relevant to people in Hollywood/screenwriting, and not as relevant to people in book publishing. Perhaps that’s naive view, but:

    1. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s execution that’s the stumbling block for most writers. One idea can be executed in millions of different ways, at varying levels of quality.

    2. Even with great execution, selling and marketing is an enormous hurdle.

    3. Many fiction writers I meet do not have high-concept stories, and do themselves greater damage in being paranoid.

    And I’ll say that, professionally, there’s nothing more irritating than meeting with a writer who wants my help, but refuses to talk about their specific idea and wants me to sign a non-disclosure agreement. (As Chuck says, don’t worry about agents/editors stealing your idea. Worry about other writers.)

    That said, I do think writers with genius ideas may want to keep hush just because there is a lot of power and momentum in having that secret. Hopefully you can tell the difference between something very hot and very not.

    And to throw another wrench into the conversation: Sometimes there can be far more damage done in posting *comprehensive* nonfiction material online, because once people can access information for free, it will be tough to persuade them to pay for it. It all depends on where the value lies in the packaging/presentation of the information, and how much of the audience has already found it/consumed it in an online setting and has been fully satisfied.

    P.S. Just to reassure everyone, Chuck and I still like each other and will still be working together. Well, at least I hope so!
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..Have the Courage to Follow Your Heart & Intuition =-.

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  25. James A. Ritchie says

    Posting a complete work online that you ever want to sell is a horrible idea. There’s nothing antiquated about market share, and anyone who thinks for a second that editors do not take online posting into account simply has no knowledge about today’s publishing world.

    I don’t know where publishing is heading, and neither does anyone else, but I darned sure know where it is today, and there’s no faster way of killing a potentially good piece of fiction than by posting it online in its entirety.

    And anyone who thinks the gatekeeper ere is rapidly coming to an end is living in a cave. Gatekeepers are stronger than ever, and every major publishing house and magazine still uses gatekeepers. They always will.

    Yes, there have been extremely rare exceptions to the posting online rule, but for every exception, thousands of works have died because writers ignore this advice. Using extremely rare exceptions to form a rule is pure silliness, and anyone should know better.

    How else do you explain blog to book deals, and self-published success stories? With common sense, and by looking at the actual numbers, rather than finding a couple of examples and using them to say all is well.

    Or rae occasion, on extremely rare occasion, self-publishe dnovel turned into major successes long before teh internet age, but few were silly enough to say that was teh way to go because writer X did it, or writer y did it.

    It makes no more sense today than it did then.

    Actual numbers show clearly that these events happen about as often as lightning striking in the same spot four times in a row.

    This is horrible advice, and will kill a lot of good fiction, and delay many a career indefinitely.

    Gatekeepers coming to an end? God grief. Anyone who believes this just has no knowledge about the publishing industry at all.

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  26. Raymond says

    Let me illustrate this: you leave your manuscript on a copy machine with a note that says “read only,” or the same with a note that says “make one copy and leave $1 in the tip jar.” You come back, not only has someone made thousands of copies, broken the machine and stolen the dimes out of it, but also stolen the tip jar. Or even worse, someone’s whited-out your name, typed theirs over yours, and started passing them out at a buck a pop. Where exactly is the personal benefit in this?

    I liken the internet to the vanity press. Sure, without self-publication we wouldn’t have Lautreamont, but he’s a very rare exception. And I’m saying this as someone with livejournal, facebook, and twitter profiles. This isn’t dark age mentality, it’s common sense. Name one person who has eked out a fair living as a writer on the internet in this age of file-sharing. E-books turn less a profit for the author than their physical counterparts, they just make for lower overhead for the publishers.

    I don’t think the old system is dying, but even if it is I still don’t think the one that’s replacing it is any better. Ploughshares or Poetry do not stand on equal footing with some teenager’s goth doggerel on a geocities site, but it does on the net. If everyone can publish, no one can legitimize art. If Stephen King can turn a profit and Faulkner fall out of print (as all but one of his novels did before his Nobel), what does that say about the market?

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  27. says

    What I have found interesting in the last few years, as publishing is undergoing a sea change, is the amount of online sites where authors of like mind have banded together in collectives to publicise their individual work and also brand themselves as a group. Some of these groups then become promoters of other writers. ‘Gatekeepers’ as traditional publishing knew them in the past may well be changing with an emphasis on a more online presence. After all the big six publishing houses are now telling their editors to blog and have an online presence, so they are taking note of the online world.
    I agree with Greg and Jane that you must have a plan and that you should think carefully about how much of your work is available online. The Internet is a publishing tool…Like any tool if you use it wisely you won’t get hurt.

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  28. says

    In the beginning I struggled with whether to post on my website my own short stories, selected poems, and a first chapter to a novel undergoing revisions. I went back and forth, seeing both the upside and downside of posting works online. In the end I chose to not be afraid, and to trust that sharing and supporting each other’s writing journeys far outweigh the fear of our ideas being stolen.

    I am also in agreement with Jane:

    Great ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s execution that’s the stumbling block for most writers. One idea can be executed in millions of different ways, at varying levels of quality.

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  29. says

    I read both takes on this matter. I like yours over Chuck’s. It is a little scary to put stuff “out there,” but for me anyway, just writing a blog about writing motivates me to write my real stuff. And my BIG idea isn’t really being revealed (I don’t think). So maybe I’m being smart about it. Hope so anyway. I’m not about to serialize my entire novel on my blog. But I would like to throw up some non-committal excerpts from time to time without fear of word thieves. At any rate, I very much like the opposing viewpoints coming from the same family. Thanks.

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  30. says

    I was really interested in this piece because I’m in the throes of serialising a book of mine online, “Mrs Darcy vs The Aliens”, at http://www.mrsdarcyvsthealiens.com, and it’s been absolutely fascinating. I did it mainly to see if there was likely to be an audience out there for the finished book (and there clearly is) and – if such an audience existed – to provide myself with an incentive to continue writing it (which is working brilliantly).

    In the course of doing this, I have learnt a phenomenal amount about promoting myself and my work – even to the extent of producing a couple of YouTube trailers (latest here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiEvcuVeA64) so even if it doesn’t eventually find a home with a conventional publisher (which is still the end goal – as my agent will testify) I will have gained a lot from the experience.
    .-= Jonathan Pinnock´s last blog ..Mrs Darcy’s New YouTuberance =-.

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  31. says

    There was an excellent post today over at Digital Book World – an interview with Gretchen Rubin, who is NYT bestseller. As she says, ubiquity online is important:

    http://digitalbookworld.com/2010/gretchen-rubin-social-media-happiness-for-authors/

    I think it shows how you can be a nonfiction author, be very active in posting online content, and still have the more “traditional” print book success.

    Contrary to what James and Raymond say above, I don’t think my examples are the exception to the rule, and people at the forefront of publishing are in agreement with me. Here is one powerful viewpoint that illustrates:

    http://toc.oreilly.com/2009/07/content-is-a-service-business.html

    Here is another:
    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free

    I’d like to hear about a specific fiction project that an agent or publisher decided NOT to publish ONLY because the author had made it available online.
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..Have the Courage to Follow Your Heart & Intuition =-.

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  32. says

    I teach social media for writers and I actually advise against posting sections of your novel on-line for a number of reasons, especially if you are unpublished. and not because I am in the Dark Ages and worried your work will be stolen, :).

    But, my position is this…

    Writers need to at least appreciate what they are opening themselves up to on the Internet. Most of the time people are nice and post kind and helpful things. But, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they can be brutal and cruel and do more harm than good.

    So before you post ANYTHING. Can you take the heat? Can you take someone publicly eviscerating your work and it not in any way deter you or send you back to your computer to rewrite your novel? Not a lot of people could.

    When you get critique in a writing group, you pretty much know whose opinions are good and worth listening to. On the Web? Anonymity does strange things to people.

    If you have an agent or a book deal or have published, those comments can’t tank your confidence the way they can for a new aspiring author. So post on the web, but be prepared for all outcomes, good and bad.

    Thanks for a great blog as always!

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  33. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been debating putting some things online, and after reading this, I’ve decided to do it!
    .-= Amelia´s last blog ..Book Winner! =-.

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  34. Vic K says

    I don’t know how well this advice applies to other genres, but speaking about fantasy writers, I think you’re mad if you post your work online in any open kind of forum.

    That said, I do have two chapters of my novel posted on my website. But there’s mostly story and character build in there; nothing in the way of ‘high concept’ stuff. That begins to unfold in chapter three. I would most definitely not post any of my work on the internet that reveals the high concept ideas behind my fantasy writing.

    I have seen idea theft and had ideas of mine ‘re-interpreted’. In fantasy, it happens a lot.

    I am absolutely with Chuck on this one where fantasy is concerned. Concept is after all, our bread and butter. It’s how we stand out from the crowd. It’s easy to throw dwarves and dragons and elves at the page, but if you have original ideas and concepts you need to protect them.

    Dark ages? Hardly. Practical and realistic. It does make critiquing a little trickier, but I’ve been at this for years now, and have a small but wonderful circle of trusted writing partners.

    Maybe those people who aren’t worrying about idea theft aren’t writing anything worth stealing? I don’t mean that in the snarky sense, but in that their work is about the characters and location and delivery – and not about some unique concept or idea.

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  35. says

    I always enjoy hearing your perspective and I think you’re right on with this advice. There’s something uniquely satisfying about owning a book, at least for me.

    So even if I’ve read the free ebook or the serialized version online, I’ll buy the book just to have it. Seth Godin calls this owning the souvenir.

    I also believe in getting other people involved in the process. Writers workshop their ideas, academics discuss their work with colleagues, why not put as many eyes on it as possible?

    If it improves your work everyone is better off.
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Failure to Adapt: The Agonizing Death of the Publishing World =-.

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  36. says

    I truly believe in the power of sharing on the internet in terms of growing a following. And it is also helpful in strengthening one’s craft. Generally, my sharing is limited to excerpts that I post on Facebook, but I have also occasionally posted excerpts on my blog. Not for awhile though.

    I have just decided that I’m going to do the “A Story a Day in May” challenge (http://storyaday.org/) and I fully intend to post some of that day’s work on my website. They may not be stories I intend to shop out to magazines and other publishers, but they can give readers a taste of what I do and might compel them to seek out my work elsewhere.
    .-= Allison M. Dickson´s last blog ..What Inspired Your Niche? =-.

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  37. says

    I’ve thought about posting fiction on my website, but I’ve always had one question that keeps me from doing that: how do I address it in query/cover letters? Do I need to mention that I’ve posted a short story (in part or whole) or chapters of a novel on my website, my blog, or an online critique group?

    It’s not that I’m afraid someone would steal my work; it’s just that I’m not sure how to handle that business aspect of it.

    I do have poetry posted on my website, but that’s because most of it has already been published in journals long ago.

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  38. says

    If you’ve posted your work online in a critique environment, there is no need to mention it in a cover or query.

    When offering shorter works (short stories, articles, essays, poems) that you posted in full for general consumption on your own site (or others’ sites), and if it’s in substantially the same form, you should mention it.

    If you’ve posted excerpts/chapters of your book-length work on your own site/blog, then it’s usually not necessary to mention it unless you’ve done something very formal with it (e.g., distributed widely on digital devices, serialized, actively promoted, or charged money).
    .-= Jane Friedman´s last blog ..How We Choose Where to Live—and Where to Die =-.

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  39. says

    Online is 21st equivalent of the newspaper serialization in the 19th Century. We are too paranoid that our work will be stolen by others – it does happen, yes, but my argument is that if you are using the communication media to promote yourself, then you have to be prepared to expose.

    Charles Dickens didn’t shy away from the opportunity that the print media offered: wasn’t he paid by the word? He profitted and so did his millions of readers, worldwide — arguably a blogger of his day.

    I think we worry too much about plagiarism – as if our ideas were actually new and our own, unique insights and way of writing weren’t. In the past year, I’ve learned more to improve my craft through online critique environments to make the minimal dangers of theft the least of my concerns. Besides, if my work is good enough to steal, that says it all.
    .-= Leigh Verrill-Rhys´s last blog ..Surfacing =-.

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  40. says

    Thank you for the post Jane!

    I started posting a serialized novel on my blog about a year and a half ago. At the time I didn’t know that it might ruin my chances of getting the novel published.

    It has been a really good experience. I’ve received criticism and excellent suggestions from readers that have made the story better. I’ve also been consistently writing for almost two years now, and I’ve never done that before.

    I would really like to see the novel published once I’m finished. If I find out that it won’t be published because I put it online first, I will be disappointed, but I can’t regret this experience.
    .-= LD Silver´s last blog ..Chapter 73 =-.

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  41. says

    The hump I had to get over before putting stuff online was the fear that “this is the only good idea I’ll ever get.” If that’s true, then I’m not a writer anyway. But I think activity generates activity, and I believe I’ll know when I’ve got a really hot idea that I might want to hold back.

    Thanks for encouraging this way of getting good criticism. You have a terrific blog, and from the caliber of the comments, a pretty sophisticated reader base.

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  42. says

    I love this post and I agree with Leigh’s comment above about this being the serialization of today. Our earlier counterparts went to the newspapers and magazines to publish their works in serial for pennies, many of which went on to be great novels that are revered today. Not to say that everything that’s posted online is great, but we do need to get over the fear of what other will say, what will happen in the publishing world, or that others will steal our work. I read JA Konrath’s blog frequently and he is also not concerned about piracy. It will happen whether we protect ourselves or not. Everything is pirated these days!

    As for me, I started posting my first novel on my blog about 2 weeks ago. It’s a good story, but it had already made the agent/publisher rounds, and even though it had nice interest, there were no bites. I’ve got another completed book and I’m working on a third, so this one was collecting dust. I have many supporters who were interested in reading the first one, and am using it to gain an audience on the web by using it as a serial, posted twice a week. So far it’s given me an nice increase in traffic and is bringing by readers that are completely new, so in this short time, I’d say it’s had a positive response.
    Karly Kirkpatrick´s last blog post ..Into the Shadows – Chapter 2 Part 1

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  43. Jenn Schnell says

    I giggled my way through this article. Thank you. I feel like I needed solid permission to go ahead with what I’ve been calling “live story telling” on the website I’m in the process of building. I was considering writing weekly “episodes” of a fiction story in create-as-you-go format. I imagine it would be fun for readers to know they were reading something fresh and raw each week, as well giving them a place to offer feedback that would affect the story’s direction. For me, it feels more like a fear-conquering move. :) … being brave enough to write myself into corners and write my way back out, in front of a live audience.

    So thanks again for the green light. I’ve been consuming your articles and posts. They’re packed with useful information for a green writer such as myself.

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  1. […] original fiction, parker grey, reading online, tessa gratton | Leave a Comment  I was reading an entry on Writer Unboxed about writers posting their work online.  The author advocated such a course.  Personally, I’m going to have to agree.  Some of my […]

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