Miss Snark reassures a snarkling

Dear Miss Snark,

Would it be a waste of time to query a novel that hasbeen posted on the Internet in rough draft form? MyMS has been through almost three years of revision since I first posted it on the Web, but I have to admit the main arc of the story and my major characters have remained pretty much the same.

When I first started the thing, I was just writing for fun and didn't give it much thought. I guess I also figured posting a rough draft chapter by chapter was not the same as presenting a complete and polished novel to the world. But I've read a lot lately that makes me think I've used up my "first publication rights" on this dinky website - and I feel like an absolute fool.

Have I doomed my novel for all time? Have I just wasted three years of my life (and several hours of my writing groups' time) on something no respectable publisher is going to want to touch? Please weigh in, Miss Snark. If you saw something in a query letter about a work being posted online, would you immediately pass?
(The rough draft has been taken down, by the way. Even on archive.org I can only find its first chapter. But I realize my work has still been "out there" - and under some people's definitions, been published.)

Well, let's start with the fact that I've sold novels that were first partially published on e-zines, or websites. So, clearly, my first reaction isn't pass.

And you've got some confusion in terms here. There's really no such thing as "first publication rights" at least in books. There are first serial rights which are rights to publish something in abbreviated form before the book is published (think of book excerpts in Vogue for example).

There are editions of books...the same content but in a different form (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, large print are all edition forms)

What you might be thinking of is when people publish something on their own and then want to sell the rights to a big publisher. That's a second edition of a work. I don't touch those, nor do most publishers unless the first edition sold a lot. (There are quite a few posts and comments about this buried in the Snarkives).

Bottom line: you're ok. Query on.


Gabriele C. said...

I'm in the same situation. I had a large part (some 100K) of a novel online (looking back I wonder why people kept asking for more, lol) and took it down when I realised I wanted to get more serious about my writing. I'm now on the way of thoroughly revising the sucker.

But since I'm a multitasker and like to work on something fresh besides, I'm working on another project which will be finished before the revision. Should I have the good luck to get an agent for it, I intend to be open about that first one. If (s)he takes it on, fine; if not, I can still publish it on my website or via Lulu just for fun.

BTW First Publication Rights is something I've read on several writer sites - together with the warning not to have more than 10% of your text online.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reassurance, Miss Snark. I'm glad I haven't done anything too nitwit-ish.

Anonymous said...

I've done a few drafts of my novel and it is very close to finished. I'm going to let it sit until summer, then rework the first chapter and send query letters. I really want to post the novel on the internet between now and this summer. For fun. For feedback. For it to have a little life while it waits for the querying process.

So is there any reason for me NOT to do post it, given that you told this person to query on?

Poohba said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me that magazine publishers are much more concerned with this than book publishers currently are.

Every site I've seen telling writers that they've given up "first publication rights" by posting on the Net (and that's usually how they word it, Miss Snark) refers back to magazine and literary journal submission guidelines.

I don't know if that means book publishers just haven't jumped to the conclusion that "on the web" = "published" yet, or if it's simply a difference between types of publications.