Pub v unpub...get the damn cluegun AGAIN

Dear Miss Snark,

The popularity of blogging has presented a question about the terms "published" and "unpublished." A few friends use their blogs to post poems, memoir chapters, and one blogger spent two years writing his novel. Commenting in blogs nicely allows for feedback outside of a workshop setting.

Some writer friends say "No, no, no! Do not post anything in your blog that you will one day submit because your work will be considered already published and editors want only unpublished work."

I tell my fearful friends, a) if one locks their posts "Friends Only" then that is not published, and b) that published would be defined as an "edited" publication, whether that be online or in print. Unless they have public posts and pay an editor to proof their work before posting online, then they may submit any of their previously blogged works as unpublished.

Question is: Who's right? Or is the answer, c) it depends?

The answer is D: none of the above.

If it's on your blog, it's not published.
If it's in your daily diary, it's not published.
If it's in an email to the Divine Miss Snark, it's not published.
If it's pages in a manuscript sent to Killer Yapp for his endorsement, it's not published.

Is the clue stick looming?

Just because blogger uses the word "your blog has been published" when you post an entry doesn't mean Random House considers you competition.

Generally when editors/agents/publishing folks consider something published it has been put in book form, acquired an ISBN number, and is for sale.

(Literary zines looking for submissions will say work that has appeared on the net doesn't qualify as unpublished but that is a limited use of the word and does NOT apply to the industry as a whole)


Anonymous said...

"...doesn't mean Random House considers you competition."

Hahahaha, beautiful! You nailed it. I'll lead friends back to your post here. Thank you!

WannabeMe said...

Your poor clue gun must be overheating.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, Mark Danielewski's novel House Of Leaves was labelled "second edition" when first published in book form, only because he had originally put the book online. That doesn't seem to dissuade collectors, though. And it certainly didn't stop the book from developing an impressive cult following.

Linda Maye Adams said...

I just recently saw another blog on this--from a science fiction magazine that said that they considered material posted on the Web to be published: http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2006/10/20/3708.html

... Though this obviously relates to shorter works like poems and stories. Check the guidelines when submitting.

Anonymous said...

The author of this question said that posting a story on a blog was a nice way to get feedback without the workshop setting. My question is, what's wrong with a workshop setting? In a workshop, you'll get detailed, usually constructive, feedback; in a blog comment, you'll get vague criticism and compliments that tell you nothing specific about the work, nothing that will help you improve it before sending it to an agent or editor. I'm not saying don't post it on your blog; I'm just saying that a blog seems to me to be a very ineffective means of getting advice on your work.

Mark said...

It's more akin to a clue gattling gun of late.

Anonymous said...

Aw. I an sympathize with the "nitwit." There was a large debate about this on the NaNoWriMo forums last year... I believe the consensus was that while it's not published, you do lose some sort of right to it by virtue of it being available for free to mass quantities, first something or other? ... but that in the long run it didn't make a hoot of difference as long as the writing is good.

Thanks for a wonderfully informative blong, Miss Snark.


writtenwyrdd said...

You don't lose rights to a work by posting it.

Nancy Beck said...

Yanno, I've wondered about this because I've only recently started blogging; I've talked about the characters and ideas going into the story, but haven't posted any chapters or excerpts (esp. since I'm still in rough draft mode).

Thanks for clearing that up.


Kate Thornton said...

Miss Snark is right (was there ever any question?)

Many short fiction venues consider *short fiction* (short and flash stories)as having been stripped of their first electronic serial rights when posted on the internet. That means you no longer have those rights to offer to the venue, and many venues with an online or potential online presence want those rights along with all the other First Rights to the work.

Read the submission guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the reprint markets if you write short fiction. In fact, familiarize yourself with all the different rights you sell or give up when your short fiction hits the world through a magazine or ezine. I have lived to regret selling *all rights in perpetuity* to one particular story - but have no such regrets with another one to the same venue.

And remember there is a difference between marketing your short stories and getting your novel published. What works in the short fiction magazine world is different from what works in the agented published novels world.

Zette said...

I hope people are still watching this thread (I know some people at NaNo are) because I would like an answer to a question.

Do you suggest that people put their newly written novels up on their blogs, and that this will not cause them any problems in trying to submit it to publishers (or agents) at a later date?

I ask this because I've been told it is a problem (though a lucky few have overcome it), and I've passed this word on to others.

One point made to me was that many publishers are not interested in books that have been up on the web, partly because of the chance someone else will step forward to claim it as their own, and the publishers don't want to be stuck with books in a warehouse while lawyers sort it out.

I was also told that putting material up for the general public to read means that it is published -- it is placed before the public, and editing, money, and contracts do not have anything to do with the act of publishing in itself. Just looking at an entry in a Random House/Webster's dictionary, it says that publish is 'to issue (printed or otherwise reproduce...)for sale or distribution to the public...to issue publicly the work.' It doesn't seem to count editing as a prerequisite.

Now, I know that there's a big difference between dictionary definitions and real life, but... if I followed what you said in your post, then I could print out five thousand copies of a book, sell them myself to anyone, and still tell the publisher that it's never been published because it wasn't looked over by an editor and didn't have an ISBN. Granted, if I sold the five thousand copies and it was that popular, there's a chance a publisher would still be interested. What if I just gave them away, instead? I'm just curious where the line is drawn for submission reasons.

So... I guess I just find this confusing. Published authors I know are very careful about how much of their works in progress they put up as snippets, and not all of them are because the work is already under contract (though often it is). I've been telling writers for years to be careful of what they post, to share snippets, but not the entire work. Maybe I've been led to believe wrong. I'm going to be asking as many professionals as I can locate again. Maybe the rules have changed again in the last few years.

But it seems to me that the rush for a writer to share stories, either on blogs or self-publishing, is not wise. Maybe it's just not wise for reasons other than technical publication?