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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Posting Your Work Online

Many writers I know post their work on a website or blog and are unaware of the risks. I've done it myself. Like many others, I found out the hard way that this may not be a good idea. Friends of mine have had paragraphs, openings, and even their entire novel ideas stolen. As horrible as it is, it happens all the time. But are the risks worth it? That is a topic of much debate lately.

What are we writers to do when we want to put something on our blogs and sites that will peak an agent or editors interest? Write a good book, edit it well, then right a good query and start sending it out. If they like your work, they may check your blog or website to get a better feel for you. But they won't be doing it to get a better feel for your work. Once your novel has sold to a publisher they'll help you decide what you should put on your site. At that point its protected and will soon be published anyway. Until then, it isn't needed and may only lead to frustration and heartache.

Not to say you can't or shouldn't put some of your writing on your site or blog, you absolutely can. Just be aware of the risks and post responsibly. The bottom line is, if you don't want it stolen, don't post it. I talk to my blog followers, Twitter followers, and critique friends about my book but I do so privately. We share information and critiques via e-mail or direct messages. Protect yourself and your work by sharing it only with those you trust. If you want to post bits of it do so knowing that you are giving it away in a sense.

Check out what a few industry professionals with Writer's Digest have to say on the matter:
Chuck Sambuchino: http://tinyurl.com/294tkq6
And an opposing opinion by Jane Friedman: http://tinyurl.com/25krwrf

19 comments:

  1. Excellent advice Heather. I'm of the "don't post it if you want to publish it" side of the debate. This seemed like common sense to me when I began writing again last year. There's always risk involved, but that's not to say you can't post anything. I feel comfortable posting bits of flash fiction but I would never post parts of my novel!

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  2. Also remember, that anything you write and post is protected under copyright law. If someone steels your work, you have to right to sue. That being said, I never talk about my novel ideas, characters, even titles. I just would die if my idea was taken.

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  3. Heather,

    I agree with your take on this 100%. Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

    KarenG

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  4. Amanda, I used to be on the other side of the debate but then I posted something on a site I thought I trusted and found it re-posted elsewhere word for word, credit stolen. I like your idea of posting bits of flash fiction though.

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  5. Great point Liz. Your work IS protected by copyright laws and you absolutely can fight back if it's stolen. I'm like you though, I'd be devastated if any of my idea or characters were stolen. The only reason I post the titles is because they're on submission to editors and it feels a bit safer that way, but only a bit.

    Thanks Karen, you'll love the links! Jane and Chuck are fantastic and its interesting to see their differing opinions.

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  6. I've wondered about this for a while and asked agents in the past. It just seems like a sketchy line on what you should post and what you shouldn't. I post some but I'm paranoid enough that I think I'm okay.

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  7. Blogs and the rise of digital media have blurred the publishing lines so much that it's easy to forget that posting something online is technically publishing of a sort, and it is out there for the whole world to see, whether or not you want them to see it.

    I have heard of authors who were discovered via their blogs, but these were all non-fiction authors blogging about their life experiences, not folks posting fictional stories.

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  8. This is a great topic for discussion! I see pros and cons on both sides of the debate.

    I just read your interview on MBWCreates. GREAT job fielding the questions. You inspired me!

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  9. Yikes! I agree, it's a dangerous practice. It's sad that it's so, but it's much better in this case to be safe than sorry.

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  10. I've always been a little weary of putting excerpts on the Web.

    I recently put the questions that "sparked" the idea for my novel and my working title (which always changes) -- but they were so general and not specific so I was okay with that. But would I have put the "pitch" out there?

    Probably not. Better safe than sorry.

    I'm the kind of person who thinks that two people can take the same premise and write two totally different stories but sometimes unfortunately, it's all about timing so you may want to only share with your trusted members of your critique partner/group.

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  11. You're right Wendy, it is a sketchy line on what you should and shouldn't post. I think it's okay to post tidbits and teasers but not plot, openings, or anything you fear losing.

    That's a great point about non-fiction Alissa! Since I don't write it I couldn't advise on it, but I've also heard of many non-fiction writers who've been discovered that way. Fiction writers, not so much.

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  12. Thanks Nicole, I'm all smiles now! :)

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  13. As much as I want to share my work with those who'd love to read it, you're right Portia. Sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry.

    That's very true Karen. Two people will write the same idea completely different. Which is why in some cases I think it's okay to put your writing on line. Great point!

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  14. I had a blurb of one of my books up on my blog but I took it down because it wasn't serving any purpose. I didn't start my blog until after I'd signed with my agent and anyone she subs it to is already going to have the blurb.

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  15. Me too Paul! I'd love to give my readers something about my work but I don't think its fair to them until it sells to a publisher. Soon hopefully, soon...

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  16. excellent argument indeed. Posting anything on the Interweb has its risks, not just stories and articles, photos and videos too.

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  17. That's a great point that I completely forgot to touch on Ee Leen Lee. Thanks for pointing it out! Every personal picture I post on here I realize I'm giving away in a sense. I haven't posted videos yet but that really makes me think about doing it at all...

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  18. Heather, this has created quite a conversation. I love it. As you know I posted my prologue. What happened... I actually got some really great feedback! lol. However, I am going to be really careful as in ... not... posting anything else however. Not worth the risk. Yeah... we can sue, but you know when you do that, often you lose, even if you win.

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  19. That's the catch Karlene, by posting your work online you can get excellent feedback! It's a shame that we have to be so cautious because there are huge benefits to posting one's work. You're right though, if your work is stolen and you sue, the process is terrible. Like many things, it's a gamble.

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