Monday, October 05, 2015

What does unpublished mean?

I've never been entirely sure what exactly 'unpublished' constitutes. When I first started writing (mainly short stories) I posted all my work on various writing websites like www.deviantart.com   and www.writerscafe.org

When I started submitting for publication, I had some publishers who didn't mind me posting to these communities, some who flat-out rejected me because they no longer considered my work unpublished, and some who just wanted them set to 'only viewable to other members' so that it was only posted to a community and not the public. So, at this point I'm rather confused what the industry stance is on this matter. I do like posting to these websites for feedback, but now that I've started writing more seriously do I have to have to worry about them jeopardising my first electronic rights?


Let's start with the fact that there is no such thing as "first electronic rights"

First SERIAL rights describe excerpts you publish before the book is published, be that electronically or in print. 

Second serial rights are excerpts you publish after the book is published.

If you elect to publish excerpts from your novel before it's sold you've licensed first serial rights. Format doesn't matter.

It's entirely possible an author could publish pieces of a novel pre-pubication to several outlets. (A WIP from Katherine Dunne, or Fran Liebowitz would certainly generate that kind of interest.) That's still first serial rights.


When you say "publishers didn't mind me posting to these communities" or "flat out rejected me" it sounds like you're talking about digital only publishers. Their contracts are for  (territory) (languge) and (format).

Thus if you license World English for digital publication to them, they have those rights. First and second don't come in to play here at all. If they fail to publish, or publish and then revert rights to you after a period of time, you can re-sell World English for digital publication again. No "second" needed.


As to whether they want you to publish excerpts or not publish excerpts, it's their call. They run their business the way they see fit.

There is no industry standard on this because every publisher has different standards.

The trick here is to keep VERY detailed records of what you've published or posted and where. Print out the terms you've agreed to (ie don't rely on being able to view them on the site) and make sure you understand the terms.

 

49 comments:

Lisa Bodenheim said...

omyword, what a way too-complicated new learning task this is for a Monday morning. I got lost at World English licensing so will need to go back and re-read after more caffeine.

So then, does that mean hardback/paperback book publishers don't mind publishing second serial rights? If it's just a chapter or 2 from a novel, would it still be considered first serial rights?

Opie-what intricate details you are dealing with now that you want to do more serious writing and sell it. And that's wonderful that you're getting feedback from websites that are helpful to you for your WiP. Although, it seems as if you're not writing a novel but are wanting to publish an anthology of your short stories?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Published, smublished, digitally and seriously unpublished, what's a writer to do?

In regards to my understanding related to 'serial' rights, I ask, do you want skim or whole with your fruit loops.

DLM said...

Lisa, I'm with you - my wee and paltry little brain is not up to this at this hour.

2Ns, I usually go with one of the "percents" - one or two, either is fine. :)

Mmm, Froot Loops. As I sit here without breakfast, Froot Loops are a happy thought.

I shall refrain from questions in my current addled state, but expect to watch this thread with interest.

nightsmusic said...

How does this affect WIPs where you post a snippet on your own site?

This is Monday. This is way over my head on Monday.

I need aspirin...

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I need an agent I really trust because this legal stuff bruises my brain. This is way too complicated for a Monday. Going back to pounding kale into paste. I hope that doesn't violate any serial rights.

Brian Schwarz said...

You see, this is entirely too confusing.

When I signed my contract on Carkoon, they wanted first Cereal rights and second cereal rights. This created quite the ruckus because I already had a contract to write snippets for the Kale Farmers Association Of Carkoon (KFAC) and they were considered a second rate cereal (something about not enough "grains" in the blend) so they about lost it.

Eventually I negotiated the second cereal rights to them and everyone was happy but the Lima bean circle who didn't even make the cereal list.

Oh the horror.

Donnaeve said...

Well. I sure am glad I'm not the only one whose head was about to explode.

Froot Loops. My childhood favorite.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Cereal rights on Carkoon are insane. I feel for you, Brian. And the Fruit Loops clause is intentionally opaque. Just don't let the Literary, Grain, and Fire Arms Ministry (LGFM) catch you smuggling Captain Crunch or worse, Frosted Flakes - these are considered illicit drugs and contraband here on Carkoon.

nightsmusic said...

But...but...I can't live without my Tony Tigers! Must have Tony Tigers.

DLM said...

"If you elect to publish excerpts from your novel before it's sold you've licensed first serial rights."

Expanding on nightmusic's question:

It seems like the point above refers to publishing in some more formal sense than posting on one's own blog ... ? If I am incorrect, to whom would rights be licensed, in such an instance? (http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/p/excerpt-authors-note.html) To Blogger? Myself?

Colin Smith said...

This is one of those topics that really doesn't resonate with me because I don't put online anything I would want to publish "formally." All the flash fiction and short stories on my blog are intended as examples of my writing, nothing that I would even consider putting in a book. But then I'm a bit old school when it comes to new media, and the whole idea of posting WiPs to public sites for critique or to generate interest. If my future agent wants me to do that, fine--but I would presume my agent would also advise me on the legal aspects, and make sure I keep my Corn Flakes and my Weetabix in order. :)

Colin Smith said...

I must say, as a cereal lover, Carkoon's draconian cereal laws drive me bonkers. I managed to smuggle in some porridge mix by telling customs it was drugs, but they gave me a strange look (those trisopts with the forehead eyeball are just plain creepy!) so I don't think I'll get away with it again.

Books about cereal killers are encouraged here, though.

Speaking of which, I'm still waiting to hear whether the Department of Alien Foreign Travel will release me for Bouchercon. They say Felicity Buttonweezer just returned from vacation on Mercury and has yet to sign my certificate. I tell ya, this exile... *sigh*

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Brian, Love those cereal rights. Do you write blurbs for cereal boxes?

Even if I had 20 coffees I'd still be confused. Another good reason to publish with a good agent.

Stephen G Parks said...

Colin, if writing is something that you want to be known for, why aren’t you interested in selling your short fiction stories? They don’t have to go into a book — there are a number of websites that will purchase them, some aligned with publishing houses, some not. I recently sold four flash fiction pieces to Specklit (the first comes out Oct 19!). And I’ve sent longer pieces out to other sites. Yes, it’s time away from writing my WiP. No, I’m not doing it for the money, I’m doing it to build a mailing list so that when the WiP is a book, I’ll have people to tell.

Coming back to the OP’s concerns, of the ones I submitted to Specklit, I had to hold back my favourite because I had already posted it on my own site and I knew that they wouldn’t accept that. I know there are other places that will - I’ll work those venues to find a home for it. You just have to read each submission requirement as part of your matching strategy.

S.D.King said...

I have sold first serial rights to a bunch of fiction and non-fic to a magazine. My contract makes it sound like they get to publish it and after a year, everything reverts to me and I own it from there on out.

Apple Cinnamon Cheerios - every day.
Cracklin Oat Bran - would eat all day every day if it had no calories.
Raisin Nut Bran - I would pick out the nutty raisins and eat them all first, but I value my marriage too much.

There - that is an abbreviated serial list of cereals. (The full list available upon request)

Colin Smith said...

Stephen: I didn't say I'm not interested in selling short stories. What I'm talking about is posting freebie stories to my blog or some other site that I might one day want to publish. I draw a distinction between stories I give away, and stories I sell. The two are never the same for me. At least this side of having an agent.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

SD- I believe all those cereals are on Carkoon's list of contraband but Colin can get about anything if you ever end up hereS He's the cereal connection here on Carkoon. I made the mistakes of slicing up some strawberries up in my porridge this morning. Apparently, this is a class A felony on Carkoon. I hope Colin can help. Ugh!

Craig said...

I too got lost somewhere here. Not just because it is Monday, either.

If you are pursuing publishing I would assume it is for something along the lines of a novel.Why would anyone care about the shorts you pumped out? To me they are just part of your platform.

Maybe someday you can make an anthology from those shorts, Shots Fired by C.J. Box is a good example, but I would currently just use them to accentuate your platform. It really shouldn't be a big deal at this point. Quit sweating the small stuff.

DLM said...

Janet's post is not addressing short works, but excerpts from a novel you are trying to query and/or sell to publishers.

S.D.King said...

Fall is descending on the mid-west - then winter. Is it warm in Carkoon?

If I don't get banished there, I could sign up to work in the kitchen for pay. I am not much at gruel, but other than that I can whip up a pretty good meal from the local prison farm produce.

LynnRodz said...

OP, not only are you confused, it seems you confused everyone else here this Monday. Only Janet has her head on straight this morning/afternoon/evening.

Fuzzy Print has a whole new policy about cereal rights ever since Colin resigned for a teaching post at Carkoon High. (He couldn’t resist those 3 months off in the summertime and 2 weeks during the Christmas holidays.) Anywhoo, cereal rights at Fuzzy is concerned about too much sugar, therefore, only Cheerio’s (cheers!) and Country Store are accepted. All others are out of the loop and that includes fruit, tigers, flakes, etc. Oats are still under consideration.

Stephen G Parks said...

Diane, I agree that Janet is addressing novels, but I take it that the OP is asking for clarification in the context of short stories mentioned in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph, it sounds like she's talking about direct replies from publishers regarding short fiction.

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: I didn't resign. You don't think I would CHOOSE to teach Carkoonian High Schoolers, do you?! No... this is what happens when you're already exiled to Carkoon, and you then make suggestions about a flash fiction anthology and Janet decides your exile is clearly too cushy because your head is clearly turning to mush... :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well, Colin, at least you didn't write about evil librarians. I have kale growing out my... Ah well, now about my cereal rights. This thing about slicing strawberries into porridge seems extreme even for Carkoon.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My assumption is Opie is asking about short stories s/he has written and is now sending to magazines or anthologies and what have you. In my experience from submission guidelines (and my understanding of them), if the stories are someplace on the Interweb, freely visible, they count as "published" to many of those markets.

A short story I wrote and am very proud of it just up on my blog, 'cause it came from a Chuck Wendig Friday flash fiction prompt. I don't regret writing it, but I do regret just slapping it up there and not "saving" it to submit. It's a story I like quite a lot (and according to this morning's batch of short story R's, I like my stories quite a lot more than anybody else does), but it's "Published" by the guidelines of many magazines, unless the place accepts reprints.

Again, this is just my understanding, which is quite possibly wrong. And if I am wrong, do tell me, so I don't continue to look like an idiot!

BJ Muntain said...

If most of what you've written are short stories, then you're not talking publishers unless they were for anthologies. Anthologies have publishers. While other short story markets - like magazines, ezines, etc. - *may* have publishers, it's the editors who would say yay or nay to previously 'published' works.

The thing with short stories is, it doesn't take long to read them. A lot of them are read online. And once they've been read by the public, chances are the public won't buy that story if it's later published in a magazine. Why should they, if they can find it for free online? Or, even if it's then taken down, why would they pay for a copy of a magazine for a story they've already read? Unless, as Janet says, you're Katherine Dunne or Fran Liebowitz.

That's why posting your work in a public forum is a no-no for many short story markets. They *may* accept them as reprints - which usually pays much less than a story that has never been seen by the public. And, yes, many will ask you to take the story off the public site.

As Janet says with publishers, what's considered 'published' varies with magazines, too, but generally if the public has seen it, they don't want it. It's not like they don't have their choice of hundreds of stories each month that have never been seen by their readers.

Again, I'm only talking short story markets. As I understand it (and I've been known to understand wrong), book publishers don't buy serial rights. From Janet's post, it's clear that serial rights are chapters published before and after the book itself is published.

There are places where you can get feedback that aren't public - for novels and short stories. If something is posted in password protected online writers workshop (like OWW or Critters.org), then it's rarely considered published. Just a suggestion, if you want input without the 'published' label put on your work.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

We've had some of this discussion before. A LOT of writers post excerpts of their works on their blogs/sites. I have a few up from old works, plus a variety of short stories, or did. I think I haven't added all the short stories back in since we put the new site up.

Some published authors post snippets of works in progress as crumbs to their rabid fans. Diana Gabaldon does for sure and I've seen some others, though the names escape me at the moment.

I post pieces of stuff I'm working on at Books and Writers in workshops. Other than that, I don't.

The main reason I don't is because I don't want raw work out there in front of the world. The second reason is because I want to publish most of what I write. I don't want to get to that point in the contract where the publisher asks if my beloved work is a virgin and it says, "Oh, yes! Of course I am. That one time with Harvey Finklebinder doesn't count, does it? It really wasn't very good."

Panda in Chief said...

I'm glad I'm not alone here in being confused as to exactly what the OP is referring to. It does interest me, as I post all of my cartoons on my blog, and what I am now considering a first draft of a graphic novel. I think I am okay there (ha ha! Famous last words, sure to result in exile to Carkoon) because I am jow planning editing and complete redrawing, new primary POV, and more than doubling the work in length.

I haven't ever posted on one of the sites that put your work out for critiques from the masses. I'm not sure I really cate what the masses think, so that does not have any appeal for me. I have enough people that either love what I do or get totally pissed off by it.

As to cereal rights, no one has mentioned home made granola, with no salt and very little sweetner. Could this prefenence alone doom me to an eternity in Carkoon?

Panda in Chief said...

Oh boy. Typos abound in my previous comment. Be kind. I just returned from conference late last night. It was fantastic, BTW.

Colin Smith said...

Panda: There is a legend that Granola is based on the popular Carkoonian breakfast food Granooga, which is made up mainly of dry grass (finely chopped), crushed nooga beetles, and chopped qatuxi nuts (which are like dry moldy Brazil nuts), and some other variable ingredients according to regional preference. It tastes disgusting, but it really cleans out the digestive system. Both ends. :)

Suffice to say, Carkoonian customs may be willing to turn a blind eye (all three of them) to your granola, just don't let them eat it. As with their choice of reading, Carkoonians have no taste for quality. The better it is, the worse for you.

Brian Schwarz said...

Did you guys hear the one about the dump truck driver who kept crushing iPhones? I heard he was a Siri-al killer.

My brain is mush. As is my stomach after my most recent now of sandy-o's which are far more sand than o.

I'm with Julie on this one. I avoid the pre-publishing of anything that I hope will one day sit on a shelf because I'm admittedly unintelligent in these manners and paranoid about messing it up on the wrong advice.

Brian Schwarz said...

Don't feel bad Panda. I count two typos in my above 45 words.

Colin Smith said...

Totally leaving whichever topic is current, did you watch the Stephen King/Lee Child video Madeline pointed us to yesterday? Here it is if you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PaxX-DTGo0&feature=youtu.be. I noticed Lee Child says he married an American he met at college, moved to the States, and was published when he was in his 40s. This could be my template! I now just have to write novels as good and popular as the Reacher novels, and I'm set!! ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Until this minute I never knew Fruit Loops was spelled Froot Loops. I'm a Lucky Charms kind of girl. Learn something every day.

Panda in Chief said...

I am hoping that a big bowl of Froot Loops (with extra sugar and light cream) counts as several of my daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Thanks for the granooga recipe, Colin. I will be sure to adapt my next batch of granola in accordance with Carkoonian dietary customs. I'm pretty sure it will help me with my WIP.

Brian, I strive to have at least 24% typo rate in all comments.

BJ Muntain said...

Panda: So glad you enjoyed the conference!

Julie: You nailed it and mailed it.

Colin: You can make it on your own. If Child can do it, so can you - but it won't be because you're like Child. It will be because you are you.

Colin Smith said...

BJ: Thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, I know, but it's always encouraging when you encounter successful writers whose journey has similarities to your own--especially when they succeeded despite what you might consider obstacles (publishing later in life, being British...) :)

Colin Smith said...

OK OK for the record, no I don't really consider being British an obstacle. Just in case people didn't get that good ole dry British humor thing... :)

BJ Muntain said...

I think publishing later in life is a good thing. It means you've spent some time developing your craft.

Unless you're one of those "I'm going to write when I retire" folks, who only start writing then. It takes time to develop craft to a publishable point.

Me, I plan to write when I retire, too, mostly because I've got momentum and I don't think I could stop...

Colin Smith said...

BJ: When I was much younger, whenever I would think about writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, I would always think, "You don't know enough yet to write about anything!" That was an exaggeration, but there was an element of truth to it. Time has given me perspective I didn't have back then, and hopefully made me a better writer, especially when it comes to writing characters and their relationships with one another. It's also given me more time to catch up on reading, which I desperately needed to do more of before I considered writing "for real." Not that there's ever enough time to read everything...

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: When I was younger, I would think, "I'm going to be a published writer by the time I'm 25. No, 30. No, 35. No, 40. No, 50..."

Well, I'm soon to be 51, and I'm thinking more along the lines of, "If I'd published that young, it would have been drivel. NOW my work is worth publishing."

AJ Blythe said...

Like Colin and Julie I am clutching my wip to my chest and not letting any of it out in the public arena. Not until it has a big red bow printed with a wonderful contract =)

2Ns - Lucky Charms? Are they cereal or are have you moved to Carkoon for their infamous 4-leaf kale and rabid rabbit paw soup?

I recently read a cozy called A Cereal Killer by an Aussie author. Unfortunately the only thing I can recommend about it is the title.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I think when people assume they have to be older to be good writers they are making excuses. Wisdom only comes with age if you learned from the mistakes of youth. Otherwise you're just old and stupid instead of young and stupid.

Patrick O'Brien's greatest regret was that he didn't start writing the Aubrey series sooner. I share that regret. I would have eagerly read everything he wrote.

I fear I won't live long enough to write all the stories that take up residence with me. My biggest regret is quitting years ago, but I can't change the past. I can only build the future with what I do today. Yes, I'm a better writer today, but I would have been a better writer ten or fifteen years ago if I hadn't quit, also. At what point do we say, OK, I'm good enough/old enough now?



Colin Smith said...

Julie: I don't think you *have* to be older to be a good writer. There are plenty of good young writers out there to give the lie to that idea. Personally, for me, speaking only about myself, I think I'm in a better position now to write better stories than I was even 20 years ago. I can't speak for anyone else, though.

BJ Muntain said...

Julie said: "At what point do we say, OK, I'm good enough/old enough now?"

I always thought I was good enough, but haven't been able to get published yet. But I'm better now than I ever was before.

As Julie said, you don't get better by getting older. You get better by using those years to write and develop as a writer.

Younger people get published all the time. But if you don't get published young - for whatever reason - at least use that time to develop your craft. Colin has. Julie has. I have. And I'm sure most people here have.

Keep writing. Because it will pay off.


Julie.M.Weathers said...

Well, I'm registered for Surrey. Now to find the proper sackcloth to wear.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I'm with Julie, Brian and AJ. Currently I'm redoing my website and am thinking about how to say I'm a writer. Maybe the tag line under my name will say artist writer or artist and unpublished writer.

This leads me to an off topic question I wanted to ask QOTKU. When you sign a new client how do you consider their social media presence and what do you advise them? They have to be present somewhere and some of what we've put on line might have to come down or be consolidated. Gee, will I go to Carkoon for asking this. I know Patrick Lee is present on FB and Twitter while Jeff Somers has a site and a blog and great youtube trailers.

CynthiaMc said...

Fall has hit Florida. The sweet gum tree dropped most of its leaves on the deck this week and it's been in the 60's the past couple of nights and only in the 80's during the day.

My problem is balancing all my loves (writing, music, art, drama ) and earning a living at the same time. Writing is too solitary - I'm a showoff. Music is too one-dimensional. Theatre I love but I want to create my own stories as well as characters. Most of my waking hours are spent at my day job, which leaves a narrow window to do anything else plus have any sort of family life.

It's Hell Week for the show, which is stressful in itself but doubly so because we're a double cast working with different partners and being tech when we're not onstage. Twice the work in half the time. It's a 2 person show, more stress. Why do I do it? Because I love it. But right now there's no time to write, which I don't love. And if I were writing I'd be missing theatre.

BJ Muntain said...

Angie: One suggestion - don't say 'unpublished writer'. The 'unpublished' isn't necessary. You write. You are a writer. 'Unpublished' is an unnecessary modifier.