I'm following a large group of women writers on Facebook, and enjoy the supportive and interesting posts. Almost every day, someone posts a question regarding placing any part of their WIP online, whether it's for feedback from an online critique group, or an excerpt on their blog, as to whether or not this constitutes "previously published" and hurts their chances of ever getting a publisher. Is this true? I sure hope not, but then, I don't know, and would appreciate your thoughts.
The idea that putting something on the internet hurts your chances of getting published is WRONG.
For proof of that:
As you no doubt know, this book sold so many copies, the publisher gave every single person in the company a year end bonus (and it wasn't $12.50 either.)
There are a couple things that will help you here:
1. A publishing contract template often does say "material has not been previously published" BUT that clause can be changed or deleted as needed. Agents negotiate that stuff ALL the time.
2. Many magazines or contests prohibit previously published material from being submitted. That is DIFFERENT than selling a book in that contest submission guidelines are NOT negotiated. You have to follow them exactly. They will spell out what "previously published means" and it may vary by contest or site.
3. Some agents will not look at previously published material. I'm one of them. When I say this, I mean books that you've offered for sale, with an ISBN on it. I do not mean books you've posted on your website for free. If I have any questions about this, I'll ask you.
The problem with posting your work to the internet is that it falls flat. The EL James example I used above did NOT fall flat. It blew up so fast she should have used TNT not EL.
Shorthand for "your book flopped worse than spinach flavored ice cream" is "you've already published it.
And by flopped I mean: no interest, no comments, no sales. No nothing.
If you want to demonstrate your writing chops on your blog, write something for the website: book reviews, essays, odes to librarians, sonnets to booksellers, quatrains to the QueryShark. Leave your novel off your webpage.
Public critique sites can be useful, but I MUCH prefer private groups even if they only meet online. You have much more control over who sees your work, and a much better sense of the value of their input.