Thursday, October 15, 2015

Published versus unpublished: the topic that will not die

Yes, you did recently answer a question titled "What does unpublished mean?"  Your answer may have been too advanced for me and to my reading didn't quite answer my question (or maybe it did and I'm just too inexperienced to see the answer when placed right in front of my face).  
To clarify: I've been spending time on  and they mention over and over that if a manuscript is submitted only to their members, by a member, for a critique on  , it is never considered "published."  Therefore, it is safe for me to submit my writing for critique as under those circumstances (only reviewed by members and not available to the Internet as a whole) the manuscript will never be considered "previously published" by an agent or a publisher.
However, from what I am seeing on your blog, and other sources, it may not be that cut and dried.  Some may consider manuscripts submitted to these member-only sites as published, some may not.
If it isn't as clear cut as the websites indicate, I do not want to submit to them for critique and potentially lose my "unpublished" status.  
So, am I possibly putting my unpublished status in peril by submitting to websites such as   or for critique?
I apologize if I am being tedious or dense.  I just don't want do something that may have unexpected negative consequences down the road.

The problem with telling you that your work won't be considered published if posted on their site, is that the one deciding what's considered published is NOT  It's the next site down the submission path:

If JetReidFussyPants has submission guidelines that  say "if you've put this up on a website for reader input we consider it published" it doesn't matter what Critique Circle says.  It doesn't matter what Absolute Write says. They don't set the rules for


Book publishers generally don't give a fig if something has been posted for reader comment or even if it's been published with an ISBN number. That does NOT preclude them from publishing it at all. In fact, they publish things as reprints ALL the time. The only thing they want to know is can they make more money from it?

Where you run in to this published/unpublished dichotomy is with contests and magazines. They have much more stringent rules about what they'll consider.  And the rules are THEIRS.  They can say "nothing that's ever seen the light of day" and that's that.

Frankly, I wouldn't worry about this.  It seems like a lot of people are spinning their woodland creature rodent wheels on this topic and mostly it's not going to matter at all.

I'm one of the most conservative agents on "nothing previously published" that I know of, and my benchmark is an ISBN and offered for sale.

Try not to fret about getting feedback on a work in progress. It's more important to get better at your craft right now than worry about some potential contest down the road.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I just had to be first. I'm like addicted.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Love that site. The wealth of info is infinite. WD lists it as number one site for writers and small fish called chum.

OP, don't fret, really, in the vast scheme of things all you have to do is pull out your magnifying glass and read the "fine print" - as in lit.

DLM said...

"I'm one of the most conservative agent on "nothing previously published" that I know of, and my benchmark is an ISBN and offered for sale."

... I think the horse is dead now. Thank you, Janet!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Like 2Ns I am addicted to this blog. I find I can no longer get through my dread day job without it.

Love the website- and laughing at 2Ns comment- number one site for small fish known as chum. Sounds about right.

And I would agree with her Sharkiness and Carolynn on this matter. We woodland creatures have quite enough to fret about.

Dena Pawling said...

>>If it isn't as clear cut as the websites indicate, I do not want to submit to them for critique and potentially lose my "unpublished" status.

Are you posting an entire 100k manuscript online? I personally wouldn't do that. But requesting feedback on your chapter 1, or a scene you're having a bit of trouble with, sounds good. We all need CPs and beta readers.

The “bottom line” that I get from Janet's response, is like a standard legal answer. It depends. And since that sounds like the opposite of “clear cut”, it sounds to me like you shouldn't do it. If you're this worried/concerned about this question, make your life a lot less stressful [because most of us have way too much stress to deal with anyway] and don't post any of your ms online. Find individual CPs and send to them by email.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: You'd think. But it seems not everyone reads this blog or the archives. What gives?! :)

Let's see if we can make this simple. If we're talking about querying the "published" work, then go ahead and query. Mention the "publication" history in your housekeeping. What's the worse that could happen? A rejection. You're probably already getting those as a matter of course. And if we're talking magazine/contest submissions, read the fine print.


BTW, part two of my Bouchercon experience is up on my blog.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin, your blog is awesome! The next best thing to being there. The ecstasy (drinks with Janet) and the agony (traffic jams). Wonderful stuff. Can't wait to read part 2.

Craig F said...

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of contract rights, wrongs and implications I shall fear no fine print. The Queen stands over me with the wrath of a shark's feeding frenzy. Her right is over the pot of gold wrestled from those little ______s at the end of the contract rainbow. Her left hand holds the rod she beat the ____ out of those contact demons with the last vestige of its misbegotten contract hanging on the end.

DLM said...

In Janet's name, AY-men.

Nice one, Craig!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Craig, print that up on a plaque and send it to Janet- that should be on her desk. Hilarious.

LynnRodz said...

I agree with the 2Ds, enough said, unless your aim is to submit to JRFP.

E.M. I don’t think 2Ns meant she’s addicted to this blog, I believe she was referring to being addicted to being the first to comment. Then again, aren’t all the Reiders here addicted to Janet’s blog? Of course we are! I know I can’t go a day without reading Janet’s posts. I may not always comment or read the comments, especially when I’m traveling, but miss a post — no way!

Susan said...

"Book publishers generally don't give a fig if something has been posted for reader comment or even if it's been published with an ISBN number...The only thing they want to know is can they make more money from it?"

Whenever I see questions like these, I'm again reminded of the lovely Sarah Maas, whose Queen of Glass was once a standalone Cinderella retelling posted to FictionPress. It was reworked (and retitled to Throne of Glass), sold to Bloomsbury, and has now been expanded into a popular YA fantasy series. She had a solid following and a great story--two variables that likely piqued an agent/publisher's interest and led to it being picked up.

In fact, a lot of good fiction over on FictionPress has been removed from the site (by the authors) and published elsewhere--some by smaller publishers and some through self-publishing. I don't know if any of those other stories have reached the popularity of Maas' work, but it reiterates the often frustrating point that anything can happen in this business.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Lynn, yes I am addicted to jumping in as first AND EM I am most assuredly addicted to being a reider and vommenter here.

DLM said...

Lynn, are Dena and I the 2Ds?

Colin, say it ain't so!

Having fond memories of being sick and coming up with the typo/word vomment.

Le Sharque has only 34 posts marked "writer anxieties" ... she's under-reporting. :P

LynnRodz said...

Diane, yes, I was being lazy today and decided 2Ds was quicker to type than Diane and Dena. I kinda like goes well with 2Ns even though Carolynn is all by her lonesome. Not really, 2Ds and 2Ns makes 3.

(Jeez, I need to get a life here on Carkoon!)

Jenz said...

I'm not familiar with CritiqueCircle, but most sites meant for critiquing--such as AW--require registration and are password-protected. That means google searches won't pull up the short story you posted for critique. So it's not posted in a way that lets random people find it and read it.

If, however, you post that short story publicly on your blog, it IS available for anyone to read. That's considered published by the short story markets, and many of them plainly state that in their submission guidelines.

DLM said...

Lynn, oh I LOVE it! Place me in good company and I shall be flattered. How Dena feels about *my* company, though ... ;)

Colin Smith said...

EM: Thank you--glad you're enjoying the posts. :)

Diane: I know... such a wealth of good information and entertainment, some people just don't know what they're missing! Only 34 posts marked "writer anxieties"? Maybe she lost count and gave up. :)

Ashes said...

Hey, regular blog reader here who also regularly uses Critique Circle.

I joined when I was drafting my MS. I posted the first chapter and received a quick and brutal lesson in the basics (formatting dialogue tags correctly) and the "rules" (don't start with a character waking up, avoid adverbs, etc).

I improved much more rapidly than I would have on my own. I posted another handful of chapters, but most of the critiques never elevated beyond those basics and rules.

But-and there is a but-I joined a community of writers, much like you lovely people in Janet's comment section, and that has made all the difference. I met my two fabulous CPs and a handful of helpful beta readers. I met a bunch of people who's stuff I've never read but we still support and encourage each other and just generally get it.

I'd say my MS would not be as good as it is today without those people, but the truth is my MS wouldn't even be finished without them. Every writer should have a community, as long as that community doesn't become a distraction from the actual writing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin and Donna thank you so, so much for your blog posts regarding your journeys to .....wahhh I'm still bummed I couldn't go.

BJ Muntain said...

Basically: Published is in the eye of the beholder.

Most magazines will not consider work submitted for critique to an online organization to be published if it is limited by password to members. Those spaces are private, not public. Generally, membership is limited to other writers who are also critiquing and submitting things for critique. These are not your audience. You will not be harming the magazine's sales by posting there.

If you come across a market (a magazine or contest) that says something like 'anything posted online is published', and if you really, really want to submit to that market, ask them specifically what they mean. Ask them if they mean password-protected critique groups. Most of these will get back to you saying, "What? Those aren't posted online. Those are private." And the ones that don't probably aren't worth your time.

The (very) few contests and magazines who would object wouldn't stop me from posting to a password-protected critique group. Most markets - and I'm sure you, too - want the works to be perfectly polished diamonds. That's rare, without input. And online groups can offer input you can't get at home (unless you live in a huge city like New York and can find just the right group for you there.)

And again - that's only short stories. Not novels. There are hundreds of short story markets out there. The few that might object to an online critique group aren't worth losing the chance at bettering your work.

Craig: I agree. Janet needs that as a plaque or wall hanging or something. But be sure to put the missing words in there. She'll be so proud!

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: The loss is all ours. It would have made an awesome time infinitely awesomer (yes that's a word, Google--at least it is now) if you had been there. :)

S.D.King said...

I worry about these things, too, since I like to enter contests. If I have submitted to the Writer's Digest contest and they ignored it, can I enter it in another contest since it is unpublished? I never know.

BTW - our Pin Map of readers now numbers over 100!

Christina Seine said...

Please forgive the interruption, but ...


WOO-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Go Donna! That is SO AWESOME! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!! =D

*does happy dance at desk*

Donna, seriously, congratulations. Couldn't happen to a nicer lady.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. =)

Colin Smith said...

Christina: Uhh... no, I don't think so. I think the regular programming has just be pre-empted. Donna? Would you like to share with the rest of the class? :)

Unknown said...

As a former bookseller, for what it's worth, I agree with Janet.

No ISBN = Not published.

We used to have local writers print out collections of their poems, have them bound, and ask us to sell them on consignment. This happened ALL THE TIME. People could buy the books, but I never considered them published because there was no publishing company and no ISBN. We'd have to make up an ISBN, which our computer system would happily generate, and I STILL didn't consider these books published. A real ISBN has to come from a the official ISBN producing company.

Kate Larkindale said...

I've been part of online crit groups on for about 9 years now and I wouldn't be where I am today without those people. I post all my chapters there for critique, but because they're password protected and only available to people with a certain level of membership, I've never worried about anyone considering my work published. I also consider having my chapters posted there a very valuable back-up should my hard drive crash or my laptop get swiped.... On the site, there is an option to have your work public, but I would never do that wth anything I wanted to submit for publication.

S.D.King said...

Donna! C'mon - give us all the details! We are dying here!

LynnRodz said...

Diane, if Dena says no, there's always Donna. Or maybe you'll become the 3Ds. Then again, will we hear from Donna today...where is she? She must know how curious we all are! Christina seems to be the only one in the know.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Donna, what, huh? Congratulations and please share.

Christina Seine said...

Well, it was in the PM email so I imagine MANY people know about it. I figured I was just late to the game. Hope I didn't let slip any secrets. I even did some checking to make sure it is OUR Donna.

Maybe she'd just too busy popping champagne corks and dancing on tables to reply. ;)

Dena Pawling said...

My "no" was based on what OP wrote. If it's not clear cut, s/he didn't want to do it. Always always always listen to your gut. Even if 100 people say otherwise, you'll always wonder and regret. Don't do that to yourself. If after hearing multiple opinions, your gut still says don't do it, listen to your gut.

Janet Reid said...

Donnaeve has had to sit on this news for awhile, but as Christina said, here it is in PM today:

Donna Everhart's THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, focusing on the shared
secrets existing between an eleven-year-old and her mother, and who when confronted by cruelty from those closest to her, exhibits a prevailing spirit and resilience beyond her years, to John Scognamiglio
at Kensington by John Talbot at Talbot Fortune Agency

This part was in Donna's email to me today letting me know the embargo was lifted:

Happy dance! Happy dance!!! (WWWWWOOOOOHOOOO!)

This part is me:

S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats Donna!!!! So very excited for you!

Colin Smith said...


Congratulations, Donna!!!! :D

Let the blog comment party begin! :D :D :D

S.P. Bowers said...

I'd submit to jetreidfussypants publishing. My treatise on the health benefits of plaid underwear will be a best seller.

S.D.King said...

Wow, Donna! Couldn't be happier for you!

Donnaeve said...

Sooo, just when ya'll think I've been off celebrating, popping champagne corks and whatnot (it's past 8:58 a.m., I can do that now, right Craig?), dancing around the house (well yeah, okay I have been since, well a while back) reality what have I been doing?

Drum roll.....

Scrubbing out the toilets. Nothing like a reality check.

Umhm. Yeah, THAT'S what I've been busy doing while ya'll have been hooting and hollering over here.

And then I FINALLY got to sit down and read the post and the comments - hubby headed out to MS today so I've been up since 4:30 - and I'm happily reading along when I start to see my name - a lot. Or alot. A bunch. And I backed up, and realized I'd somehow missed Christina's comment about her seeing it in PM.

Ha - what can I say? I'm still cross-eyed with excitement after ALL these months. The offer came April 1st - how's that for the day of a book deal? April Fools??? Ask me if I care. Nope, nope nope.

I'll share on my blog tomorrow. So much has already happened.

THANK YOU MS. JANET for sharing! And thank you Reiders, for all of your good wishes!

Now, I can finally let out my usual - WHOOP!

Colin Smith said...

Donna: How on EARTH did you manage to keep quiet about this for SIX MONTHS??!

Folks, if you need a secret-keeper, Donna's your person! :)

Seriously, though, Donna my friend, I'm so happy for you, and relieved that you can at last let everyone in on the celebrations. :D

Theresa said...

Great, great news, Donna. Congratulations!

And I loved reading your blog posts on B-con--Colin's, too.

The comment space seems a particularly happy place today!

Dena Pawling said...

Donna you kept quiet about that at Bcon???! I'm really impressed. You sure do know how to keep a secret =)

Congrats! Definitely well deserved.

Donnaeve said...

@Colin: Awww, Colin, thank you,, buddy. How did I not tell? I think I was in shock - still am in some ways. This was actually an easy one to keep. If losing sleep because of being giddy for months on end is easy.

@Theresa - thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!

@Dena, I talked about it briefly at the bar with QOTKU, Colin and Loretta Sue Ross, after a beer I think - ha go figure. Although QOTKU has known for some time.

Donnaeve said...

@Dena - and thank you!

Colin Smith said...

Yes, Donna did mention it last week, but I didn't want to say. It's her news, after all. Though it has been HARD not even hinting about it for the last week... :)

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, Donna!!! Like everyone else has already said, extremely well done not only on such an INCREDIBLE achievement - but also on keeping it quiet for such a long time!!!! *virtual high-five*

Donnaeve said...

@Colin - :) I'd have forgiven you. Remember you're on a pedestal along with QOTKU, LSR, PL and BP, amongst others. That's a crowded pedestal...well QOTKU has her own digs up there.

Thank you Kae! (Love your name) *returns high-five*

Speaking of virtual, as we bogart QOTKU's blog here. How's about some virtual cocktails?

Pop, pssst, gulp! I'll start.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Donna!!! I know the word is overused, but that truly is AWESOME. So very happy for you. May this be the first of many published works in a long career. *raises glass*

Off now to read more B'con blog posts . . . while trying to suppress my envy.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: You're too kind! And to heck with virtual--I'll crack open a bottle of Newkie Brown (Newcastle Brown Ale) in your honor tonight. :)

Janet Reid said...

It's not hijacking the blog to celebrate Donna's good news.

Sharing this kind of good news is exactly why the comments are the best part of the blog.

Colin Smith said...

... and I am led to deep philosophical contemplation: If I would drink a bottle of Newkie Brown in honor of Donna's book deal, what will I do if/when this happens to me? Hmmm... Drink TWO bottles of Newkie Brown? :)

Susan said...

Yay! Congrats, Donna! Cake is required now for sure ;)

Colin Smith said...

Oooo! Cake!! I'll get my daughter to make a big lava cake... :D

BJ Muntain said...

SD: Yes. If you haven't won a prize - or even if you have, but the story hasn't been publically displayed or been published in a magazine or e-zine - you can submit it as unpublished.


Colin, if it happens to you, we expect drinks all around.

Sorry I'm a bit late here - been a busy day. Wonderful news to come home to!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

GO DONNA, GO DONNA, I KNEW IT, I KNEW IT, and I had to keep my mouth shut. Do you know how hard it's been to not tell?

This could not happen to a harder working more deserving writer...except maybe me...someday.

Wooohooo !!!

Donnaeve said...

Colin, you drink whatever you want - I mean, after all, I'm having a Bud Light. LOL! (remember my plain Jane drink of choice?)

Thanks KD, Susan and BJ! My throat's sore from whooping so much. Virtual or not!

2N's - you did good. But we go back a ways - to the days of Wry, so, of course I had to tell you!

Craig F said...

Donnaeve, may I still have your permission to make you spew coffee on the occasional morning?

Congratulations Grrl

P.S. I have alot of catching up to do.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: I wasn't going to bring up your choice of ale... ;)

Colin Smith said...

Mighty QOTKU: Since we had a writing contest to celebrate Amy's agent...? :)

Donnaeve said...

Craig, you did that this a.m. with your stellar comment - sublime. Thinking like the others it requires framing.

Colin - you and my husband would get along great - he's quite the sampler of ales. I can barely get outside the range of Bud this or that. I have tried a Blue Moon. Shocking.

Donnaeve said...


P.S. Get crackin'!

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Ooo... I like Blue Moon. Well done! :)

Christina Seine said...

Oh gosh Donna, I'm sorry! I certainly didn't mean to steal your thunder. I figured since I haven't been around regularly over the past few weeks that everybody probably knew and I was just getting around to finding out.

I'm *usually* the last to know. I swear. Ask my kids.

Anyway I'm very sorry about that. But I truly did jump up and down in my chair when I saw your name in the PM email. I did a double take.

Many, many congratulations to you!

Christina Seine said...

Which leads me to a question for the QOTKU. Why is such lovely news embargoed? I mean, I understand waiting until the ink is dry and all, and I'm sure there is a very good reason. But six months is forever. =o

Donnaeve said...

Christina - absolutely NO apologies necessary - are you kidding!?!?!? don't make me come to Alaska...and below 75 is cold for me, so that's saying something.

Seriously, I was grinning - no, not grinning - more like hooting like a damn owl (my crazy laugh when I'm really tickled) when you burst on the scene with that preemptive pause (perfect) and filled everyone in. Me? I'd been quiet about it for so long, I wasn't sure I'd be able to talk.

Thank you for sharing in my happiness!!!!

Donnaeve said...

Ooops, so, our comments crossed in blogosphere - the wait was totally up to me. I wanted a PM announcement and that took place today b/c even when the ink is dry...stuff can happen.

But, it was totally self-imposed - until I felt the time was right.

Which turned out to be today.


(I'll be announcing on my blog tomorrow - which is why I posted Part III of Bouchercon early!)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Look at all the partying and excitement here! Congrats Donna. That's wonderful news.

DLM said...

The highest of fives to you, Donna - let's square it and high twenty-five (we have more than enough hands to do that and then some)!

And hooray for clean commodes, too, because you deserve a throne! Heh.

WHOOP seconded, and someday I hope to raise a glass *with* you. When we're both well published a couple times over at least. :)

Donnaeve said...

Thank you Lisa and Diane! And absolutely, Diane, on all suggestions, whoops, high 25's, and a huge toast to the "well published a couple times over."

From your mouth to God's ear.

LynnRodz said...

Donna, so, so happy for you! I swear, it’s close to 3 am here in Paris and I’m about to go to bed. We opened a bottle of champagne earlier this evening to celebrate your good news.

Hubby: “What are we celebrating?”
Me: “Donna’s good news.”
(Hubby with a quizzical look on his face. He doesn’t know a Donna.)
Hubby: “Is she part of Janet’s click?”
Me: “You got it. Her book deal was announced.”
Hubby: “It’d be nicer if you had a book deal, but hey, here’s to Donna.”
Me: “ Cin cin!”

The only one missing was you, but believe me, you were here in spirit. Congrats!

Janice Grinyer said...

Congrats Donna! Sending you lots of cyber toasts to you and the new literary horizon for you! Will read your blog for the update :)

Pam Powell said...

Congratulations, Donna! Well done!

Colin - congrats on keeping the secret. And when it happens to you, we will be thrilled to have you celebrate by having your daughter bake a lava cake for all of us!

Donna - again, super! Super! Super!!!!

Megan V said...


*raises glass* A toast! :D

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

popping in to congratulate Donna! That's AWESOME news!

(though the topic of "published" vs. not is interesting, I have nothing further to add)

Christina Seine said...

Donna I'm so glad you're not offended! And yes, please do come up to Alaska! That would be a blast - we'd pop open a big fat bottle of icy Alaskan vodka and toast your success! Like I said, it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. <3

John Frain said...

Yowza! Super news, Donna. Love it, love it, love it. I drank a Bud Light in your honor earlier tonight. I just didn't known it was in your honor at the time. (Doing the opposite of the "write drunk, edit sober" advice.)

Awesome news. The blog is rockin' tonight, it's cracking me up what a virtual party feels like.

Tip o' the cap to you, Donna. Wow, that's great. I'm probably so late to the party I'll have to say this again tomorrow. Friday.

LynnRodz said...

Hey, Donna, never write a comment when it's late, then you get the sleepy/less sober version. What I failed to mention last night was:

We were drinking champagne and celebrating a friend's new job offer and by the third toast I added, "And to Donna!" That's when hubby looked at me and said, "what are we celebrating?" etc.

Oh, gee, now you know the rest of the story!

Sam Hawke said...

Wooooooooooooooooo Donna! That's amazing news, brilliant!!! Congratulations! Wow, that has made my night. :)

Donnaeve said...

Mornin' ya'll. *yawns*

I just got my first cup of coffee, couldn't get Little Dog up to keep me company since Hubby's gone, and so I came *here* and WOW. The comments have once again given me shivers, and filled my heart.

YOu guyz (as QOTKU) would say...are better than best.

Lynn, your story about you and your hubby drinking champagne and that snippet of a conversation gave me my first laugh of the day. A gift.

And then I kept on reading and looking at time stamps, and thinking Wow, this blog does stretch around some time zones, doesn't it??? But I was in bed by 9:15 Easter Shark Time, so what I'm trying to say is:

THANK YOU John, Sam, Lynn, Jennifer, Megan, Poof!, and Janice!!!! And Christina, again! And Craig? Did I thank Craig? THANK YOU Craig! All of you, are the best, and I'm just sitting here grinning from ear to ear. I feel loved.

Thank you.

P.S. Lynn, I hope cin cin means drink drink! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

One more Donna congrats... Still don't know how you kept that under wraps. I would be bursting but I can't wait to read. Now coffee. The sun is not up yet and either am I.

LynnRodz said...

That should've been clique and not click. Sorry, Janet, I know no one gives a hoot, but I can't help it. I have to edit my comments. (I wish you had an edit option like the one on FB.)

LynnRodz said...

Am I hogging the tail end comments here? Donna, there are two versions of “cin cin.” The Italian one is similar to saying “cheers.” The Japanese version...well I’ll let you look it up. (I was going for the Italian one. Lol.)

Jenz said...

Dang it, a work crisis kept me from checking again yesterday, and every time that happens I miss something!

Congratulations, Donna!