Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Posting work on your blog

If I post short stories or novel excerpts on my blog, does that make them ineligible for writing contests? How do agents and publishers feel about novel excerpts that are shared in this way? Should I avoid this?
Writing contest rules are NOT standardized so there is no way to know in advance if posting work on your blog will make it ineligible for contest consideration.

Faced with this, the savvy writer weighs risk versus reward. Is the reward of posting worth the risk of losing eligibility? Only you will know because only you will know your goal for posting work on your website. Is it to showcase your work? Is it to garner feedback? Is it just to make your website look populated? Is it to build readership or platform? How much do you value the contest prize? Is it money? Recognition? Consideration of your work by an agent or editor?

Weigh all these factors before you post.

And don't worry about posting your work on your website in terms of publication. All too often I hear writers fret that posting their work, or even winning contests, will make their work "previously published."

It doesn't. And publishers don't care even if it did. They're interested in making money and if they think they can with your work, they'll be dangling contracts.

Where you see "previously published" as a problem is when an author has published something that didn't sell well, and thus gives them a track record with booksellers. In other words, there was a book, and an ISBN. Posting stuff on your website isn't either of those.

As to what agents think about posting your work: there is no one answer. I think it's a terrible idea, but it's not any kind of deal breaker.

I think it's a terrible idea because I don't see the value of it.

Feedback? You don't want feedback from unvetted strangers slinking about the internet. The value of feedback is in direct proportion to the person offering it.

Filling up page space? Pictures of your cat or dog, or your armadillo are MUCH better choices. Don't have any pets? Pictures of almost anything up to and including great signs, are better.

The ONLY reason to post work on your website is to build a following. If you're writing a book about writing tips for example, one effective strategy is to post a tip and then ask your readers if it works for them. Building the conversation (and readership) is a big plus for non-fiction.

If you're writing a novel, it's a whole lot more problematic to ask for feedback. And honestly, feedback from just anyone isn't all that useful.

And a lot of people on the internet behave like they were in the movie Steel Magnolias but with a whole lot less wit and talent.

Bottom line: posting your work on your website won't affect querying agents, but it could mess up your contest eligibility. Only you will know for sure if that's worth it.


Kitty said...

If I post short stories or novel excerpts on my blog, does that make them ineligible for writing contests?

Most contest rules will specify if posting them online, even a blog, makes your writing ineligible or not. But don't assume anything; contact the contest for clarification if the rules don't include that info.

Gayle said...

I've seen short story markets (I'm sorry I don't remember where) who won't consider a story that's been shared on a platform like Patreon, so that's something to keep in mind as well. in general, I would think short stories are different than novels--whatever you post anywhere would be such a larger percentage of the whole.

Julie Weathers said...

I love Steel Magnolias. My oldest son had an armadillo groom's cake at his wedding. It was pretty awesome and, yes, it was red velvet.

The second part of that No Solicitor's sign. A candidate here in Eau Claire came across it. He didn't knock on the door, but did bring beer back later and left it and a note of gratitude on the steps. I already liked him, but liked him more after I read that. Unfortunately, our big snowstorm snowed me in and I didn't get a chance to vote yesterday. I was not a happy camper.

Now, on to OP's question. Most contests will plainly spell out their policy on short stories, but I notice a lot of them don't want them on blogs or the internet. Anything I plan on ever submitting somewhere, I don't post.

REgarding excerpts from a WIP, the problem with that is I fiddle with stuff a lot before it gets to the done phase. Do I want people seeing it before it's there? I have in the past and I think it may be a mistake. Many published authors do post lines from WIPs to tide over anxious fans, but that's a different kettle of fish.

I'm not against, it, but you give away part of your book and some people hate spoilers and you do risk not putting your best stuff out there.

I had someone, a professor at a college, contact me via twitter and say my writing was mildly interesting, but needed a lot of work. He'd read my blog and the short stories were pretty terrible. I should at least think about taking some college courses if I wanted to be a writer. I thought he was talking about the A-Z blogging challenge which admittedly were quick and dirty, but no, he said it was the short stories. They were awful, though the blog posts were also.

He, wonder of wonders, did offer editorial services in his spare time. I thought about referring him to a good marketing course, but decided to just politely decline and save the sarcasm, which would have been lost on him I'm sure.

It all depends, like Janet said, on what you're trying to accomplish. Little snippets of writing don't hurt. I love Jo Bourne's blog. She uses pieces of her writing as a basis for a writing lesson a lot of time. Diana's Gabaldon does the same. I'm sure others do. It's a great way to get a point across if you're very talented that way.

Janet Reid said...

"You suck. You should hire me to suck less" now, THAT is one compelling sales strategy.

Anonymous said...

*massive sigh of relief*

I'd heard the dire warnings that anything not behind a log-in counted as previously published by agents/etc. Always good to know when people are being overly cautious.

Steve Stubbs I'm both relieved and disheartened to learn just how private anything I post on the internet will remain, unless I do something completely infamous.

BJ Muntain said...

Regarding contests: They have their own rules, and their own reasons for those rules. Follow their rules. If your work has been posted on your blog, it's going to be ineligible for most writing contests.

For publication, it comes down to how much of your potential audience has seen the work. If the potential audience of the magazine is 500 people, and 250 of those people have seen your piece on your blog, then it's not really going to help the magazine much to publish your piece. A small niche publisher that only publishes novels about NYC probably won't be willing to publish your novel about New York if it's posted on a site frequented by people who like stories about New York. A much larger publisher, who sees the audience being anyone who likes stories about large cities, might be more willing to publish the novel.

It comes down to, really, how many people they can sell the work to. If 50% of the possible market has already seen your story/novel, you've lost 50% of the people they can sell the work to. If, however, they think they can sell it to thousands of people, and your blog followers number in the hundreds, they really won't care.

Julie Weathers said...

Totally off topic, Colin, do you know who all in the reef is doing the blogger challenge?

Colin Smith said...

*waves hand* ME ME ME!!
And Dena Pawling
And AJ Blythe
And Your good self, of course
And... hmmm... off the top of my head... I don't recall who else...??

Help me out, people! Who else is A-to-Z Blogging this month?

Thinking about our blog discussion yesterday, I find it interesting that in years past, the A-to-Z Challenge would easily get close to 2,000 people signing up. This year, only 696 on the list. Not bad, but far from usual. Perhaps another indicator that the blog has lost its appeal, eclipsed by other social media?

Donnaeve said...

I've got to watch Steel Magnolias again - for the nth time. I will never get tired of that movie.

I think Janet asked all the pertinent questions for OP to answer for themselves. Risk vs reward, etc. I'm a Nervous Pervis so I've never posted my work - as in a chapter preview, etc. I've done no more than a sentence - i.e. otherwise known as First Sentence Fridays. I think people like this. It's been my effort/way of building a readership for an upcoming book. I've done it for two years, and can't believe it's almost time to start again - around July 6th.

And I love that sign!

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, is that sign yours? It is brilliant.

Colin, I had thought the same thing about the blogging numbers when I read yesterday's post.

Also A-Zing from here is Celia Reaves

OP, my personal choice is to not post anything from my manuscript to my blog. I'd rather save excerpts for when they are gleaming and can help promote a release, or as "extras" for readers when they come looking.

Anonymous said...

Welp. Between yesterday's post and today's, I guess I'm just a complete FAIL. I continue to blog when it's a waste of time. I've posted huge excerpts of my work, including an entire novella (once it was finished), and an in-progress WIP that was far from finished. Clearly, no agent in her right mind will ever want to rep me, given my bad behaviour. *snort* Guess I'll have to find one who's not in her right mind.

OK, fine, I'll be serious. The instances when I've posted work on my blog resulted in a significant jump in blog subscribers, as well as likes and comments. It certainly helps you get over that visceral fear of anyone ever reading your work, if you're unpublished. I don't regret doing it. Will I do it again? Who knows.

Colin, I'm not doing A-to-Z again this year. Partly because I was extremely late getting my tax info to my accountant (today) and missed the start, but mostly because I've got my head down trying to achieve a final draft of something. Back to it!

Colin Smith said...

kd: ARGH!! That's my dilemma from yesterday. Because whenever I've posted fiction on my blog, it results in an insignificant change in anything. Except during A-to-Z, when everyone's visitor/commenter stats spike. Clearly I'm doing something wrong. Or my writing just isn't that interesting to people...??

Wake up... pssst... wake up!!

Julie Weathers said...


No, I found the sign on a facebook page when I was researching politicians before the midterms voting yesterday. David Mortimer had it in one of this posts. I laughed when I saw the sign. Laughed harder when he said he didn't knock, but he did buy them beer and leave it for them. You have to love someone with a sense of humor.

However, now I'm getting one. I love that sign.

Having said that, sometimes interesting people drop by.

Once an insurance guy called my father-in-law and asked if he could stop by and visit. Bill said sure. Vickie was off doing church stuff and he was lonely. Bill talked to the guy for two hours I guess telling him all about the history of west Texas, the old ranches and cattle drives, cowboying in the early 1900's. I'm sure this guy's eyes were crossing.

He finally got a word in edgewise and said, "Mr. Weathers, I'd like to talk to you about insurance."

"Insurance? Hell, I don't need any insurance. You just said you wanted to stop by and visit."

Melanie Sue Bowles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie Sue Bowles said...

After the publication of my third title, bunches and bunches of people who are smarter than me suggested I start a blog. I explored the idea. Decided, nope. Not for me (that time thing).

Then, a lot of folks suggested I offer excerpts of my WIP on my website. Nope. Not doing it. A WIP is just that: a work in progress, and I don't need or want unsolicited input or critiques.

But, free beer? Yes, please...

Anonymous said...

Colin, I don't think there's any doubt that people love your voice and writing. A few people claim to enjoy mine, but the consistent refrain I hear is that they want a novel from me. Not an excerpt, not a short story or blog post, but a full novel-length work of fiction. So I'm focused on providing that.

As a writer, I can appreciate the value of FF and even short stories, which seems to be what you post on your blog. They're a fun break and good practice being concise. As a reader, though, that's just not a format/length I'm ever going to pay for. It's not sufficiently engaging when what I want is to escape into a story that will hold my attention for a significant amount of time.

There aren't any guarantees that anyone will ever pay us for our work. Even if they've done it several times already, the next piece is never a sure thing. That's the risk with art. Only you can decide whether the effort is worth it. I encourage you to set aside the self-doubt -- I mean, c'mon, that's uncalled for -- and continue working on your longer fiction. BUT, with the disclaimer that no one should ever look to me for advice about writing/publishing. If I ever achieve any "success" it will be in spite of my efforts, not because of them.

Aphra Pell said...

[Shuffles out from behind rock]
Hello. I've been watching the sharkly waters for many months, but this is my first attempt to dive in...
I've only just started wrangling a website, but my approach is similar to the rest of my internet use - don't post anything you aren't happy to lose control of. So I add the occasional bit of flash fiction, but anything important is kept under wraps.
[relurks under rock]

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, your FIL sounds like a hoot.

Aphra, welcome to the pond.

Stephen G Parks said...

Hi all, a little late to the party as usual.

I’ve got some experience with adding short stories to my site that might be useful here. I didn’t have any fiction on my site for a long time. My mailing list was stalled, and only included friends and family. When I started selling a few flash fiction pieces to a semi-pro site, I wanted something more on my own site to build an audience and entice people to sign up for the newsletter. I added a few stories, and a number of 100-word flash fiction pieces (including a few I’d submitted to Janet’s contests here).

I started promoting them on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and used Google Analytics to see what was getting traction and where. My mailing list is now much bigger (It’s really weird not knowing 90% of my subscribers, after knowing all of them for so long).

I’m building an audience (dare I say platform?) and learning some marketing while the stakes are low. It’s having short stories on my site that allows me to do this.

Also, while putting stories on your site does use up their first publication rights (and often contest eligibility), it doesn’t mean they aren’t marketable elsewhere. One of the stories on my site just got included as a “reprint” in an anthology in the UK, becoming my first professional sale.