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I want to submit fiction to magazines. Some of them say they do not accept reprints. What exactly do they mean by this? Does it just mean my fiction should not have been officially published, or should not exist anywhere on the internet in general?

Can I submit my fiction to them if it has not been published, but has already been posted on my website in blog form, on Wattpad, and so forth?

Can I self-publish that same fiction later on, even after it has been featured in a magazine?

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If they do not accept reprints, that means they are seeking first publication rights -- they're only looking to buy a story if they can be the first to publish it.

The thing is, any sufficiently public place you've posted your story, counts as publication. It doesn't matter how many readers your story has actually reached, only whether a reasonable reader could have read your story by buying a particular product or going to a particular website.

So:

  • Posting your story on your blog counts as publication.
  • Posting your story on Wattpad counts as publication.
  • Self-publishing on Amazon for three days and then taking it down, counts as publication.
  • Emailing a friend your story doesn't count as publication.
  • Writing a blog post saying "I've written a story; friends can contact me privately for a copy" doesn't count as publication.
  • Sharing your story in a private, password-protected writers group doesn't count as publication.
  • Selling your story to magazine, but then that magazine collapses and never puts out the issue with your story in it, and eventually it returns your rights to you -- doesn't count as publication.

A good rule of thumb is: If people could ever buy your story (in some format) then it is published; if Googling a phrase from the story turns up the complete story (or has in the past) then it is published; otherwise it isn't published :P

As for being able to self-publish later, it depends entirely on your contract. Some contracts might require various rights to reprint, archive, or anthologize your story, or various forms and lengths of publishing exclusivity. (For example, if I'm publishing a magazine on May 1st, it would be silly of me to allow authors to self-publish on Amazon on May 2nd, possible with a shiny banner reading AS PUBLISHED IN STANDBACK MAGAZINE :P ).

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  • Thank you! This really helps clarify the issue of what counts as publication and what doesn't. – Klara Raškaj Oct 24 '17 at 9:15
  • What is this STANDBACK MAGAZINE of which you speak, and where can I subscribe? ;-) – user May 3 '18 at 18:12

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