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I have a Wordpress where I post short stories I write. It's not popular, mostly just family and a few random people follow it. Occasionally, I want decide I want to further work on something I posted and try to get it published, and will remove the post with that story. Is it a problem that I ever had it posted? I'm not sure if publishers could see that it was posted at one time, and might not like that. Or, would I be okay to keep it up on my blog when submitting it, then just taking it down if it were to get accepted for publication? Are there general rules for this type of thing?

Does it change if I want to post snippets from a novel I'm writing, or should I just avoid posting anything at all from that since I plan to pursue publication once I'm finished with it?

  • Great question, I've wondered this as well. – Chris Sunami Feb 13 '18 at 15:06
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    Very similar, but probably not a duplicate: Legal snags publishing a short story with one publisher, extended story with another publisher? – a CVn Feb 13 '18 at 15:13
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    Also very similar: writing.stackexchange.com/q/10468/1993 – Monica Cellio Feb 13 '18 at 15:47
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Legally there is no issue. It is your work. You own the copyright. You can licensed anyone you like to make copies no matter how many copies have already been made (subject, of course, to any rights you have already sold).

The issue is going to be what individual publications are willing to accept. Each publication can set its own policies about this. By and large I think these will be set by one of three factors:

  • Pride. The publishers of small hobby mags that don't make any money often seem to want totally pristine stories that have never appeared anywhere in any form. As far as I can tell, this seems to be purely a matter of pride. The individual sales of these mags is so small that it is doubtful that publishing something that has already been read by 50 people elsewhere is going to have any impact on the current mag's sales. But this kind of publishing is mostly about vanity, where the vanity the publisher is seeking is potentially making a "discovery". So it is not a discovery if it has been published elsewhere.

  • Exhaustion. Publishers may hesitate to republish something because they fear that the previous publication has exhausted demand. All the copies that can be sold have already been sold. This is unlikely in the case of blog only read by family members -- unless the work is not good enough to be read by anyone other than family members, in which case the issue is moot since there is no money to be made by publishing it anyway.

  • Platform. On the other hand, successful prior publication can establish the demand for a work. This was the case with my book Every Page is Page One. Most of the book was first published on my blog and I was able to demonstrate demand and interest in the subject matter based on the viewing figures and the wealth of comments the blog posts attracted. This is often called "building a platform" and having built a platform can be a great asset in getting a publishing deal. (It is worth noting here that some successful self-published works get picked up by mainstream publishers because they see the demand is there and that the author has built a platform that can be used to sell this and subsequent works.)

So, your blog posts could be a hindrance or a big help, or essentially irrelevant, depending on the nature of the publishers interest and the type of rewards they are looking for when they publish.

  • +1 for platform. I've also known some writers to use their blogs to publish chapters of a book to see how they land. If the post isn't well-received, it's not included as a chapter. Likewise, if some good questions come up in the comments, authors can include those. – Morgan Meredith Feb 14 '18 at 5:36
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Yes, there are rules for this type of thing. They come down to what your contract says.

  • When you have a work published, you'll have a contract. Check out my response at the question mentioned above for specifics on what type of rights the publisher may want. Many will require that the piece has never been published before, including online, and including on a personal blog.

  • Check the submission policies before you submit in order to be extra sure.

  • Let the editors know if it's been published before, even just on a personal blog.

  • If you pull it down, Google and other search engines have likely already indexed the piece, which means if someone searches for part of the text, she may find it. Don't try to pull it down and pretend it was never published. Things on the internet are forever.

  • If your personal blog is family-only, consider having it password-protected instead of public. That way, you can likely get around the requirement that it not be published before; you can argue that it was just stored and submitted for peer review or something if anyone finds it. It's not available for public consumption, so I think it would be safe to say it's not published.

  • If you're submitting to something that doesn't pay, it will likely be less strict on publishing with multiple outlets.

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