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I've got a story published in print with limited circulation. From what I can tell, my first publication rights are spent.

I like this story and I want to make it available to more people, so I'm planning to publish it to my personal site. Is this going to be a problem if I want to sell the story as a reprint or include it in a short story collection later on?

I don't expect any issues with the place the story was previously published (e.g. period of exclusivity has expired and I still own the rights to my work). I'm purely interested in the chances of publishing that story again.

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You can run into problems with publishers if you make the thing they're trying to sell for you for money free online.

It's a direct attack on their business model, and if it was done by a pirate, well, that's one thing, but for the author themselves to do it? Well, it's not going to endear you to the publisher if you ever want another book published with them.

And in the writing world, publishers talk. Agents talk to agents (agents which, like publishers, have a business model dependent on copies getting sold, not seen on the internet), editors to editors.

Doing this could potentially burden you with an industry black mark.

Edit: With regards to Anthologies and limited periods of exclusivity, yes, once the PoE is up, you could do it, but it would likely hurt your chances of getting the same short story into another anthology.

Generally speaking, publishers want to know that there isn't an easy way for your content to be accessed for free, even in anthologies and even in ones where they accept reprints. After all, publishing houses are businesses.

  • My question was specifically to do with short stories, and your answer seems to be correct when it comes to books. I think things work a bit differently there. – Andrey Aug 4 '18 at 11:11
  • Are you getting the short story published in an anthology? If so, the same concept applies. As for publication in magazines, I'll admit, I'm unsure of it myself. – Matthew Dave Aug 4 '18 at 11:12
  • The story has already been published in an anthology, but I might consider sending it to another anthology later in the future. (I'll repeat it here because I'm not sure from your answer whether it was clear or not: the original place should have no problem with the story being reprinted, as the period of exclusivity has expired, and I own all rights to my story.) – Andrey Aug 4 '18 at 11:26
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    Ah, right, that makes sense. Then placing it online likely makes it impossible to be published in another anthology in the future, but sure, if the exclusivity period is over, you could put it online. It'd just hurt getting it published again. – Matthew Dave Aug 4 '18 at 11:27
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    Added a few things. Hope this helps. – Matthew Dave Aug 5 '18 at 11:35
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If publishing rights are yours, then they're yours, and you can reprint the story as you like.

Yes, it's possible some publishers will be uninterested (or less interested) in a story that's been published freely. On the other hand, the internet is a large and wild place -- it's unlikely that publishing your own short stories will be seen as losing considerable audience for some hypothetical future publisher. Either almost nobody will have read them, or (unlikely, but possible:) they'll have gained some following, in which case printing them brings them to a wider audience.

I've seen many authors choose to reprint their own stories on their own websites -- including award-winning authors such as Ken Liu, Sarah Pinsker, and more. It's something to give some thought to, but sometimes, even if this does prevent you from reprinting the story elsewhere, having a good "fiction portfolio" on your site is worth losing that hypothetical opportunity.

Do bear in mind that plenty of short fiction is published free online to begin with! (This is certainly true in fantasy, SF, and horror, where many of the most popular venues are free; YMMV by genre.) Some of them get reprinted anyway (albeit probably not online...).

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