I am not after earning money but to spread knowledge about something for free. But if money is neglected, what else can be the disadvantage of publishing it online?

  • 3
    Is your concern publishing online or is it publishing for free? Sounds like a rather broad question in both cases so. Could you specify what troubles you? Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 12:27
  • Actually, I am developing a website for this novel where people can come and read it online as e-book for free without giving any money. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 13:16
  • 4
    What's the meaning of "good"? What do you want to accomplish? Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 17:00
  • 1
    One disadvantage would be the cost of maintaining the website. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 17:25
  • 5
    If it's long, then you'd better have downloadable versions for ereaders, or few people will read the whole thing.
    – dmm
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 18:12

3 Answers 3


There are a few potential disadvantages that I can see:

  • It isn't necessarily a solution to the biggest issue for new/unknown authors: getting eyes on the page (or screen, in this case). Putting something on the internet alone isn't enough to get people to read, you still need to have produced something of quality (or something so bad it's funny!), have people find it, be willing to expend the effort to read, and then recommend/link to others. It is possible, but for any given book, exceedingly unlikely (what was the last novel you stumbled across online, read in entirety, enjoyed and recommended to all your friends?). You're competing with the rest of the internet for attention spans.

  • Some people still consider something given away for free as being valueless (whereas of course we know that "price" and "value" are different, right?)

  • You've exhausted your "first print" rights (electronic ones, anyway), something that publishers may still consider valuable. That is, to get published in the traditional manner after releasing free online, you'd need to develop an enormous following to make it worth a publisher's while.

  • There is always the fear that "someone will steal my work". I think the chance of this is happening in any meaningful way is vanishingly small, but it is a concern a lot of people have. People do copy and re-post things on the internet, so it definitely happens, but if your work was copied and then got popular from someone else, a) at least it's popular (which is really your goal?), and b) when the internet sees something it considers "a wrong", it is quite good at investigating and outing the truth (a process which -- if it happened -- would likely generate an order of magnitude more publicity).

  • Costs associated with production, hosting and maintenance (as Bruce mentioned above).

As a postscript, putting something online for free doesn't mean you can't make money. There are lots of business models you can look at: support via donations or "pay what you want"; popularity can open new opportunities for employment, expert comment, speaking, etc; selling physical goods to go along with the electronic (high quality print versions, for example). There are many others, I'm sure.

† Yes, I referred to the internet as if it's a conscious entity in it's own right. It is, isn't it? ;)

  • 4
    +1 In addition to "competing with the rest of the internet for attention spans", the Web medium encourages (hypertext provides an inherent distraction) and is associated with shorter attention spans (in part from having so much decent content so readily available even given Sturgeon's observation amplified by lack of publisher filtering). Short stories are probably friendlier to the medium, though the medium allows more flexibility in teaser length and annotations (particularly for serious world-builders).
    – user5232
    Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 15:29
  • Well buddy you satisfied me. That's what I was talking about "Popularity" of my content. Because I want people to follow my ideas not me. I know some people have mentality that FREE things are not reliable. But majority of the products that are popular are free. Example: Stack Exchange sites. Yeah I know I have to do hard work to make it popular. But that I can do easily. Even I can pay for website maintenance. Or I can start a free blog. Later if it becomes greatly popular, I will release it as hard copy. Thanks for this great explanation :) Commented Dec 7, 2013 at 16:19
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    I think the first print rights is an important enough point that it should be at the top of the list. If you ever want to see professional publication of your book, then you need to listen to what professional publishers ask for, and most of the ones I've seen warn that if they can't have first publication rights for their territory they are unlikely to consider publishing your book. There are obvious exceptions (John Scalzi's Old Man's War is the one that jumps to mind), but they are very definitely exceptions rather than the general rule.
    – Jules
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 20:14
  • 2
    @Jules: The list is in no particular order. You could argue though that people getting the A-grade marketing treatment from a traditional publisher is also the "exception rather than the general rule", so for the majority of authors getting eyeballs/fanbase for their work as a whole is just as big a problem as using/losing first print rights for a single work.
    – Ash
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 23:25
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    Two and a half years later, this makes sense. If you can draw attention to the work and get a fan base interested in it -- and in you, the author -- by self-pubbing it in one format or another, then first-pub rights will mean less to a "real" publisher, who can come in on project (a business proposition) that's already got traction, leaving the publisher to do what it does, which is shift physical units of print matter. Do you really believe you can find and engage and excite your audience on your own?
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:17

Money talks.

When I see that a novel has the imprint of a professional publishing house, I know that some editor actually convinced his or her boss that this book was worth paying the author money up front, in the expectation that other people would buy the book once it was published. That’s certainly no guarantee of quality, but it does narrow down the field. Book reviewers feel the same way, so if I rely on reviews to decide what I should read next, those reviews are going to point me at a professionally published work.

There are more books for sale plus books in my public library plus public-domain work from Gutenberg than I could possibly keep up with. And then there are eleventy-gazillion works of contemporary fiction that other people are offering to the public for free. I’m sure some of those free books are actually worth reading, and if someone whose taste I respect gives me a nudge and says “you should read this”, I’ll check it out. But otherwise, why should I make the effort to sift through them?


I think one of the greatest disadvantages is, that the web is not considered to be a media for professional publishing. There are some great books published on the web (for example Butterbrick’s Practical Typography) but most content cannot compete with printed books.

So no matter how much you know about your topic, if your website doesn’t look professional, many readers could think your content isn’t as good as something in a book.

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