Hey Blog, You’ll Never Publish in this Industry Again.

art for the lid of a box--the box I think in

Rejection hurts. Sure. No surprise there. But rejection doesn’t annoy me.

People throwing their cigarette butts on the ground annoy me.

Students who don’t do any work and then insist on moving up to the next level annoy me.

Absurd rules annoy me.

And publishing is filled with absurd rules.

I understand rules of politeness. Spell the agent’s name correctly. I get tired of people spelling my name wrong, and hey, if you want something from someone, take the time to get the name right.

I understand following guidelines and taking time to proof read my work before sending it in. I understand using active voice and point of view. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Here’s a rule I don’t understand–the we don’t accept work that has been published on your blog. Publishing anything on my fiction blog is the equivalent of printing a hard copy of my story out and sharing it with my friends–because near as I can tell only my friends read it. Isn’t that the case with most people? How is having anything on my blog going to hurt their sales? My friends are going to support me anyway. Either they will buy a copy of what I’m printed in to show their support (in which case, increasing sales) or they won’t buy it because they weren’t going to buy it anyway.

So, if I want certain journals to accept my work I have to keep my work to myself until they decide to publish it–which is, as we all know, unlikely.

And if you self-publish your book, they say you can’t submit it to an agent. Damaged goods, so to speak. But then again we can all find examples of self-published worked that did well enough for a traditional publisher to snap up anyway. And it seems that if someone who is established–let’s say, Neil Gaiman (who I love by the way)–asked a literary journal to publish something that he’d posted on his blog, would they turn him down? Sorry, Neil. You posted it on your blog.

If posting something on a blog counts as published, seems to me it ought to count as a publishing credit, which it doesn’t because that would lead to publishing credit chaos.

Why should a journal care about my blog when I can’t even get most of my friends to care?

I understand the many rules of the traditional publications. They have every right to make their rules as they see fit, but sometimes when I’m reading those rules I feel they punish those who seek to express themselves off the traditional pathway.

If you could explain this don’t-publish-on-your-blog rule to me, that would be great.

12 thoughts on “Hey Blog, You’ll Never Publish in this Industry Again.

  1. You have to look at who made the “rule” in the first place then discern their purchase on reality.

    The entire first draft of my title forthcoming on July 15 was published on my blog, a fact that cheered the publisher, Not only that, the pre-first draft appeared in serial form on another website, and yet another portion of it appeared on a university web site.

    At the moment,I’m playing with something on my site that stands a splendid chance of being my next nonfiction book, although the publisher is also showing keen interest in the entire fiction project I drafted on my blog site a year or so back.

    From what I gather, the individual(s) who led you to believe blog posting somehow takes the patina of desirability from a project are living in at best an alternate universe, at worst a terrible state of confusion.

    I can see agents still being edgy about self-published work, but if there are documented records of strong sales, even the bridge of self-publishing is crossable.

    1. Mostly I’ve seen this rule in the guidelines for literary journals, and a few blogs about blogging list posting your writing as a blog DON’T. But, as you point out, there are example to the contrary.

  2. I thought that rule existed because if it is on the web, everyone and their dog can read whatever they wrote. Not that they will, but that they could if they wanted to. But different magazines have different views, so who knows?

    And I post stories on my blog all the time!

    1. That’s what I assume too, but I think this is an unfounded fear. I mean, I’ll have a short story published at an online journal soon. It seems to me that no one is going to google the title of my story any time soon, because no one yet knows it exists and my titles are not famous or anything. In fact, it will be my first published story ever. Most people who read short stories in journals are looking for journals to read. They subscribe. They go to the journal to see what is there. And I think that if I had the story here on this blog–which I don’t!–and they read it and liked it, the most likely effect would be for the reader to say, “Hey, i’d like to read more stories like that. Let’s check out the place where this was published.” Or some such.

      In all probability if anybody and their dog could read it and not go to the journal, that would be all of zero to close to. And in this wired, self-pub, age, it seems ridiculous to have these kinds of rules.

      And I wouldn’t worry so much, but publishing credits are the best way to get an agent’s attention–so I need to follow the rules…

  3. I have had stories published in journals that were first posted on my blog, but I deleted the story from the blog a couple of months before starting to send it out. That way, it disappears from Google by the time it is being considered by the journal. Google doesn’t list deleted stories.

  4. This is such a complicated question for me. Well, maybe “complicated” isn’t the right word. But it certainly sets up all sorts of jangling conflicts…

    As you know, especially on Fridays I quote excerpts from a lot of different sources. I always try to track these to something like their “original” source, if possible, so I can link to it online. Failing the original source, I’ll quote from the text as found (say) at Google Books, or the Poetry Foundation site.

    If I had to find and purchase access to the original book or journal in order to confirm spelling, line breaks, and so on, I’d skip that excerpt and go on to something else.

    So now imagine a hypothetical world in which I myself had posted a story at my site. I want to see it in Journal A, which agrees and publishes it — including at their own Web site. Downstream, someone looking for that story, for whatever reason, is fairly unlikely even to visit Journal A’s site if they can find it at my own.

    (Some built-in assumptions in that scenario, of course — chiefly, that that “someone looking” would even exist in the first place!)

    Have I caused Journal A to lose money? credibility or reputation? They say yes. I say no — but it’s not my money, credibility, etc. on the line, and I have no access to information which would prove the case in either direction.

    I’m not sure if it — the whole situation — is a big damned mess, or if just I am.

    P.S. to Squirrel: I sort of agree with you about posting something for a while and then deleting (or password-protecting) it. But I’m not sure if we should take comfort in the “it disappears from Google” scenario. Google results are cached for a while — months? years? — after the original content goes away. Plus certain other “services” (like this) may hang onto it for a looooong time.

    1. You are not a mess.

      But it seems the number of readers lost is negligible in the scenario you describe. I for one don’t go trekking down original sources for excerpts. Now, if I like something enough–really like it–I will go to where it is from. I will want to know more about the author. I will want to go to the journal that published it since they’re likely to have other things I will like.

      But actually I would have no problem deleting something from my blog if they were going to publish. That seems fair. What strikes me as unfair is them not giving the piece the time of day because it was once at any time in the past on my blog. Because then I have to decide whether to share–and give up all hopes of publishing it elsewhere where it would certainly gain a wider readership than on my piddly blog–and keep the story to myself on the gamble–which I’m likely to lose–that someone will publish it. And this seems like a more losing situation for the writer than it seems like a win for the journal.

      AND I have this quaint idea that while journals don’t owe me anything, and need to keep their own interests in mind, they (the journals) are supportive and friendly places for writers. If I agree to delete my story, why isn’t that enough? My blog stats suggest I’ve had all of two people read my stories online. Seems absurd for that to be a deal breaker.

      1. the number of readers lost is negligible

        Right… unless you’re the editor of a journal which numbers its subscribers — or single-issue purchasers — in the dozens.

        Don’t worry. This is just me doing my usual “bend over backwards to offer the benefit of the doubt” song-and-dance. But I have posted stories of mine on the blog, and then months later seen a contest which makes me think, Story X would be a perfect entry for this… only to remember, …Oh, right: they’re buying rights to first publication in [North America/the world].

  5. Oh, I know. And I thought about that. But presumably when you find a new writer, you will find new readers. In May when my story is posted over at Cabinet des Fees’ Scheherezade’s Bequest, that is another link for them, and my readers here who have never heard of it, will (I should hope) go give it a look.

    I’ve never run a journal and so if I did, I might change my mind, but it seems that editors make decisions all the time that may gain and may lose them readers. If they accept a story and I agree (happily too by the way) to delete it from my blog, I don’t think it should be a barrier to publication. It still seems like a neurotic over-controling rule.

    And I can’t decide if I should just delete my fiction blog–after all, I don’t get more than five visitors over there on any given day–usually zero or one, once in a while as many as eight–and some of those are bound to be people who got there by mistake and click right on by. So what is the point if it means an editor will reject me? But then again it hardly means editors will accept me and what will happen to all my work? Then again, perhaps there isn’t much difference between languishing in my notebook and languishing on my blog.

  6. I really enjoyed your take on this matter. I’m just getting started with my blog and it has been enjoyable so far. I put one of my serious writings on it and quickly realized that I probably cannot submit it to be published in a journal. I wonder if I could still use it as a part of my dissertation? Do Ph.D programs have these same publishing limitations? I’m sure they do. But they also want to see that you’ve been published and have those credentials as well. It’s like a catch 22! I like what you said about disliking “absurd rules” and to be honest, I have always been a rule breaker. I’m kind of stuck though, because I want to share my writing, get feedback and exposure but I don’t want to disqualify any of my good writing from being published in the future. Great topic!

    1. Yes, a catch-22. Well, not every journal has that rule about blogs. Or you could share for a while and then delete the post–this seems a bit sneaky to me but I don’t care too much. Publishing is too hard a business as it is. And if you’re writing a lot, share a few things on your blog, send the rest out. Go with your gut feeling. As far as PhDs, i don’t know. When I got my MA, there were no blogs. Hmm. Maybe there were, but they were very new and mostly unheard of. Anyway, the Internet wasn’t much of an issue when I wrote my thesis. I do feel that most writers work very hard and journals and universities know how difficult the writing business is. It would be nice if they didn’t throw more obstacles in the way. Good luck!

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