The Pros and Cons of Posting Writing Online

I seem to get more mixed messages from the writing community than from my ex-boyfriend. Seriously. Some writing sites champion posting online and encourage it (there are more writing platforms and sites that I can count springing up, some more legit that others), some reward it through contests and the like, others warn of the instantaneous death your writing career. I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but I totally feel like I am stuck in limbo as far whether or not to post my writing online. In fact, it goes in waves. One day I’m all for it and living the dream, then the next week I am afraid I have ruined every possible chance I have at making my bestseller come true. So I did some poking around, question asking and what some might loosely dub “research”. Here’s what I came up with…

PROS:

  • Readers’ opinions of a potential first draft, which possibly reminds you that your basic idea is, indeed, not total garbage.
  • All sorts of feedback, ranging from the blind praise to the most blunt.
  • The ability to craft a totally nifty cover or trailer to help with marketability.
  • Expand your social media and web presence akin to that of published authors.
  • Use feedback from others to inspire you and drive you to write even during the darkest days of writer’s block.
  • Connect to other writers, potential readers and others who may share similar interests and literary passions.

CONS:

  • Your writing is out there. Forever. Even if you delete it or remove it from a site. Creepy cyberspace.
  • You need to make sure your mode of sharing is legit and your copyrights are retained. Copy-paste block is also a plus to help deter STEALING, which happens more often than some might think.
  • It is subject to debate, but several argue that agents/publishers/literary outlets will not sign/publish something that is available or has been available online. They want new, unseen things that will draw readers.
  • Once something is posted online it is considered “published” (see above)

EXCEPTIONS:

  • Self-publishing. Since you are bypassing the formal publishing big wigs in many cases, at least at first, then most of the cons are null and void. You are the (wo)man in charge.
  • There are a handful of authors whom previously posted online in some form or another who were still able to get agents and publishers, though this is not a given. In fact, some still post writing online in some way or another. Leigh Fallon and Wendy Higgins (Inkpop), Mandy Hubbard (Fictionpress), Marie Higgins, Jenne James, Jane Sevier (Wattpad).

*It should be noted that more often than not publishing work online does not equal getting an agent (but that is a post for another day).

  • Anytime you write in a word processing document you have a time stamp and date for that document…pretty much instantaneous copyright (also a post for another day).
  • Honesty is a wonderful policy, some agents are alright with work previously being “published” as long as a writer is up front about it
  • Private forums are less visible and sometimes more safe (but not the only way to go). Read the guidelines, copyright agreements etc from the site you post on BEFORE you post on it. Ensure it links to reputable sites or perhaps has trustworthy members or professionals. Copy-paste lock is awful nice, watch for sites that include this (Wattpad vs. your blog).
  • Recommended length to post online varies, but one source stated 5% of the work, or pages upon pages of a rough draft. Never a final (though, what manuscript is ever a true FINAL copy, writing is a continual process, am I right?). And many agents don’t want to rep a book that readers can find online in its entirety for free…makes sense. So some people recommend excerpts, blurbs or just first chapters.

TIP:

Compare your writing goals (long-term and short-term) against the pros and cons. Perhaps even go all Boy Meets World style and weigh them with Starburst on a scale (anyone remember that episode/show or am I totally old?). Do what seems right for you and what you hope to accomplish and what your needs are. This can change over time and in most cases that is totally okay. As the book world and literary media continues to change I’m sure the pros and cons will as well.

As for me, the verdict is still out. But I’m more for the pros at this stage in my writing.

What are your thoughts? What have you heard?

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3 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Posting Writing Online

  1. HarperCollins has launched a site called authonomy.com that encourages authors to post whole works (10,000 words minimum) for readers to review. The site supposedly helps get talented authors seen and POSSIBLY moved to the top of the slush pile. They make no guarantees, and they are using readers/authors to weed out bad writing for them. Still, writers are getting feedback from readers/authors who take the craft seriously, if not from editors themselves. I haven’t tried it. I make no recommendations. In fact, I’m still on the fence about it. But I thought I’d bring it up. It looks like at least one publisher is stepping forward into the pre-screening realm and doesn’t mind online posting first.

  2. I’m out of the loop – no one tells me anything. I enjoy blogging, but my instincts say, “don’t post your wip.”
    I don’t know the first thing about platform building; am I doing it by blogging?
    My writing goal: write every day.
    Not helpful, huh? Oh…

  3. natmarie13

    HarperCollins also had a former site called Inkpop for teen writers that they merged *coughsoldoff* with another site. So they kind of took a step back at the same time.There are a whole slew of them. And a lot of big “supposedlys,” which is why this has been such a tug of war for me. But to each their own. :) Thank you both for sharing your thoughts.

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