For instance, I wanted to submit one of my short stories to a flash fiction journal, but their guidelines were very specific in stating that all submissions would have to be completely unpublished. They were so adamant that I decided to research this topic and found the following things:
- If it’s on your blog, or anyone else’s, it’s “published”. I knew this one, but it goes to show that writers should carefully select their blog topics. If there’s anything you are hoping to submit elsewhere for publication, it’s not always acceptable for you to simply take it down from your blog. Many editors prefer work that’s never been seen.
- If it’s been posted in a writing forum that is not password protected, then your piece has been “published”. I didn’t know this one! I put my story in an open writer’s forum last year not knowing that it could prevent me from submitting for official publication elsewhere. The good news is, it doesn’t appear that the forum’s pages have been archived. I did an internet search using some key phrases from my piece and nothing from the forum came up. If you posted in an unprotected forum like I did, but your piece doesn’t come up in an internet search (hint: don’t just look at the first page of results), you might be safe. In the future, if you’d like to share your work with fellow writers be sure to do so in a password protected forum so your stuff isn’t all over the web.
- Contests want unpublished work too. The sponsors usually want to discover pieces that have never been seen before. I was ready to submit some poetry to a Writer’s Digest contest recently and their guidelines expressly stated that your material could never have been posted on any blog, forum, or basically any other internet format. Booo.
The moral of the story is this: read guidelines carefully, and be selective with what you post online if you have plans to seek a traditional publishing route.
Have you had any experiences like mine? Has posting online ever affected your chances of being published elsewhere? Did you already know all this?