Make Waves Online to Create a Path to Print Publication

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On this blog, someone recently commented/asked:

One big concern a lot of online writers have is the issue of first rights. Does publishing even part of a novel online prevent you from getting a deal with a publishing house? So far, I have posted about 20% of mine on my blog and only just discovered this may prevent me from getting a publishing deal. I'd have thought it would be good publicity, but I guess the publishers feel they need to defend heir turf.

It's a sure thing that whenever I advise writers to use online publishing or collaboration/community tools (like Authonomy, WeBook, Smashwords, or their own site/blog), they ask if the market for their work will go away.

Three things to understand

  1. Print and online are two different channels. You should be more worried if you write and post something online that you want to sell to an online publication or e-publisher. Even then, it's more about: Have you given the ENTIRE work away for free, or just a portion? Publishers are most worried when you give away the entire book or all of your content for free (or that it becomes somehow accessible for free through other channels) when they're trying to charge for a print edition.
  2. Audience/readership aren't always identical between online and print. Some people will find out about you online, and read you online; others will find you online and look for print; some will find out about you only through print channels.
  3. Great online exposure is more likely to lead to demand for a print product. In Japan, one writer created an online sensation with his work, but stopped right at the ending cliff-hanger, and readers who wanted the ending had to purchase the print book. (And lots of people who heard about the online fuss late in the game decided to buy the print book.)

So, posting a fiction excerpt online will almost never eliminate the publication potential for the full work. You can look to Scott Sigler as an example of someone who started online (via podcasting), gained a following, then went to print. Just because he serialized the entire book in audio form didn't mean a publisher wasn't interested in publishing his book—quite the contrary! See it as a way to make waves (if approached in a smart way). I have yet to meet an agent or a publisher who would find this to be a bad thing.

Photo credit: Nate Steiner

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