Should You Post Your Novel Online for Free?

Author:
Publish date:

Q: Is it a good idea to serialize an unpublished novel in a weekly blog? I have a completed sci-fi novel and was thinking about releasing it online, but I wasn’t sure if I should do this. Would it be good publicity for my novel, or would it make it harder to get my book published in the future? —Tiffany A.

Light_bulb.svg

Publishing your material online for free has pros and cons. Let’s start with the cons, because no one ever worries about the potential pros (sky-high blog hits, making too much money, landing on the cover of WD, etc.).

The biggest con you face by giving away your writing online is that you could potentially hurt future book sales. Those who take a stance against free online content are fond of asking: Why would people pay for the content if they could pop onto your website and read it for free (after all, isn’t that one of the major reasons newspapers are struggling)? Many agents and editors are also leery of attaching themselves to writing that’s already been published online—because once you post it online, it is considered published, albeit digitally.

You can set yourself up for personal discouragement, too—in an Internet world of anonymity, negative, tasteless comments are commonly posted on even the best writing. It can also be awfully disheartening if you post your work to your blog, check Google Analytics to see how many people are visiting, and find out that your readership consists of only four people—your two closest friends, your mom and someone named Spambot1.

On the flip side, there are significant pros to posting your work on the Web. For starters, some commenters could give useful feedback that gives you a glimpse of what’s working and what’s not in your novel. And it can be a boost to have that unpublished novel somewhere other than in your underwear drawer collecting dust while you shop it around to agents.

Of course, the No. 1 reason to post your work online is to build a following of loyal readers who enjoy your writing. In the publishing industry, that’s called “platform” and is highly attractive to agents, editors and publishers. If you’re able to create a built-in audience, you’ve already proven that there’s a market for your writing, and that can go a long way when it comes time to submit.

Writers like Cory Doctorow, Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood (to name a few) give their writing away online for free (the latter two do it by podcast) and have found great success. All have also enjoyed more traditional publishing success through book deals, speaking engagements and more. And all are adamant supporters of posting your work online for free for everyone to read.

So what does it all mean? Let me sum it up this way: Giving your work away online in the hopes of roping a traditional deal is a lot like online dating—you put all of your best assets on display for your potential suitors to see, and hope someone bites. It’s useful and practical and may provide long-term benefits, but there’s always the possibility you’ll be sleeping by yourself for the rest of your life.

It’s your call.

Want more?

Tags
terms:
Brian Klems
John B. Thompson | Book Wars

John B. Thompson: On Researching Changes in the Book Publishing Industry

John B. Thompson, author of the new book Book Wars, shares the research that went into his account of how the digital revolution changed publishing for readers and writers.

From Script

Supporting AAPI Storytellers and Tapping into Mythical World Building (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, meet South-East-Asian-American filmmakers and screenwriters, plus interviews with screenwriter Emma Needell and comic book writer/artist Matt Kindt, TV medical advisor Dr. Oren Gottfried, and more!

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a personal essay (also known as the narrative essay) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing, examples of effective personal essays, and more.

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.