To post or not to post?
When you publicly post a piece of writing online, it's considered "previously published". Even if you delete it, it remains in Google's cache and can still be retrieved. That means a lot of agents and publishers will not publish it. This is very troublesome for us Wattpadders and for anyone posting their writing on writing sites. If you posted something online, you can't get it published. *insert vulgar curse word here*
HOWEVER, there is a loophole. Writing is considered "previously published" if it's accessible to anyone with an internet connection. If, however, you post it on a "private" setting so that only members of a site or your followers can access it, it's NOT previously published! The rule of thumb here: if you can Google some lines from your story and they show up in the results, it's "previously published" and you'll have a terrible time finding an agent to represent you.
There's an article that touches on this subject: http://kidlit.com/2010/12/20/should-i-post-my-writing-online/
But don't fret even if you have publicly posted your work online. The internet is a fairly new thing (home computers just came about about 2-3 decades ago! whoa.) so the publishing industry is still in the process of trying to change with the times. There are some agents who will sign a story posted online. I've seen it happen to a Wattpadder whose story received north of 22 million reads. 50 Shades is another prominent example of a novel that was publicly posted online but still got published and was hugely successful to boot. HarperCollins published two stories that had been publicly posted on their writing site, Inkpop.
Agents and publishers are slowly coming around in terms of publishing works that have been posted online, though it's not too common currently. But 5 years down the road? 10 years? Who knows? They can't ignore the dynamics of the internet for long, so it's my guess that publishers will get more lenient toward publishing works that had been publicly available. That may not happen for a while, but I believe it will happen someday.
While we wait for that day, if you want feedback on a piece of writing you hope to get published someday (I'm talking traditional publishing here, not self-publishing. You can do whatever the heck you want with self-publishing), I strongly encourage you to post it on a "private" setting. Hexbound and Wattpad both offer a "followers only" private setting. Figment offers a password protected private setting, which offers even more control of who reads your writing. While you won't get as many readers, I think the prospect of never getting it published is far worse.
Again, the private setting is just a "to be on the safe side" option. There ARE agents and publishers who will publish your work even if it's been publicly posted online, even if they are a big minority. So make your own decision on the matter.
One thing I'm uncertain about is publicly posting older drafts of writing online. If you heavily revise a piece after posting it online, is it still considered the same piece, and thus, previously published? Or by changing something, it becomes a "different" piece of writing, thus, not previously published? I've heard it go both ways. Someone told me if you change one word, then the manuscript is not the one you posted online, so you can still send it in to agents. I've heard if you Google a line and it shows up, it's previously published (and this is what I go by). I've heard an example of someone who wrote a story in first person and then completely converted it to third person, thus changing most of the sentences, and that was deemed a "different" piece of writing and thus not previously published.
Do you guys have any points to add to/refute any of this? Do you have any accounts about failed or successful publishing attempts of "previously published" writing? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
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