Oooh, we’ve found a hot topic in yesterday’s post, haven’t we? That’s good. I like it when there is discussion. It helps us look at things from all angles. There are really two issues here–the effect posting pre-published works on the Internet has on marketing (which has its pros and cons) and the possibility of copyright infringement.
I’ll be excerpting a few of of the comments from yesterday here. You can read them in their entirety here.
If something is really, really good and a portion of it has been posted on the internet, a good publisher like yourself would be goofy not to pick it up, publish it and then ask what else they have. If Harry Potter’s first three chapters were posted on www.ctrstories.com you certainly wouldn’t tel the author to find something less apealing to the reading public.
First, the marketing aspect. There is a difference between posting the first couple of chapters of a book on the Internet (smart marketing) and posting the entire book on the Internet simultaneously with the publication and release of a traditional printed book (fewer sales). If you plan to publish what you’re posting, keep this in mind.
Second, the copyright. A lot of people post their writing on blogs before they publish. They want feedback and use that to shape the final manuscript. They get minimal traffic at their blogsite, so the chances of someone stealing their stuff is reduced but not eliminated. If you’re going to post pre-published work anywhere on the Internet, be smart about it. Mark it with the correct form of a copyright on every post. Keep good records that will support you should you face the worst-case scenario. When you’re ready to start submitting, take down all but the first few chapters. After it’s published, replace those first few chapters with the newly edited and published version, and provide a link to where the book can be published.
Anyone who steals your stuff does so at the peril of their own demise.
If you have the resources to sue them for damages. Let’s say someone stole your book and a big NYC company published it. As a small publisher, I don’t have the money to pursue this or the years it takes to resolve an issue like this. Do you? I will have to wait for them to earn their eternal reward–which does nothing for getting your book published under your name. Even if you get damages, do you think a publisher will re-publish the book under your name? Not likely. And if there’s lots of big publicity and the suit is not resolved in your favor, there will always be the question of who was telling the truth. Some publishers will shy away from publishing anything you write because of that. Perhaps I’m overly cautious and conservative, maybe I’m even a little paranoid, but my job here is to help you–which includes giving you a peek into a publisher’s thought processes and warning you about the possible negative impact of your decisions and actions.
Publishers are consumed by the bottom line of the story-telling business…
Of course we are. That is our JOB.
Publishers forget why we write…somewhere in the long grind of putting out books year after year amnesia set in. Take away all the glitter of marketing, jetison the sales department projections, toss out the promotionals, be rid of the retail shelf space battles, the access to distribution lines, and the corporate boardrooms. And what do you have left? An author writing for a reader. You middlemen publishers are scary people. You’re once removed form the real business of story-telling.
Writers write for a variety of reasons. If your goal is simply to share a good story, then by all means, post it on the Internet, tell it at parties, print copies and give them away or sell them at cost. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If your goal is to become a traditionally published author and to earn an income from your stories, then you need someone willing to take on the “grind” and run the machinery of publishing–which (because no one has yet invented the replicator which will do away with economically based decisions) includes that cursed marketing, sales projections, promotion, distribution AND coming up with the money to do it.
I hate all that stuff too. That’s not why I became a publisher. I became a publisher because I love good stories, I love books, and I loved particular books so much that I wanted to make it my life’s work to share those books with as many people as I could. I wish I could accept every good story that comes across my desk and turn it into a book, which would magically appear in every store and people would intuitively know it was a good read and happily plunk down their hard-earned cash for it. But in the world we live in, all that other stuff is a necessary evil. It’s not that publishers are so removed from the business of story-telling, it’s that we’re very much in the business of sharing your stories in a permanent format (printed books) with as many people as possible. Since we’re not independently wealthy, that means we have to figure out how to recoup our investment and turn a profit so that we can share even more stories.
Bottom line, we live in a free market economy. Publishers offer a service to both the writer and the reading community. That service carries with it certain conditions and restrictions. If the service we offer has value for you, then seek out a publisher and adhere to their conditions, which may or may not include pulling your work off the Internet. If you feel the service we offer does not carry enough value to outweigh the cost of the conditions, then by all means, publish in your own way, according to your own criteria. No one forces you to “hire” us to produce your book. You can do all of that work yourself in whatever way seems most profitable and emotionally rewarding to you. And I honestly, genuinely wish you success in sharing your story in whatever way you desire.