I’ve covered reprints on the blog before, but I think it’s worth revisiting the subject because I’ve seen something popping up in submission guidelines that could affect a lot of writers. I’m talking about what I call the accidental reprint, a situation you may find yourself in if you post fiction on your blog or website. It’s important to understand how a number of publishers view this activity before you throw that shiny new story up on your blog. Basically, some markets consider such a story published. At best, they might accept it as a reprint, and, at worst, they won’t accept it all.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are some excerpts from various submission guidelines addressing this subject.
- Previously unpublished (No Reprints) in English – and this also means not being published on an author’s own website.
This is taken from the guidelines of a pro-paying market, and I think you should assume that “author’s own website” also means “author’s own blog,” because, let’s face it, for many of us, myself included, they’re the same thing.
- [XXX] accepts only original material. No reprints, please. Even if it has been displayed on your own web page, we consider it published. If the story has been posted and reviewed at a password-protected e-workshop with a controlled list of participants, we consider this a plus.
This semi-pro zine has similar wording as the first example, though they spell it out more plainly. One other thing to note is the second part of this guideline that exempts certain kinds of writing groups and workshops. It’s an important distinction and one that I’ve seen tacked on to these types of restrictive clauses on a few occasions.
- We are not looking for (and will not license) self-published stories (in any format/venue), stories that have been published and are available to download on-line (free or paid) as stand-alone stories (in collections and anthologies is fine), or stories that are available free on-line in any form (magazine, archive, blog, etc, but podcasts that have not been made available in print are fine).
Finally, this semi-pro market has a much more detailed restriction that specifically includes blogs, and it’s clear they see a story on an author’s own website as self-publication.
These are just three examples I found with a five-minute search on Duotrope; there are many more. Look, I’m not saying don’t ever put your original works up on your blog. There are lots of (good) reasons people do it, and I’m not here to tell you how to run your blog or website. That said, it’s important to have all the facts if your goal is to submit original fiction to print and online magazines. In other words, don’t shoot yourself in the foot right out of the gate if you can avoid it. If you’re working on a piece you’d like to post on your blog and submit to specific markets, check those markets’ guidelines and make sure they don’t have the accidental reprint restriction.
I know what some of you must be thinking right now. You’re thinking, “I’ll just remove the story from my blog before I submit it, and no one will be the wiser.” Am I right? Unfortunately, that won’t always work because, as many have said, the internet is forever (or close to it). Even if you delete the story from your blog, it’ll probably still show up in a search on Google when the publishers runs your name and the story title (and some will). Yes, it’ll be a dead link, but the search results are all the evidence the publisher needs to reject your story. A bit of research reveals there are ways to remove the content completely from search engines, but they are pretty involved, and, honestly, way above my pay grade. If you’d like more info on that subject, though, here’s a great post to start with from SEOblog titled Why Is Google Still Indexing My Deleted Pages?
Since I’m a serial submitter, I play it pretty safe with my blog, and I only post fiction that is a) approved by one of my publishers or b) a story I’ve already sold and would be considered a reprint anyway. Again, I’m not saying do as I do, just make sure you have all the information before you, uh, do.
One last thing: in my experience, this little caveat seems to be specific to short story and poetry markets. I haven’t seen this stipulation for longer works, like novels. I could be wrong, though, and if you’re aware of an accidental reprint restriction in a book publisher’s guidelines, let us know in the comments.