Write It Sideways

Is it Okay to Post Your Writing in Critique Forums?

Here’s a question I received from a reader last week:

I am a new bIogger [and] I joined up with a couple of ladies in an online writers group. My question is: Are stories posted on our writing workshop site considered published and no longer viable for submission to print or other online ezines?

There’s always the concern about posting excerpts of one’s writing online if you plan to later publish that work in a magazine or book.

While there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus, agent Nathan Bransford took on this question in his forum. Here are his thoughts:

I think attitudes on this vary somewhat, but I personally believe the key is that you retain control over when you can pull it down. Yes, there’s the question of whether something really truly ever disappears from the Internet, but as long as it’s not easily findable once it’s taken down I think you’re okay.

In his article, Be (Slightly) Afraid of Posting Your Work Online, Chuck Sambuchino of Guide to Literary Agents says:

I do not recommend putting stuff on your website/blog. Notice how I said “your website/blog.” I’m not against you pasting stuff in a small critique forum where people meet to offer feedback on each other’s work.

Writer’s Relief Blog says:

Is my work considered previously published if I post it in a writing forum or Web board?

If the forum or Web board is private and intended for the purposes of encouraging feedback or community support, then most editors and literary agents will consider the work unpublished. But just in case, you may want to take it down once you’ve received feedback so it doesn’t appear online.

Editorial Ass’s post What’s Safe to Syndicate Online? provides some great tips about how to share your work on the internet and protect yourself at the same time. The agent suggests writers:

When I started the excerpt critique feature of Write It Sideways, I encouraged writers not to send excerpts of work they hope to publish, just to be on the safe side.

While I don’t imagine posting 250 words of your novel online would be a big deal to anyone, a magazine might not want to publish short fiction where an excerpt has already appeared online. Also, some writing contests refuse to take entries that have been posted in whole or in part on the internet.

Every magazine, journal, or ezine has its own publishing criteria, so you’ll want to check the submission guidelines before sending them your work.

For example, Bellevue Literary Review says:

Works posted on personal blogs or websites will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

…but, Overland Literary Journal says:

Overland will not – unless in special circumstances – accept submissions that have been previously published elsewhere, including on the internet.

Based on the former publishing professionals’ advice, my suggestion to this writer is to use a password protected forum or email to share work with others for the purposes of feedback, or post only small excerpts at once and remove them when finished.

What do you think? Is it safe to post your writing in critique forums, and if so, under what circumstances?