Featured From the Archives: The Pros & Cons of Posting Work Online

Today, I released the first chapter of Unmoving into the truly unmonitored (otherwise known as free) pool of internet fiction. The dedicated among you will remember me talking about doing this very thing over a year ago. And while I did launch half of my master plan (the VIP Subscription option), I never did take the plunge into widespread distribution. That’s right, I chickened out. Because putting your work out into the ether, for free, is scary.

But today, I changed that. Unmoving is now available for your perusal on StarterSerials.com and will be joining the ranks of Wattpad and Figment soon. In honor of finally taking that leap, I thought it would be fitting to pull this particular article out of the archives, dust it off, and send it back into the world to help any of you wrestling with this very decision.

But before I let you go, I’d also like to announce a slight change in the posting schedule here on Nightwolf’s Corner. Due to the unexpected popularity of my book review option and the almost split personality my blog’s starting to take on, I’m adding a new addition to the roster: Book Review Wednesday. Yep, I’m splitting the book reviews off and giving them their own dedicated space, which leaves Friday’s post free and clear to resume the articles I’m sure some of you are missing — the snarky, informative ones about all things publishing, writing, martial arts, or whatever. Book Review Wednesday won’t happen every week, but the regular Friday posts will. I simply don’t read fast enough to post reviews on a weekly basis, but I think we can all safely assume I’ll be able to maintain the content you’ve come to expect every Friday.

And speaking of, let’s get back to the original point of this post . . .
 

The Pros & Cons of Posting Work Online

by Kisa Whipkey

(Originally Posted on 3/8/13)

 
It’s been 6 months since I posted about my bold marketing plan involving Wattpad & Authonomy. (Yikes! Where did the time go? Feels like I blinked and it was already March!) Those of you who follow me regularly will have noticed the distinct lack of announcements pertaining to said marketing plan. Why? Because I’m afraid. Afraid of making the wrong move; afraid of ruining my chances at becoming a successful author; afraid of facing down the ultimate demon of failure. I’ve second-guessed myself into a frozen stupor instead of trusting my instincts and jumping in head-first.

This isn’t the first time I’ve shot myself in the foot, letting fear keep me from pursuing my dreams. But it will hopefully be the last. In an effort to convince myself that the naysayer in my brain needs to be duct-taped to a chair in the corner and silenced, I spent the past week revisiting the reasons I created my crazy marketing scheme in the first place. And since my OCD side loves to make lists whenever I find myself spinning in circles like a confused dog, here are my top 3 pros and cons for posting work online.

PROS:

The internet is full of horror stories about how posting online can backfire like a pipe bomb, obliterating your chances at a successful writing career. And for someone like me, with a crippling fear of failure shackled to my every move, it can be incredibly hard to see past these anecdotes. But the truth of the matter is that posting your work online can also be the best move an indie author ever makes. In fact, there are even a few hope-inspiring articles popping up about the success you can find this way, such as this one by Lindsay Buroker on the merits of Wattpad. So before we wander down the more easily traveled road of negativity, let’s explore some of the good things about posting online.

  • Exposure:

The most obvious perk is the unlimited access to potential readers. The hardest job for any author is getting their book in front of people; something that’s becoming increasingly more difficult as the market gets flooded. So why wouldn’t you want to exploit every possible avenue of exposure? Manuscript Display Sites like Wattpad, Authonomy & Figment open windows into audiences you may not have found otherwise. Similar to the library, you offer your work for free (in serialized form) and gain instant access to thousands of readers. Some of whom are bound to become fans. Right?

  • Feedback:

The second big reason writers post their work online is for the feedback. Since you don’t need a completed manuscript to start generating interest, you can use the internet as a giant pool of beta readers. The critiques obviously range in value, but the chance to gauge reader response while your work’s still in process is pretty awesome. The trick is not to let the feedback you receive compromise your work. You can’t please everyone, after all.

  • Motivation:

Personally, I work best under a deadline. But it has to be imposed by someone else. I’m notoriously good at breaking deadlines I’ve set for myself, brushing them aside with flimsy excuses and promises to get them done later, because there are no repercussions. Aside from being a slacker and not getting my work done, that is. But as soon as you post something online, you answer to someone else. I don’t know about you, but the thought of disappointing my fans (all four of them) is a better source of motivation than caffeine. And Lord knows I could use some help in the motivational department these days.

CONS:

The world of online literature isn’t all rainbows and butterflies though. There are just as many reasons not to post your work as there are reasons to do it. In fact, I daresay there are more reasons why you shouldn’t. Here’s just a few of the major points:

  • Loss of First Publication Rights:

The biggest deterrent to posting online is the fact that you basically throw away your First Publication Rights. This doesn’t matter much to authors planning on self-publishing, but it’s death to any project trying to go the traditional route. Unfortunately, publishing online does count as being previously published. Which means that once you’ve posted online, you’ve basically committed to being an indie author. If you think your work has even a shred of marketability via traditional means, you’d be best to avoid this route like the plague.

  • Giving Work Away for Free:

It goes against most writer’s instincts to take a project they’ve invested in for so long and just give it away. It feels like you’re devaluing your time, declaring that your work isn’t good enough to deserve compensation. But is that really true?

In a market that sees thousands of books published every day, (with a majority of those being questionable in quality), it can be nearly impossible to get readers to take a chance on someone new. In this economy, consumers are appropriately stingy with their money, trusting in names and products they’ve been previously exposed to. By giving your work away for free, you offer them a chance to try something new without financial risk. If they like your work, you’re then on the list of trusted names and will likely see sales on your subsequent titles. But that still means sacrificing one of your projects to something intangible that may not ever turn into monetary reward. Like all gambles, it’s hard to tell if it’s worth it.

  • Plagiarism:

Any time you publish something online, it’s immediately exposed to the possibility of theft. That’s just the nature of the art world. Yes, there is recourse for artists/authors that have been wronged, falling victim to the pirates of plagiarism, but it doesn’t lessen the blow. Which is why you’ll see this fear thrown around in nearly every literary forum. The thing is, the likelihood of plagiarism is a lot slimmer than people think. Yes, it happens, and yes, it sucks. But the majority of people aren’t interested in stealing from you.

If you’re a creative person, then chances are good this isn’t your only project. And as much as it would suck to lose it to plagiarism, it really wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? You could always go on to write more; create another masterpiece. The thief doesn’t have that luxury. So even though this is a definite negative to posting online, it’s also an inevitable risk that every writer will have to take if they want to become an author. Your book can’t become a bestseller if it never leaves your desk drawer.

As you can see, there are some pretty strong arguments on both sides. And, as with everything in publishing, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer, no matter how much we might wish it to be black and white. The best I can tell is that you should assess each of these points on a project by project basis. In my particular circumstance, with this particular title, posting online makes sense. I was never intending to pursue traditional publishing with this series, so why not start gaining some momentum now by getting my name out there? I’m definitely still scared of taking the leap, but no one ever found success by playing it safe.

What do you think? Do the pros outweigh the cons? How many of you have posted your work online and to what result? I’d love to hear your experiences. :)