Friday, March 6, 2009

Is a poem considered published if it appears on a personal blog?

I got some frustrating news today. I've gotten conflicting answers from other bloggers on whether putting a poem or a book chapter on one's blog is considered "publishing." I decided to take it to one of the experts on the Writer's Digest site.

JCK : Is a poem considered published if it appears on a personal blog? Hi. I have heard various answers on this question, and thought it would be good to come directly to the source - editors of WD. I have recently begun submitting my poetry to magazines. I notice that some of them say that they cannot accept anything that has been published online in any form. Does this mean that if it appeared on a personal blog (small readership, but no password to enter), that it is considered published? Or are they referring to it appearing in an online form within another literary journal/magazine?

I also have several friends who are writing novels and posting sections/chapters of them on their blogs for reader feedback.

If the answer is YES, that poetry/prose appearing on a personal blog is considered published, I guess this means that I would have to consider self-publishing the work that I've already posted?


By and large, the answer is "Yes." Published means only that a given piece of work has, in any form, been made available to the general public. But it isn't about legal definitions. Editors of magazines do not usually want work that the readers of the magazine may already have read somewhere else. Why would they?

Posting a chapter or two of a novel is not the same thing as posting a complete novel, a complete poem, or a complete short story.

At the same time, be smart. Post things that have already been sold and published, not things you want to have published in the future.

I guess I'm not completely surprised by this answer, as I knew it was a possibility, but I am incredibly disappointed. I've worked very hard on my poems here, and it saddens me no end to think that they will die on my blog. Unless I create chap books or self-publish...

At this point, I will not be sharing the poems on my blog any longer that I want to submit for publishing consideration. Thanks SO MUCH to all of you for your support of my poetry and writing.

Published is Published!

If anyone can share any stories of publications that do accept work that has appeared online on a blog, previously, please leave a note in the comments.

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  1. Thanks for educating us. It's definitely something to think about.

  2. I am stunned and SO glad you told me this! I would say delete them from your blog, then submit them to publications. How are they gonna know the poems were ever on your blog? That is what I will probably do.

  3. I never would have thought about this. Thank you for spreading the word. Not that I'm a poet, but it's good to know in general and good for me to pass on to others.

    I'm mostly sorry that I won't get to see your poetry here anymore, but of course I understand why.

  4. ooo hot damn, I'm published. w00t! Oh, wait...

  5. Well, this is really interesting. How is it different - especially with a low readership blog - than distributing works in progress to members of a writing workshop?

    I think the kind of writing I do is fragments, or sketches, so whatever I might end up submitting to a press or magazine might be an altered, edited, or fleshed out version of an earlier sketch - so I guess that would be OK.

    But with poetry I think it would be different - poetry is more like cutting and faceting diamonds - once you get it perfect you don't want to fuck with it.

    I would get another opinion, actually - from someone in the business of buying works. Really.

  6. Wow, I had no idea.
    I like G's thought about another opinion....doesn't seem fair, does it?

    I'd be interested to learn if you find out anything else. Certainly don't blame you though for holding back on "publishing" your poetry on your blog.

  7. It all comes down to Real World's lack of agreement on exactly what blogs are - and that's not helped by the way in which many of us use them of course. If people do use them as a way to launch books or whatever then I suppose they should be considered as a means of publication.

    I just wish blogs could be blogs and that we'd all use them as that.

    I'm really sorry about your poems though. It seems a very harsh judgement and one it is probably worth fighting in your case since your blog has a relatively small readership and is a blog first and foremost.

  8. I never even thought of this but yeah, it make total sense.
    Thanks for educating us :)

  9. Thanks for this bit of education. And I am sorry for you.


  10. That's a bummer. I liked Jen's suggestion though.

  11. Major bummer. Seriously. I would have never thought that blogging would count but when you factor in the blogs with the huge readerships, I can see how THAT could matter (still, those with huge readerships might help sell pubs, no?) And, probably more relevant, your poem could have gotten copied and pasted in untold places. So they want new, fresh, controlled poetry.

  12. I'm sad to read that....I've found your poetry moving and will miss it. And I think that this is an aspect of publishing that will probably change (slowly adapting to the changing way we communicate, connect and what is happening to the written word). Pretty crazy-making for an artist to find controlled, restriction that really doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense.

  13. In answer to your question ....

    a) it is your intellectual property.
    b) if it's published on your blog, it is published in the broad sense of the word.
    c) however, in the true sense of print-book publishing, it falls short.

  14. No they will not die here! They are published here and so may not, at this point, be of interest to some publishers as individual poems. However, they are part of your body of work and as you build a reputation the possiblility of republishing them becomes greater. So focus on writing more and consider your previous works to be your previous works. They are not dead, they will never die. Rather than never publishing anything on your blog I would suggest that you chose to share some poems knowing that you are giving the world a free taste of your work.

  15. oh no, it must have crushed you when you saw the word 'yes', even though at the back of your mind, you are already prepared for it... but still, this sucks. What a waste to your previous work.

  16. You might want to poke around on John Scalzi's blog to hear his thoughts on this sort of thing. He has talked about it a lot and he's a big proponent of giving stories away for free and increasing readership and claims (I'm sure with caveats) that giving work online does not cut into sales of physical books. I don't think it'll make a difference in how you submit your poetry but it may change the way you work in the future.

    Are you headed to Blogher this year? How about a small chapbook to give as Motherscribe swag?

  17. I used to do a dry run of my newspaper column ideas on blog posts -- expanding them into full columns if they seemed to work well. I never made a secret of it and thought all the newspaper folks read my blog and knew I was doing things this way -- until the executive editor noticed it and reminded me my contract forbade me using material in my column that already had been published. As you did, I never considered my blog as "publishing." But I sure do now.

  18. That's really strange. I always thought that published meant you got some form of renumeration (or is it remuneration?), either money or free copies of the magazine, or something.
    I liked someone else's idea. Delete them from the blog and send them on.
    And I'll keep an eye out for places to publish them. I'll ask Lauri, too.

  19. Have you heard any differently since you wrote this? I'm running up against the same problem, but I HAVE submitted poems that have appeared on my blog -- I've just taken them off the blog when I submit.

    Here's one journal's take on the matter:

    We do not classify poems appearing on author blogs or personal websites, or posted by the author to newsgroups or online workshops, as previously published. We do classify poems appearing in online or print magazines as previously published.

  20. Just dropping a note to tell you that I am going to miss your poetry.


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