Reader Question: Internet Fiction

Today’s PubCrawl post came to us from a reader! Megan S. emailed us to ask about internet fiction/stories that have been previously posted online and how that may hinder or help the path to publication. Because we thought this might be of interest to some of our other readers, we decided to answer it in a more public capacity. (Email edited for length and relevance.)

Hello ladies!

Right now I’m part of a private writing community on LiveJournal in which a handful of us write and share with readers numbering around 1K. Before that I posted some of my work on FP but have taken down anything of length. I’m working towards querying for an agent and eventual publication, but I wonder about my participation in this group. It has been invaluable, and I’m grateful for the people I’ve met and everything I’ve learned. But I’m moving into the revising period with some of my major works and I wanted your opinion on who to show these things to. The dilemma: do agents/publishing houses still look down on stories that have been previous posted on the internet? I’m not talking about self-publishing (avoiding that one like the plague) but rather first and second drafts that are shown to a minor audience like mine. Is the fact that you already come with that audience a plus? Or would they feel it’s chancy instead? I’ve been trying to decide if it’s time for me to move on from this community, or if it’s not as serious an issue as I think it is. When it comes to critical feedback, there’s not a lot, and that’s something about the community that I’ve been struggling with. Any advice or experience you guys have with the next step would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

<3 Take care,

Megan S.

Firstly, I would like to clarify the difference between an online writing community (like your private Livejournal group) and fiction that has first been “published” online. Despite the number of members, it sounds like the Livejournal community is something more akin to discussion board or a forum than a place like Fiction Press or Figment, or even Due to the closed nature of the former, it seems more like a very large critique system, whereas the latter is a place where literally anyone can discover your writing. (However, do correct me if I’m wrong!)

But onto the meat of what you’re asking: the question of whether or not agents or editors look down on stories that have been previously posted on the internet comes down to something of a generational difference. I know plenty of younger agents and editors (myself included) who view the internet as a great place to find new writers. I grew up reading fanfiction, so I’m used to the culture of reading fiction online, not to mention I posted my own writing on my very first website as a teen. (Ah, Geocities. Those were the days.) But the elder statesmen of publishing are certainly more open to it now than they might have been five years, or even six months, ago.

Recently, there have been fanfic-turned-novel deals made left and right, and some of them have had an enormous following and built-in audience, while others have not. There is a little bit of trend-capitalizing going on here (due to the runaway success of fanfic-turned-novel 50 Shades of Grey), but I don’t believe internet fiction has (as much of) a stigma attached to it anymore. But even before the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, internet fiction and traditional publishing haven’t really been at odds. There are several New York Times bestelling authors who used to write fanfiction, and our own Sarah J. Maas first published Throne of Glass as serial fiction on Fiction Press. So when it comes time to consider traditional publication, the fact that it was previously seen by an audience, however limited, doesn’t matter. What matters is the work.

That being said, since so many people get critical feedback from online venues, I don’t think it’s necessary to mention that when it comes time to query. It certainly wouldn’t sway my opinion one way or another, and I doubt it will sway an agent either. If I love the story and the writing, that should be enough. However, if you have had a significant readership–and by significant, I mean numbers upwards of 100,000 or so on a regular basis–then I would definitely consider mentioning that. But otherwise, feel free to continue writing and working with your community! In the end, it all comes down to story, and being the best writer you can be.

Anyway, in honour of today’s post, we are giving away a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, a novel that was originally published online! Just fill out the form to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


40 Responses to Reader Question: Internet Fiction

  1. Sally L Jan 22 2013 at 7:06 am #

    I don’t think it matters at all! I think the Internet is a great way to reach a wider audience, before you decide to publish your work as a novel. If you’re lucky enough to be published, you know that you already have an audience, and a fan-base, that will support your future writing endeavours, whether they be online or in real life.

  2. Madeline Jan 22 2013 at 7:19 am #

    For me it doesn’t matter. But if you are an up-and-coming author then it would be a great idea to see how much your book appeals to others and to establish a strong fan base. The internet is steadily becoming a great tool for future authors and any way in which it can be utilised is a smart endeavour by individuals.

  3. Marie Jan 22 2013 at 8:19 am #

    I can see the upsides of putting up your story on the internet – the support, the advice, the encouragement that it gives you – but it’s something I’d really hesitate to do. For me (as an ‘aspiring writer’, if that doesn’t sound too pompous!) showing anyone a piece of my work is always so nerve-racking and difficult to do that the thought of putting it up on the internet – where it could be read by any number of people – makes me wince. That’s just about putting up a story on the internet. But if that story is then going to be published… Well, my more cynical side insists people who have already read something on-line won’t want to buy it, or that there could be so many different copyright issues brought up… I guess I’m just pessimistic! As a reader, though, I don’t mind at all.

  4. PK Hrezo Jan 22 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I’ve wondered this as well. But I agree, as you say, if it’s successful, no agent/editor will turn it down. Its a great way to get your feet wet and develop a fanbase.

    • JJ Jan 22 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Well, even a huge readership doesn’t necessarily GUARANTEE agent/editor interest as they’d have to connect with the story/writing first. But a large readership would certainly make us look closer. 🙂

  5. Rhiann Wynn-Nolet Jan 22 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Interesting discussion. Guess I’m not sure why someone would buy a book they could read online for free…

    • JJ Jan 22 2013 at 9:23 am #

      It’s always the question people have, isn’t it? 🙂 And there’s no right or wrong answer. However, as someone who used to read a lot of fiction online, I think format does say a lot. In high school, I used to print out my favourite fanfics so I could read them later, and having a bound form of it would have been awfully convenient. There’s a different experience reading a book than reading a story on a computer screen. Books also get edited from its original serial form to a print form, so it isn’t exactly a 1:1 transference from screen to page.

      But that question has a different answer depending on who you ask. 🙂

  6. Jill Jan 22 2013 at 9:12 am #

    I totally agree with JJ’s assessment. I think attitudes are shifting more and more after recent phenomena like Fifty Shades. Instead of being a drawback, it can be ideal in some cases.

  7. katharine owens Jan 22 2013 at 9:25 am #

    REALLY interesting post! Thanks– even though this doesn’t apply to me I think it’s fascinating to learn about what other writers do, how they approach their craft, and what that may or not mean for publication. Thanks for sharing!

  8. katharine owens Jan 22 2013 at 9:26 am #

    REALLY interesting post! Thanks– even though this doesn’t apply to me I think it’s fascinating to learn about what other writers do, how they approach their craft, and what that may or may not mean for publication. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Leigh Smith Jan 22 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I’d say it depends. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s been online as long as it wasn’t self-published. IMO, many cases of self-published authors are really cases of not quite being ready. Usually, if a book didn’t land an agent or deal, it probably wasn’t ready for publication. As in anything, there are exceptions.

  10. Vivien Jan 22 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I’m always open to reading anything, even if it was online.

  11. Sondra Johnson Jan 22 2013 at 10:35 am #

    My initial hesitation of putting my work online is the fear that someone is going to take my ideas, run away with it, and THEN become the next hot-in-demand author! (insert giggle here)

    Seriously, the thought of plagiarism makes me hesitate. And the fact that my writing is still a work in process- each time I review it I’m making changes.

    And I’m not familiar with the online venues that allow one to do this. I did check out, but didn’t put anything online. Although this is supposed to give one a direct connection to the publisher, there seems to be a lot of jockeying and games that go on to become one of the ‘top’ positions.

    As to the question posed, I think writing is blending and morphing into print and ebooks rapidly. Not good or bad, just happening. The ebook market looks like the easiest way, but the novice author usually won’t get far without the power and clout of a good editor, publisher, and decent formatter. The print industry should look at these little books as a potential pile of coal that has the occasional diamond- dig deep and you might get rich.

    • JJ Jan 22 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Plagiarism is certainly a huge concern, but there is no copyright or ownership of an idea, as protective as we are of them. However, lifting large bits of someone else’s writing and passing it off as your own is definitely a no-no, but plagiarism is a concern regardless of whether or not something was posted online or in print.

      Nowadays we DO look at the ebook bestsellers as well as places like Fiction Press, Figment, and Wattpad for the next potential “diamond in the rough”. There are definitely books that have come from such venues, and many publishing companies do have an arm to find this sort of writing, like Authonomy.

  12. Alexa Y. Jan 22 2013 at 11:21 am #

    As always, this post has proved to be very, very helpful – even before I knew I would be asking this question myself! I’m always curious about how publishing stuff online can affect a writer’s future, and while I think it’s a great, modern way to get your writing out there, I’m still trying to be considerate of traditional pubs and their requirements as well. It’s nice to see that publishing online probably won’t affect most efforts to get published traditionally 🙂

  13. Sarah Marie Jan 22 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Interesting post; its been a while since I’ve considered this issue. I don’t think it matters at all. I read a lot of fiction online, on fiction press and other websites, because its more accessible.

  14. Katelyn Jan 22 2013 at 11:53 am #

    I definitely wouldn’t care if fiction was originally published online. I myself have work published on a few sites. If the story was published into a book, no matter its origins, it has my wholehearted respect.

  15. Peggy Eddleman Jan 22 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    I don’t think it matters at all! At least it doesn’t for me. 🙂

  16. Andrea Jan 22 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    In my view, anything that gets anyone into reading is great. And some of the quality I’ve found online is better than books that have been published. Definitely not most of it, but a good few. I think it’s important to have any art form, professional or not, available. Expressing creativity is great! And if one wants to share it with the world, and others want to read/experience it, than why not? And if these writers/artists get published/the equivalent, all the better for them and for the rest of the people who discover them. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both posting online before publishing, or heading straight into publishing after writing on your own for a while. I can’t think of a good reason why it should matter.

  17. Lexie B. Jan 22 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Not at all. I was a member of an online community of writers–Inkpop–and I wouldn’t view a published book that had been previously published online any differently, other than to maybe feel some solidarity for them.

  18. Kate Jan 22 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Certainly not! If it’s a good book I’ll read it 🙂

  19. Alyssa Jan 22 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    It doesn’t matter to me at all. What matters to me is the content and quality of the story. If it’s something I’m interested in, I’ll read it.

    I’m happy to have seen that in recent years the book community (readers, writers, editors, agents, etc.) have accepted the internet so well, as not only a marketing tool but also a great way to interact with your readers (or potential readers) and find writing communities to get involved in. I myself am a part of a group of writers that I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the internet, and it has been immensely helpful and encouraging while working on my novel.

  20. Sylvia Jan 22 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Haha. I used to have a geocities website at some point in time, too.

    I love FPress and like sites. I love that you can search exactly what you’re looking for, and I love looking at the reviews (I think the quality and types of reviews speak volumes about the piece of writing sometimes, haha). Can’t always do that in the same ways at a bookstore or the like.

  21. Lea Jan 23 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Interesting post!
    I’d say it depends – if it’s good and something I’m interested in, I’ll read it. And it can definitely be interesting to compare the online and print version (see Fifty Shades…).

  22. Shelver506 Jan 23 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    It’ll make me pause, to be sure, but I won’t ignore the book for being published online.

  23. Skye Jan 23 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Not at all! Especially since I don’t get the chance to read much online. I probably wouldn’t even hear of it unless it was in book form, and if it’s good I want to read it!

    Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  24. Leigh K. Hunt Jan 24 2013 at 2:35 am #

    I think that the publishing world is actually becoming a bit more relaxed in terms of where your work has been. In fact – it’s even encouraged to build Author Platforms… The fact that you already have a ‘readership’ of your work is a bonus. I think that publishers are starting to see this now.

  25. Ama A-Badu Jan 24 2013 at 6:52 am #

    This looks like it will be a cute read!! I’ll try to get my hands on it! 😀

    I review books and try to promote writers 🙂 Why? Because it’s fun!

  26. Sel Jan 24 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Nope, it doesn’t matter to me if the story has been published online before 🙂 The important thing is if the work is wholly original and ultimately, whether it’s a good story!

    But I guess that if one of your online novels are getting published, you should take off the work from the Internet. However, I’m sure that it is all just part of a writer’s journey to publication 😉

  27. Kirsten W Jan 24 2013 at 7:22 am #

    Not at all! I don’t think I’ve ever read internet fiction, but I have bought physical copies of webcomics I like, even though I can read them online for free 🙂

  28. Erica Jan 24 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I think if a story was online, then it was traditional published piques my interest but ultimately it’s the story that hooks me.

  29. Amber Jan 24 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    It doesn’t matter to me whether or not a work has been published online or traditionally. I used to frown upon online publishing mostly because of plagiarism purposes, but nowadays, I see a lot more positive qualities to having your work online – like you develop a strong support group and a lot of enthusiastic fans, you meet other writers, you receive advice and that extra push to keep on writing :). But regardless, it is the story line of a story that reels me in.

  30. Nic Jan 25 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    I think it matters a little if, for example, the entire work is available online for free. Sample material, on the other hand, might just pique interest. There’s also a difference, as you say, between a closed Livejournal community and just letting anyone open or download a file.

  31. TF Walsh Jan 26 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    For me, it wouldn’t matter if it’s been online or not – if it reels me in, then I’ll buy and read it anyway:)

  32. Justin L Dew Jan 27 2013 at 10:11 am #

    I don’t think it matters at all.

  33. Leslye Jan 27 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    It seems like a good idea to have a built-in audience and to get feedback, especially with a closed community.

  34. Hope Jan 27 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I don’t think it would matter so long as the author realised that published fiction has a higher standard of quality attached than internet fiction. That’s the cause for the stigma in the first place – most internet fiction is poorly proofread, poorly reasoned and poorly written. There are gems out there, but I feel like many people think they don’t have to do anything to make their internet fiction publication-worthy, and that just ain’t so.

  35. Katie Jan 27 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I think polished work is polished work, no matter how it got there. If the LJ community is locked, then all the better for the author to prevent people from seeing those early drafts.

  36. looloolooweez Jan 28 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I used to write fanfic (based on a video game, embarrassingly enough) just for funsees. The story that I am slowly — ever so slowly working on now is based on some of those stories. I do worry that when the time eventually comes to start down that publishing path I’ll run into problems because of those old stories. But honestly I can’t imagine that some 5-year-old semi-anonymous fanfics deep in the forgotten basements of the internet will seriously damage my chances.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for that giveaway! ^__^

  37. Kiera May 15 2013 at 9:00 am #

    I suggest, when you invest just about every day of your
    life hiding your true self from the world, you actually begin to feel
    negatively about yourself and your future.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.