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,
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 Fanfiction.net. 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!