Sunday, April 27, 2008

author blogging: syndicating your novel

I got some interesting questions on my last post and thought instead of listing my thoughts in the comments section that I'd open up a new forum here. It turns out (as I was writing) I actually have a lot to say on some of these, so I'm going to post questions one at a time.

First, Kalynne Pudner asked about #6 on this list of author blogging tips. I'll quote it here:

Free is your friend. Make your work available in its entirety. If someone is willing to read your 400 page novel on screen, you have found a fan for life.


I'm glad you asked, Kalynne, because this is the one item on that list I have mixed thoughts about.

It's great to syndicate some content on your blog as a teaser--this will help build attention. Also, some bloggers have online blog novels. Here's a great example--Lisa has been blogging a new novel, THE FOUNDING WHEEL, since December. Lisa and other bloggers are creating internet-syndicated blog novels with Dickensian themes. In my mind, this is an exercise in craft and themed writing as well as in group workshopping (albeit virtual group workshopping). We all need writing practice to hone our craft, and in Lisa's case, blogging provides that as well as an external audience that can reinforce the deadlines she sets for herself.

Lisa's example is a little unusual because of her project and intent. For other less specific projects, it's important to know while you're syndicating a) your personal writing type and method and b) your audience, and use this information to temper your syndication. There are some authors who have a very well-developed e-following (certain kinds of books appeal to the kinds of people who tend to use blogs, and other kinds of books less so). Up until the point that those authors have secured agency representation, any content they syndicate on their blogs will have great promotional value. At the point of securing representation, however, I would recommend taking all but a sample down.

My reasons?

1) Blogging is a form of publishing, and there will be an e-book clause in your contract with a publishing house. You want to be able to sell your first serial and e-book rights, so it's important that your final edited manuscript not already have been e-published. The time frame might seem a bit gray here, but I've chosen agency representation as a marker because that's where other professionals besides yourself (the author) come to work on your manuscript and when it starts evolving into its final stages. At any point after that, make sure you have verified with your editor what your house believes is acceptable pre-pub internet syndication to make sure you're not violating any contracts.

2) You don't know everyone on the internet. Most of us are nice but there are some people who might steal your material, offer you malicious feedback, or misunderstand or misquote you. The risk of something untoward happening grows in direct proportion to how much internet traffic you get (trust me, I know from experience). If your blog traffic starts to get pretty high, it's important to be more careful about what you're syndicating. The good news is by this point you will probably already know who at least some of your good trustworthy e-friends are, and if you want their feedback you can always communicate via email, etc. Doors don't have to close, but fame should make you a little cautious.

I hope this answers your question. I know I've been a bit ambiguous, but it's an ambiguous problem. The internet is truly a marketing tool as well as a place a lot of us come for entertainment, but it is, obviously, not without its pitfalls. So we all need to know our own situations well and exercise some caution.

16 comments:

Dennis Cass is . . . said...

Thanks for the timely post, Moonrat. Now that blogging your way to a book deal is an increasingly legitimate (and perhaps even more desirable) publishing track, these kinds of tips and insights are very helpful.

For years my "platform" was magazine writing, but I'm seriously considering jumping ship and putting my efforts into the Web. I'm sure anything you write on this subject will not go unappreciated by your readers.

And finally, on a more serious note: firsties!

writtenwyrdd said...

Good grief, the hair-splitting and convoluted thinking one has to do about rights in the digital age!

I figure I'll just not publish any of my work except for brief excerpts on the blog and figure that'll keep me safe from future problems.

ChrisEldin said...

I'm glad you talked about this! I also have mixed feelings. As someone who isn't published yet, I would error on the side of being conservative.
But there's one children's author who has all of his work posted on his website. You can read everything he's published. God I can't think of his name, and it's going to bug me. He's a bestseller. Millions of books. Does school visits for free. I'll be back with his name...

ChrisEldin said...

I FOUND IT!!!
http://robertmunsch.com/

Okay, you can't read it online, but you can listen to it. It's very nice, especially for teachers. I would (if I'm ever published) definitely do this!!
:-)

angelle said...

arent you overseas having chips and cheese or something? stop blogging!

Charles Gramlich said...

I would think free is not your friend, nor the friend of other writers.

Dave Shaw said...

Thank you for posting your well-thought-out opinions on this. They're very helpful.

Now, is there some way to turn it into a Momrat story? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear MR,

When I read Chris Eldin's comment, I assumed he/she meant Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As I understand it, the entire novel appeared online and then sold to Abrams. I believe the novel is still online: www.funbrain.com

Robert Munsch as a role model. I would rethink that.

KT

ChrisEldin said...

I didn't say role model, KT. Just that he has a bunch of stuff for free on his site.
I know a lot of children's writers absolutely hate "Love You Forever." So many that I'm embarrassed to say I like it.
But besides that, I like his humor and easy-going style.
Anyway, all this is a matter of opinion.
The topic about how much work one should post is thought-provoking. I guess if I'm still unpubbed ten years from now, all of my crap will be online for free. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,

Could resist a controversial point. Sometimes I think it is more fun when persons do not agree.

You made good points about Mr. Munsch.

KT

Demon Hunter said...

Thanks for posting this, Moonie. I had thought about posting work when I first started this blog, but was glad that I didn't. I'll just wait for publication, then promote it from there. Kepp the great advice coming, please. :*)

~Tyhitia

Brigid said...

What are your thoughts on using FictionPress.com and other sites as ways to get critiques? For example, posting a first and possibly second draft online, and then taking it down when it's polished enough to begin finding an agent.

moonrat said...

Brigid--thanks, good question.

Obviously, with any writing group (live or remote) there is a slight risk that people will intentionally or accidentally "borrow" pieces of what you've worked on. The risk is slightly higher on internet forums, but in a contained group you are able to know members better and find trustworthy people you can work with. You might also find people who are much closer to your ideal reader than you would in a local live group, where maybe there wouldn't be anyone who was specifically interested in the plight of vegetarian dragons (or, conversely, anything BUT).

For book-length projects, I would say online development forum are a good idea when you're posting your most general work. As you get into serious manuscript development, it's most helpful to work with some one or some small group of people you trust (and whose opinions you can respect). The internet can be a great tool for FINDING those people, though.

FictionPress.com, specifically, is more of a writing sharing forum than it is a writing critique forum (from my casual engagement with the site). My feeling is that the majority of the writers there are hoping to find readers with the same interests, not necessarily craft development critique. By the same token, my feeling was not that most of those people are planning to seek publication on the works they have up there (many are short, experimental, or fan fiction). Basically, it seems like a great way to make friends who are interested in similar genres, but perhaps not extremely helpful when it comes to developing a book-length work (which is what I assume everyone in the world is trying to do, which is probably a little unfair of me!).

As for my own writing, I've never posted anything on the internet (except, you know, this, my 600,000-word life story). I did join a writing group, to which I submitted some preliminary stuff. As writing groups often do, our group fell apart after a couple of months. But luckily I found the perfect person to exchange pages with there--we write in the same genre and I really respect her writing a lot. I think you can hope for a similar potential among internet friends/strangers.

Kalynne Pudner said...

Thanks for addressing my question, MR, and thanks to all who commented. (In re Chris Elden's confession: My eldest at 19 can still recite LOVE YOU FOREVER verbatim. Of course, he's nothing close to a children's writer, and he does pink with embarrassment whenever the book is brought up.)

Luc2 said...

I've been lurking here for a while, but I wanted to uncloak because of Brigid's question and MR's reply.

I've posted my first draft on the website of an onlince critique group (www.critiquecircle.com). It's password protected, you can limit those who view your story, or even get a private queue where you only invite the critters you know and trust. More importantly, the website has the information on when you posted your story and which IP numbers have viewed. So they can help you track down and fight the culprit. Not to mention that I have a group of faithful critters who would alarm me the moment they'll see my story float around elsewhere.

I'm not that worried about plagiarism of my work there. The amount of work and time it requires for someone to take that draft and make it into something close to publishable should dissuade most people. And as far as it 's about steeling my "great" ideas; ideas don't have copyright. You think Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and many others didn't take their inspiration from older stories, myths etc.?

The benefits about a good online critique group outweighs the risk of plagiarism by far, IMO.

steve said...

I'm one of Lisa's fellow Dickens Challenge writers. The idea was to publish one chapter a week the way Dickens did. While most of us, including me, haven't met all the deadlines, the structure has helped us keep writing. Lisa has e-mailed us Challengers with a link to your blog. Your comments are thoughtful--and sobering. I appreciate your suggestions. I suspect I'll take your advice and move the novel to a restricted site.