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Is a Blog a Publication?

I have two issues and questions related to writing, blogging and publishing. I'll post them separately, maybe the first one today and the second tomorrow. First question...

If a piece becomes a blog post published on a weblog, has that piece been "previously published" when it comes to print publication? Is anyone aware of a magazine or book publisher who has refused to accept something because it had appeared on a weblog?

Update 22 January: Thanks to all who've weighed in with opinions and thots. I think the answer boils down to "it depends". Weblog posts are, as Chris suggests, more like emails shown to a relative few. Emails are not "publications" but can count as such if you sell the rights to broadcast them in any way. It is up to the party that potentially might purchase your essay or book or magazine article to decide if they consider a weblog post as "previously published" and what, if anything, they want done with the web version should they publish it in print (or online elsewhere).

This is not a dead issue, so please continue to pass along thots, precedents, even facts on the matter as you run across them. I'm not the only one asking this question.


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Naw Fred, I would not consider anything on the web to be considered 'previously published' by current industry standards unless you have copywritten your site and words and if your site earns you money or you sell ads on your site. If in doubt, just delete the post in question and deny, deny, deny. As for my photos, I have all of them copywritten and have them sent off to Washington for registration. I am hoping that someone steals my photos for profit so I can sue 'em for tens of thousands of dollars. he he he

Consider this: "By providing alternative outlets for publishing commentary on other materials on the web and for relating first-hand experience, blogs enable individuals to publish opinions and other material that might not otherwise be published this is empowerment by publishing." From http://www.jarretthousenorth.com/2003/10/10.html

I'll be interested to hear what others who are currenty involved in non-blog "publishing" have to say (I've been out of touch for a few years). But my guess, based on past experience, is that money is the key -- if you haven't sold it or tried to, or allowed anyone else to do so, you're OK.

I would guess the concern is whether you have full rights to "publish" the documents in question. If you wrote in a paper journal and showed a few friends nobody would consider it published. I think the same standard would apply here - the number of friends is just a wee bit larger.

It isn't up to us, it's up to the party you are submitting something to. If they wish to consider posting to the web as "previously published", they will and that's the way it is.

Pamie Ribon who wrote Why Girls Are Weird took her journal down during part of the publishing process at the request of her publisher (I think) because a lot of the journal material went into the book in a somewhat altered fashion.

I don't know the answer, but I disagree with one point made above. Legally, the copyright automatically attaches. Registration only adds some ease of enforcement benefits.

In other words, your stuff published here is subject to copyright protection without your doing anything else.

My take is that posting a story on a blog IS publishing that work, and is also protecting the copyright of that work (assuming it's your work you're posting).

I have heard horror stories about publishers declining blogged works, but I've also heard stories about successful sales of works that started as blog entries. I think it all depends on the publisher.

I would NOT recommend lying to a publisher. What if they previously found your work and already have copies of it? If they have a problem with the material in question, you could offer to remove it from your archives.

I think your web traffic stats would be a good both as an indication of your existing audience (geographic range, devotion, quantity) and as an indication of your potential market/audience.

Because of the relative newness of blogs, some publishers may be lenient regarding 'previously published works', especially since the format (electronic) does not conflict with print.


fred, I'm really glad you asked this question. I've been wondering the same thing myself. I almost posted an excerpt from something I have that's being shopped around for publication. After giving it a bit of thought the other day, I declined to post my excerpt (at least until I had more knowledge).

I appreciate the comments so far. My own research revealed the "did you get paid for it or allow others to sell it" answer. I'll be checking back from time to time to follow any further discussion that shows up in your comments.

Which I had some expertise to offer, but unfortunately, you are asking something I hadn't got around to asking myself. Glad you brought it up, though.

I stepped in just to see what others think. Interesting. I automatically thought that if it has been published either on the Web, print, newsletter, local paper, etc. that it has "been previously published".

ntexas99--I can't help myself. Are you a 99?

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