Monday, 26 April 2010

Don't post online? Post online?

What is an aspiring author to do? We want to whip our little word darlings into shape. We, perhaps, want to share snippets with our fantastic followers. After all, they hear us talk about our wip so much they must get kinda curious as to if it really exists :)

I've read conflicting articles about posting some of your work online.

Chuck Sambuchino posted about the perils of posting chunks of your wip online. Note, he doesn't mean don't get feedback from beta readers or online critique groups because there are some awesome ones (to who I am very grateful for whipping my lame query into shape!). He means posting large sections of your wip on your blog.

His argument is that writers steal stuff.

On Writer Unboxed Jane Friedman posted about not being scared to post work online. You can increase your audience and get interest in a project.

And published authors do this as too.

Michelle Pavers' novel Wolf Boy can be downloaded as free podcasts on itunes. Her book still sells.

Stephenie Meyers' novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner will go online on June 7th-July 5th for free. Will it stop the book selling? Not from the amount of people who have told me they have ordered it. Or the assistants who ask if I want to pre-order it when I go in bookshops. Have I ordered it, nope but I'm curious.

The thing is, these examples are published authors. Would they do this is they didn't already have an audience? Would they risk the hours of work, sweat, editing and chocolate consumption they put into writing these books?

Katharina Gerlach is an agented author in Germany seeking publication in the U.S. She took the decision to post a free serialization of her novel The Witches Of Greenwitch.

She knows she has given away the first worldwide print rights by doing it. But it has increased her audience. Will anyone steal the idea? Who knows, I hope not.

There is also another post here about the perils of posting online.

I can see both sides. I understand the argument that ideas are not copyrighted, anyone can adapt and change them for their own devices. Now, I don't go on other blogs, read an excerpt and think "Oh great idea, let me steal it." But I'm not naive enough to think this doesn't happen.

Still, I'd like to think that most writers are more focused on getting their own ideas out there than stealing mine/yours/whoever they come across.

After all, we all know there are only so many plots out there.

Shakespeare adapted stories and no one is suing him for stealing ideas (bit hard really but you get my point, hehee). Tristan and Isolde - and countless other stories - is the framework for Romeo and Juliet. Yup, William S. was one of the masters of adapting old myths and legends.

Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Romeo & Juliet were all used in some way in the Twilight books.

So all these ideas have been used in other novels/plays etc. Which leaves me with the impression that it isn't the material, it's what you do with it that counts.

Maybe one day some future novelist will adapt our ideas. And -hopefully - they won't get them off a blog but from our books.

So where do you stand on the whole excerpt online?

22 comments:

MissV said...

I was reading these same articles over the weekend and couldn't decide where I stood for sure.

I think most of the beauty of ANY art form (music, paintings, sculpture, AND writing) is in the execution.

Tell a group of artists the theme is 'mermaid' and you will get thousands of unique interpretations.

In this respect posting online would not bother me.

If, however, I had a really unique idea, I think I would keep that under my hat, at least until it was finished.

One thing I didn't see addressed was if you ARE posting sections online and someone DOES steal it, can't you prove it was your idea by the dates on the postings?

Matthew Rush said...

I can see both sides of the argument. I would say the benefits of posting online would outweigh the draw-backs.

The chances of someone stealing your idea in such a way that they actually found commercial success are very very slim.

Then again if it did happen it would be almost impossible to do anything about it. Copyright infringement is difficult to prove and is not a criminal offense. Someone would have had to have made a lot of money from your idea before they were even worth suing.

Angela said...

I have posted excerpts from my novel on my blog, but I must admit it was with trepidation because of this very issue. I liked the idea of sharing my writing with my followers, and most recently I posted the first paragraph of my MS for open critique.

Unfortunately, I rarely get comments on excerpts...not that someone stealing my idea is going to post anyway, but I believe in the future I may reserve sharing my novel with beta readers, and use my blog to talk about writing, agents, querying and the such.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I woke up to Chuck's comments this morning. I've toyed with the idea of posting excerpts from my wip. When I have, it's to demonstrate a point I'm making in my post. I tend not to read excerpts from other writer's wip on their blogs 'cause I don't have time to read them and read all the brilliant posts like this one. Plus what if I love the excerpt? It's not like I'm an agent or publisher. So chances are good I'll never see the rest of the book. So why waste my time reading it? ;)

Mayowa said...

These guys have it right.

Perhaps the question isn't so much "will someone steal this idea," perhaps its more of "does posting excerpts do anything at all for unpublished authors."

I do post excerpts from my work and others on my Excerpt Tuesday posts. Like Angela and Stina said, i rarely get comments. 'The Google' tells me they rarely get read too.

JustineDell said...

I can see both sides, too and I think as an unpublished writer, you have to do what you think is best for you.

I had the first chapters of my 3 stories on my FB page, but after I got friends outside of my family circle, I took them down. Yet, I posted the first chapter of a short story I'm writing for my daughter on my blog. The difference? I want to my books published, my daughters short story is just for fun. So, basically, you won't find any of my romance novel snippets online. That's they way I am. But I understand other people are different and it that works for them...Great! But not so much for me. I'm super protective (not to mention terrified) of sharing my work. So, I'll just keep it to myself for.

Thanks for the interesting blog post!

~JD

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm not so much worried about people stealing my story by posting a small snippet - there's usually not enough there to reveal the entire storyline. However, I'm one who is uneasy about posting snippets of work (that I'm looking to get published) on my blog - though, that could be because it's not gone through enough edits/polishing yet. I'm still up in the air over this whole issue.

Talli Roland said...

I know - I read Churck's article too and it made me think. I think you need to be careful, but not paranoid. Someone might take your high concept, but they'll never write it the same way as you will. After all, how many people have written about relationships in so many different ways?

Shannon said...

I read this article, too, and wasn't sure where I stood.

I can't imagine anyone purposefully taking another writer's work. As far as ideas go, a well-known agent once told me "there aren't any original ideas, it's all in the execution."

Still, I think it's a hell of a lot easier to share your work when you're established in your career.

Jen said...

I think everyone will have to form their own opionion since there are so many different views on the subject.

I myself don't plan on plastering my entire story online, but a few snippets here and there never hurt anyone. I never share the deep parts of my novel, however some of the more intriguing parts I do, I want people to enjoy the story and want to know more so I choose an intense scene or action scene. No one could take that scene and create what I created chapters after it. Everyone has their own voice, so the story is never the same.

My view, hope it helped :)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Wow, I'm glad everyone read the article. It really made mew think and your comments, as usual, are fantastic :)

Miss V. I agree about the execution bit. Also curious as to what would happen if someone stole the idea. I'm not sure you could sue anyone. Interesting point though.

Matthew. I see what you mean. There are always pros and cons to posting online.

Angela. Thanks for your insights. It's interesting how hardly anyone comments on exerpts. Hmm.

Justine. Nicely put. I think it is a personal preference.

Jaydee. Revision is a good example of why I don;t post exerpts. Like you, I want my story to be in good shape before I post. But I can see the benefit of people who do post and get feedback.

Talli. That seems to be a good message, careful but not paranoid :)

Shannon. Great quote from that agent. I think it is easier for published authors to share their work.

Jen. Thanks for your view :)I agree that everyone has a different viewpoint and, like writing, none of us do things the same. Thanks for making the distinction between posting exerpts that don't reveal too much about the story. As the author you have the power on what you share.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I can see the pros and cons of both sides, but I like to think that other writers--or at least the ones who actually read my blog--are much too cool to steal or even borrow my ideas. However, when I do post snippets of my WIP I only post little snippets. And they are often random and contain no major plot points.

We must protect ourselves, but it's fun to read small snippets from others WIPs. Plus, it's fun to hear feedback. It often motivates to think: "Well maybe I don't suck too bad." LOL ;)

Palindrome said...

I personally don't because it's not in its final stages and who's going to give you an honest opinion? No one.

I don't like to read other people's work and usually skip a post if that's what it is. If you want my advice and want me to beta or critique a certain part, sure but otherwise, no.

And as far as someone stealing it, if they're going to, they're going to. You have the rights to it and the rules are pretty clear, if you have anything with a date on it, you're fine.

Lydia Kang said...

I am definitely not a fan of posting my WIP online. It feels to personal. I posted one sentence from my WIP and even that made me nervous!
Also, I'm not a fan of reading other people's work online. I feel pressured to leave only positive comments, and I can't always do that.

Jana Hutcheson said...

Wow. Excellent post! You've really given me something to think about.

Deb Salisbury said...

I've posted a couple of chapters on my website, but I don't plan to on my blog. I'm not worried about someone stealing my ideas - they have to go to the work of actually writing a book. I think I'll take the chapters down soon, though, because I've revised them a few times.

Aspen said...

Hi there =)

I just stumbled onto your blog and accidentally found myself having spent an hour reading through your archives and just had to let you know I love it =)

And I am now following you =)

cipherqueen said...

My policy is don't post more than 3 chapters of any collective plotline online. Let beta's wade through the rest, and only send material in small chunks after they've sent some of thiers.

Alright, so I've a *tad* overprotective... but then, I lost my first two novels to not having internet access. Can you blame me?

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Mayowa. You made a really good point, rather than wondering if anyone is going to steal your work will it benefit you? Having never posted exerpts it's always interesting to read about the responses to people who do.

Kimberly. I agree, the writers who read/follow our blogs are way too cool for 'stealing'. I read your exept yesterday and enjoyed it:)

Palindrome. I forgot about the whole dates on work bit. Nice reminder:)

Lydia. I see what you mean about feeling obliged to leave a comment. But, from all the feedback I think it is a really personal thing about posting online like you say.

Jana. Glad you liked it. It made me think too so, of course, I had to share it with you :)

Deb. True, even if they stole the idea they would still have to write the book. You have a head start there :)

Aspen. Welcome, it's nice to have you here. I'm glad you enjoyed my posts:)

Cipherqueen. Nice policy about only posting 3 chapter chunks. I can't blame you for being protective at all.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Great question, Lindsay :) I have a page reserved on my (still-under-development) official writer's site for an excerpt, but I'm still on the fence about posting one. I think I'm leaning toward *not* posting online, but not for any major reason than it just makes me vaguely uncomfortable, and I tend to listen to my gut instinct :D Thought-provoking post!

Traci said...

We're on the same wavelength! I just blogged about Chuck's great article, too! You make great points about Shakespeare and Twilight. This whole "sharing" thing has shades of gray, I think. I guess, ultimately, it's a personal choice each writer has to make...

Damyanti said...

I haven't written anything novel-length yet, so I dunno if I shall post excerpts.

In short stories, you pretty much can't unless you don't want it published in book form. Once an anthology is out however, it might be an idea to post a story on the site...but this depends on the agreement you have with your publisher.

Love the blog btw, and am following you!