Hey all, just a quick reminder, we are still having a Comedy Contest, the deadline for which is May 1st. We’ve got some entries already, so crack open your arsenal of hilarity and crack our ribs in the process!
And another reminder for the fantabulous Book Cover Contest which is also still running! The deadline is May 1st as well, so break out the coloured pencils and flaunt your visual art skills!
After our interview with the Plagiarism Haven group on livejournal last week, we thought this question from Cassie was particularly relevant:
I was wondering how you all got over the paranoia that comes with posting a story on a site like FictionPress. The way I see it, it’s better to post something on a site to see what others think – in a totally unbiased opinion (since friends could potentially say it rocks to make you feel better or something). But – and maybe it’s just me – I’m almost too paranoid to post anything I feel is moderately-publishable simply due to plagiarism. Like, what if while my story is posted, someone copy/pastes whatever I have so far and finishes it off in their own way before I can? And it gets published under their name? There really wouldn’t be any way to refute their ownership, would there?
I suppose my question is: how were you able to get over that paranoia (if you even experienced it)? And is it possible to “pitch” an idea to a publisher even if the story isn’t completely finished yet?
When I started posting QUEEN OF GLASS on FictionPress (back in 2002), I had NO paranoia whatsoever–mostly because it was years before any kind of plagiarism scandal rocked the site, and years before I even considered QOG worthy of publication. As the years passed, and I came to realize that QOG could potentially be published, I began to wonder if posting it online would somehow hurt my chances.
I wound up removing the story from FP right when I queried agents–to avoid any kind of complications. Thankfully, any lingering paranoia I have about copies of QOG floating around on the internet is abated by the fact that the new draft is completely and utterly different from the version on FP–even the ending of the series has been altered. So, if people think they know how the series will end, they’re in for a biiiig surprise.
All that being said, I think FP is a wonderful place to begin building your readership base. Without the support of my FP readers and the invaluable feedback they gave me about the series, I never would have gotten this far! It’s amazing to have a group of rooting for you, and following you from FP to publication. If you’re uncomfortable posting your work on FP, then consider sharing the first few chapters or something–just enough to get people enticed.
Because once you’ve been around the block you realize how really freakin difficult it is to get a book published. So, the idea that someone who doesn’t even have any original ideas (otherwise why are they stealing yours?) is able to steal, write, and publish, well, it’s a bit far fetched.
Copyright law is such that your work is copyrighted the moment you write it. And in theory, its easily provable that you wrote it– you have drafts, a date stamp on your FP work, maybe some emails with your friends brainstorming the plot, etc. If, on the off chance it really does get ripped off, chances are you’ll recoup any losses.
Just my two cents. I dont worry about posting work online– I’ve left my older stories up permanently, and I share teasers on my blog.
Mostly, I haven’t been worried about plagiarism; my posted WIP is a big, sprawling, unpublishable mess with important information missing. The other things I’ve posted are short stories and I’m not really worried about them. I’ve googled important phrases sometimes to check if anyone’s stolen my work but I haven’t found anything. I think that published authors and nonfiction writers can sell books based on outlines but I don’t know about unpublished authors.
I agree with Mandy. If someone steals your work and profits from it, you can prove that the work is yours. The date a work goes up online is permanently associated with that work. I guess if this happened to me I would just take whatever action was necessary to recoup any lost income. On the other hand, if someone stole my work and called it their own but didn’t profit, (say, by posting it under their name on their own blog,) I guess I would be angry, but I don’t think it would be my un-doing.
I also think most of us take precautions to avoid being plagiarized. For instance, I’ve never posted more than the first several chapters of a novel I think might be publishable.
Writing – and in fact life in general – requires a constant evaluation of risk versus reward. I think the rewards I reaped from being a part of the FictionPress community far exceeded any risks I took by posting my work there.
To address your other question, if you are an unpublished writer of fiction, you can’t pitch your work to a publisher if it’s not complete (which is another great reason to feel secure about posting the first chapters of a novel-length work!)
When I was actively posting on FictionPress, I had to hide this from my parents because they were afraid someone would steal my work and get it published under their name. Obviously we all know how unlikely it is that would actually happen, but I still have a sealed copy of the original draft of Antebellum in my desk that I certified mailed to myself years ago. Just in case.
So I don’t think that FictionPress writers have to worry about big-time plagiarism, but as the Plagiarism Haven ladies have taught us, there are those out there who might steal your work and post it somewhere else, not for profit, but for vanity.
My objection to posting on FictionPress these days is that it takes away the suspense from your published work. I had two, almost three complete novels posted on FictionPress, and though they have undergone a severe facelift, the general plot is still the same, as are the endings. So there are still those out there who could completely spoil the plot of the second book if my first book has any success.
I didn’t take my stories down until I went on submissions, but I have no doubt that they needed to be taken down. Why would someone go to the trouble of publishing my books if they are still available for free online? Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t leave up some sample chapters… I believe in posting chunks or chapters for free to get people interested in your work. Just not the whole shebang.
If you are a debut author you can’t pitch an unfinished project to an agent, let alone a publisher. But once you have a good track record you can sell books to publishers based on ideas alone.
What are your thoughts on posting on FictionPress?