Question of the Week: Posting on FictionPress

30 Apr

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!

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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?

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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.

The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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Honestly, you’ll only see this concern from newer writers. Well, for the most part.

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.

The Literary Agent and Writer With Another Book Deal

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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.

The Writer Querying Agents

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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!)

The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions

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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.

The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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What are your thoughts on posting on FictionPress?

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13 Responses to “Question of the Week: Posting on FictionPress”

  1. Aurora Blackguard April 30, 2010 at 10:53 AM #

    FictionPress.. ah! I don’t know. I’ve only ever had a couple of ideas that really fell through and even then I posted one or two chapters. What I was worried about was that what if I posted my stuff on FP and no comments ever came back. If what Julie said was true, okay, yes, reward would definitely outweigh risk. But what if I didn’t get anything THEN I get plagiarised and THEN said plagiarist got more credit for it??

    Okay, the situation I put before you is purely coincidential (and kinda impossible, if I think about it). Maybe it’s about exposure but what’s the point if I learn NOTHING from FP? I love FP. FP has been the sole reason I haven’t lost my sanity yet. But what if??

  2. Becca April 30, 2010 at 11:27 AM #

    I wrestled with the idea of reposting the rewrite of the novel I hope to get published for a couple of reasons. 1) I really missed the encouragement and as odd as some of the reviews are, readers do point out stuff you are totally oblivious to. 2) I wanted to selfishly gain some readers back that would follow me through the end. I find a lot of agents want to know in your query letter, “how do you plan to market this book?” Fans from FP are a great place to start.

    I decided to post a few new chapters, but some readers have gotten annoyed say “It’s stupid for you to post only a few chaps and not fair to the readers….” So in that way you end up alienating some fans.

  3. Victoria Dixon April 30, 2010 at 11:31 AM #

    I usually avoid posting anything beyond a scene here or there because I’ve seen agents warn against doing it. Publishing your entire ms online constitutes publication and no house will want it, etc.

    I have printed a few scenes on my blog, but, with the exception of the latest scene, they’ve all been rewritten in some way since publication, and they were only scenes. Relatively few people will have any idea how the novel ends. By the time it reaches Barnes & Noble, I may not recognize it. LOL

    BTW, I wanted to make sure someone received my entry for the book cover contest? I’m paranoid, I’ve had so many agents tell me they never received my query.

    • svonnah April 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM #

      Publishing has gotten a lot more open-minded lately… some authors get major book deals based on their online following or their self-publishing (not all, but some). Making your entire ms available online doesn’t constitute publishing in the traditional sense so you’re still covered there. Sarah and I both had multiple complete manuscripts available on FictionPress for years, and it didn’t compromise our ability to be published. I’m sure you noticed Sarah got a book deal for Queen of Glass, and I’m out on submissions. 🙂

    • svonnah April 30, 2010 at 1:53 PM #

      Also, what name did you submit your entry under?

  4. victoria Dixon April 30, 2010 at 2:17 PM #

    I sent it in under Victoria Dixon. The book’s title is Mourn Their Courage.

    • svonnah April 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM #

      It doesn’t appear that we have it. 😦 Can you try resending? letthewordsflowblog at gmail dot com

  5. victoria Dixon April 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM #

    Thanks! I just resent. 🙂

  6. Victoria Dixon April 30, 2010 at 9:03 PM #

    Great! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  7. Vanessa April 30, 2010 at 9:11 PM #

    For fiction, you can’t pitch an idea to a publisher… not if you’re a new/unknown writer. But as a new/unknown writer, you CAN pitch a non-fiction idea to a publisher and get a book deal that way. Actually, almost all non-fiction books are pitched before completion, with a few sample chapters and a basic outline of the content.

  8. Carrie May 2, 2010 at 4:25 AM #

    FictionPress is brilliant if you’re starting out. I remember when I was 13 and a horrid writer. I posted up a story I wrote when I was 10 (which I have to say was much worse than than the story I wrote at 13. To this day, I can’t imagine my rationale at the time). There were some really nice people that pushed me in the right direction and pointed out major flaws I made. I think it really made me grow up as a writer. I didn’t appreciate the comments back then, but I sure do now.

    Some writers are really just paranoid. Can you imagine someone painstakingly copying page after page to send to an agent? If they were asked to do revisions, I think it would end there. Of course, it hurts if something feels stolen but imitation is the best form of flattery. Plus, it’s not that hard to just make them take it down, is it? It only gets complicated if you intend to publish your work. Then, fine.

    But I’m thankful that people like S.J. Maas and Savannah Foley posted up their work. Their works really inspired me. Sure, the writing wasn’t perfect, and they’re probably much, much better now, but I remember it serving as early inspiration for some of my fantasy stories. I wouldn’t have taken the initiative to join a special group that I would have to participate actively in. But FP allowed me to lurk and be exposed to different writing styles. Not to mention, it was free.

  9. plealkemi March 21, 2011 at 5:12 PM #

    Can I links here?

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