Indypub: From blog posts to ebooks (aka story virginity)

Trivia for the day:  A codex isn’t a prophecy – which, for some reason, was what I had been thinking it was – but a bound manuscript book, as in ancient annals, scriptures, etc.  I think if you took a bunch of computer paper with you to a conference to take notes, then had them bound at Kinko’s, that would be a codex.  The digital equivalent is probably publishing your blog as an ebook.

Which leads right into my blog post, although I didn’t plan it that way…

Okay.  Let’s say you publish fiction on your blog.

You’ll hear it all day long, if you care to listen:  don’t publish fiction on your blog, don’t publish fiction on your blog, it’s the writerly equivalent of jumping the shark, don’t publish fiction on your blog, na na na.

Because, of course, you are “giving away” your first publication rights.

When is this important? If you intend to sell the story to a market that doesn’t take reprints, or that doesn’t take unsolicited reprints.

When is this not important?  If you intend to sell the story to a market that takes reprints.

Now, I’m assuming that if you’re epublishing your own work, you are your own publisher and you don’t have mental issues about reprints per se.  However, if you’ve published the work on your blog (for free), is it ethical to publish the work as an ebook (not for free)?

My thought is that:

  • This is not a legal issue; stories are reprinted in different pay formats all the time.
  • People do loss leaders on ebooks:  should a free ebook not also have a free print version?  Uh, no, that doesn’t logically follow; if a story is free in one format, it doesn’t necessarily have to be free in other formats.
  • Converting a blog post to an ebook adds value to the story (convenience for ebook readers).  I, myself, have purchased ebooks that I could read for free on people’s websites (for example, see Kris Rusch’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide.  You can still read it as a series of blog posts; I recommend the book, as she did updates for the book, and reading it on your ereader leaves a lot less crick in your neck).  It ensures the reader has an archival copy, with a pretty cover, that has been re-edited (blog posts can be touch and go).  Value.  You added it.
  • If they read it off your blog or wherever it was originally posted–more power to them.  In fact, I recommend stating where any reprint was originally published, at the beginning of the ebook.  Be honest and upfront about it.  (Hm…I should check a couple of things that were on other people’s blog posts.) I have maybe five copies of “For the Blood is the Life” by F. Marion Crawford scattered through horror anthologies in the house.  Am I angry about having paid for all of them?  Heck no.
  • The real issue is thinking, “In what cases are my stories worth money?”  Ethics isn’t just about treating your customers fairly; it’s also about how you treat yourself, to ensure long-term viability.  In the long term, your stories are worth money.  They are worth paying for.  Provide the options to let the readers decide how they want the story.  Stories put up on blogs are there to attract attention–a long-term investment.  You didn’t post that story for free; it just didn’t cost the readers money.  It was a valuable story all along, doing valuable work.

In short, stories aren’t like virgins; they still have value after their “first publication rights” have popped.

So publish those blog stories, using the same care you do for editing, cover art, formatting, etc., and let your readers decide.

Also, keep an eye out for reprint markets.

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2 Comments

  1. Liz

    I’ve heard the “don’t post stories on your blog” mantra so many times, and it’s kind of stuck with me; any time I do post a story on my blog, it’s a first, very rough draft, and is password-protected so that only a select few can read it. I’ve been too scared to post a story publicly on my blog since I first heard that it was bad to do. I even took down my NaNoWriMo novel from last year almost right away because I intended to edit it and eventually publish it (either myself or traditionally), and a lot of its readers told me they were sad that they couldn’t reread it.

    I want my stories read, and I want to know whether they’re good or bad, so posting them on my blog really helps with that. Knowing that they’re no less valuable if I do so really helps ease my anxiety about it.

  2. De

    Well, keep in mind that if you want to submit them to a magazine that wants first publication rights, you can’t make the story publicly available. I think in your case, with the password protection, you’re okay.

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