From Writer's Relief
Are you considering sharing your poems online with your Facebook friends? Making your recent series of short stories viewable on your blog? Reposting a previously published personal essay on your website?
Stop! Guideline time.
Before you take another step, take a few minutes to consider the following hints and tips lest you fall victim to amateur mistakes that may get you in big trouble later on.
Online Hints and Tips:
Don’t Give Away The Good Stuff. As we’ve said in the past, most literary editors will reject previously published writing immediately. If you plan to submit work to a literary journal, take the safe route and don’t publish it online first. We mean anywhere—for most editors, work appearing on your own personal website counts as being previously published.
Making Friends With Formatting. Nowadays, people spend more and more time on the computer. Since reading on a computer screen has become so commonplace, good formatting is very important. Just think of it this way: If you post a poem online with bright yellow font on a bright green background, potential readers will likely take one look at it and run for their lives. Keep it simple; the less neon, the better.
Organize For Success. If you’re not careful, posting all of your writing samples onto one page can look cluttered and be cumbersome to a reader. If your samples are getting too unruly, consider splitting them up on multiple, easy-to-navigate pages. When your writing is organized and neat (and easy to find), visitors will be more likely to read it.
Creating A Central Hub. If you want a reputation as an author in today’s industry, having an author website is essential for maintaining a central hub for your writing and author persona. Without an official site, your writing will have no online storefront window from which readers can view it. And in today’s electronic world, it will be nearly impossible to market yourself as an author without this kind of online presence.
Hitting The Links. Don’t be afraid to link to other websites that have published your work. When you link to other reputable sites, your credibility climbs. So instead of posting your work on your own site, consider linking to where it already appears online (try the “open in new window” approach so your visitors don’t wander too far away). When readers view your work in the context in which it was originally presented, it can have a much more powerful effect.
Exceptional Excerpts. Go ahead and post excerpts from your book manuscript to create some buzz for the project. If you let visitors get to know your characters and get them excited for a full-length book, agents will see that there is already an audience for your work. If your profound, groundbreaking short story appeared in an online journal, go ahead and throw an excerpt from it onto your site—and link to the original publisher where visitors can read the full piece. And here’s an extra reminder: Add some social share buttons at the top of an excerpt so readers can “like” and “share” the heck out of it.
Getting It Just Right. How much work is too much work to post on your site can be tough to gauge. Here’s a simple guideline: If you’re a book author, there’s no need to post your entire manuscript online (unless you’ve launched an intense and highly successful social media campaign for a self-published book). Most literary agents don’t want to see more than a synopsis or first chapter online. Provide a way for them to query you for more information on the project. For short stories, essays, and poetry, keep it short and sweet. Feature a couple of excerpts of your very best work. Overkill can leave readers feeling bored and oversaturated. In this case, less is more.
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