Today’s blog post is brought to you by the Letter S for Stupid and the Number 1 for All it takes is one website to lock you out.

Confused? I’ll explain.

[Warning: No animated GIFs in this post, either. Although if I could find one of me smacking my head against my keyboard, I admit it would be appropriate. You’ll just have to imagine that one. Instead, I offer you this photograph by Ondrej Supitar via Unsplash.]

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You already know I write flash fiction. Some of it’s decent; some of it gets picked up by nice editors. I pen stuff, I submit it, and the nice editors look it over as long as I follow their submission guidelines.

And, in most cases, as long as whatever I’m submitting hasn’t been previously published.

Let’s talk about that term “previously published” for a moment. For a whole mess of people in the editing world, “previously published” refers to any work that has been made available to the public. Yes, your website counts. Yes, your friend’s website counts. Yes, that crappy online lit mag you submitted to because you were desperate for an acceptance counts.

It all counts. And once your work is up there in the ether, you’ll find at least 75% of flash fiction markets have locked their doors.

For example, take these numbers from Duotrope.

Minimum rate / Total # of markets / # of markets accepting reprints

Token / 240 / 57
Semi-pro / 154 / 28
Pro / 62 / 10

See those numbers? I could put up a fancy chart for you, but we’ll stick with the locked door analogy. Imagine your four-room apartment. Now imagine three of those rooms being locked. Highly un-fun (particularly if one of the locked rooms is the loo).

Which is where I might as well chuck one of my favourite bits of flash because I was incredibly stupid. And it doesn’t matter that I was incredibly stupid only once–once is all it freaking takes.

Wondering what I did? I’ll tell you: I posted something I wrote on someone else’s blog and the owner of that blog has absolutely zero interest in removing my words. Zero. No, I won’t tell you where to find my bit of writing (I don’t even consider it mine anymore), but it’s published and I can’t do a damned thing about it.

So, friends, the next time you send your hard work out–whether to a two-bit ezine, a fun little contest that gives you no publication points, or your ex-mother-in-law’s blog, remember this: when you hand over control of your writing, you’re locking doors and burning bridges and cooking yourself like a Christmas goose.

6 thoughts on “Previously published (or, don’t be as stupid as I was)

  1. Well, that’s rotten luck. I can’t imagine someone refusing to remove your work so that you can have it published…for real. Out of curiosity, how are publishers when it comes to work you’ve posted on your own blog, but are willing to remove?

    1. I couldn’t imagine it either, which is why I was quite surprised by the “No, I won’t do that” response I received to what I thought was a polite request (I would go out of my freaking way to honour one from a writer). But hey, I’m young (as far as writing goes), and I suppose I can afford a silly mistake like this one. I should have known better.
      As for publishers and work posted on your blog, I see time and time again that a lot of lit mags don’t want that. I’d simply take it down before submitting. That said, I believe some editors load submissions into plagiarism-checkers like TurnItIn (I certainly would) and that may turn up a cached page with your writing on it, so best to be honest and upfront. The flash fiction world is a small one, and you don’t want to be on anyone’s blacklist.

  2. Ugh, that sucks, and so not cool for that blog to refuse your request. That said, you bring up an excellent point that some authors might be unaware of. Something as simple as posting a story on your blog or even on a message board constitutes “publication” for some markets and automatically puts your work into the reprint zone.

    1. I thought it was uncool, too, and such an easy thing to fix. As I said in an earlier comment, if a writer asked me politely (and provided the link and time/date stamps as I did), I’d do it in a heartbeat.
      But yes, all whining aside, the point of the post was to raise the alert flag w.r.t. what “previously published” means.
      Thanks, as ever, for weighing in!

  3. You could put that favourite piece of yours here on your own blog so we could read it. :) Since it’s already been published…

    Generally, I don’t encourage writers to publish stories on their blogs because for newb writers that may mean no one even reads it. And yet they’re spending their first publication rights doing it.

    1. I could do that, Sylvia, but then we’d all be just a google away from knowing who the other blog owner is. :-)

      As far as posting on one’s own blog–I wholeheartedly agree. And a lot of folks don’t realise that “published” doesn’t mean you’re on the shelf in B&N or Waterstones.

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