Learning the Hard Way. Again.

7 May

I have a Spring resolution to begin submitting poetry to literary journals, with the hope of getting at least one piece published this year.  I’m not sure yet if this goal is modest or naive, but I figure you’ve got to start somewhere, some time.  So I selected some university journals to submit to, and began the task of choosing and refining the pieces I wanted to offer.

Now, one of the questions I had had about blogging, right from the beginning, was whether or not any poems that I posted for the public would be considered “previously published”, according to an editor at a literary rag.  As you may or mayn’t know, basically every literary journal / press / agent / whatever out there will not consider your work if it has been previously published in any form.  Using common sense (that cruel betrayer) I figured a measly blog couldn’t possibly count, and went on my merry poetic way, posting random verses on Dying Fire, my companion-blog, just to get an idea of how they would be received.  I mean, it’s just a blog, right?  It’s my work, right?  Right.  I started putting poems up, and it was nice to get some feedback, so I put up some more.  I didn’t worry much over the whole “previously published” issue – until I started researching literary journals.

Let’s make a long story short, here:



Online content, even just blogging, is considered by most editors (to my discernment) as “previously published”, and thus typically ineligible for submission to anywhere else.  Once it’s online, it’s off the table.  Why not simply delete the piece, you ask?  Well, if you know the internet, you know that it’s an all-consuming data-whore, and nothing is ever truly erased, even when it is.  Harsh realities, I know.  Thus, when it came time for me to pick the poems that I wanted to send out to the presses, I had to forget about using anything that was on the blog.  Fortunately, that was mostly older material, but there were a couple on there that I would have liked to refine and submit, had they not been permanently banished to the virtual realm by my zealous ignorance.

So today’s short post is a warning to others, a versified-head-on-a-digital-pike, of this potentially irritating technicality.  I’ll still post poetry on my companion-blog, but only bits and pieces that I don’t intend to publish externally.  Of course, the whole issue is certainly subjective – some editors probably couldn’t care less about what’s on your blog, others might be googling every entry they get.  And there are loopholes, like posting “excerpts” for critiquing, while keeping the bulk of the piece unpublished.  But for me, when it comes to the high-anxiety game of literary submissions, I think it’s better not to take chances.  As “budding” writers (i.e., desperate, wriggling worms, begging for fifteen seconds of recognition in an industry of astronomically unlikely odds of success), we don’t need to build ourselves any extra hurdles.

Good writing, and good luck!


5 Responses to “Learning the Hard Way. Again.”

  1. calliopesvoice May 7, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    This is not good news. I’ve wondered about this myself. Thanks for passing on the information. I wonder if this includes essays that are later reworked or lengthened.
    Best of luck to you on your publishing endeavors! I’m sure you’ll let your readers know of your first success. :)

    • Apollo's Crow May 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Nope, not good news at all. And I was surprised at how hard it was to get a definitive answer about it, so I figured I should try and spread the word. The question now is, what can we do, as a community, to continue sharing our work without jeopardizing it’s publishing viability? Because I still think blogging is a great way to get feedback, build support, and connect with like-minds.

  2. emrw May 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Journal editors usually ask for “First [North American*] Serial Rights” which indicate that the item has never been published elsewhere. Even a blog, or on reddit (where I found this post), or in another journal.
    This is a legal matter. It helps to protect them from plagiarism (how do I know that the you who put this on the blog is the you who wrote it?) and other concerns.
    You can, however, include previously published items in a manuscript (ie- chapbook or collection), as the work as a whole becomes what is published, and not individual poems. Some publishers request you limit the inclusion of previously published works to 49%, but that’s on the rare end, from what I’ve seen.
    *insert your lit mag’s area here, but this is typical for the US and Canada.

    • Apollo's Crow May 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      Thank you for your added input. Yea, the issue seems to be “first rights”, which are triggered automatically when one self-publishes, even if it’s just a blog. For people who write only as a hobby, this doesn’t matter. But I think there are many out there who are posting their poems or short stories, without realizing the trap they are laying for themselves if real publication ever becomes an option. I know there is such a thing as “reprint rights”, too – is that where something like a collection manuscript comes in?

      • emrw May 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

        Well, with lit mags – reputable ones anyways – the rights revert to the author after that publication. Some journals – few and far between – will do reprints. Poems / Stories appearing in manuscripts also take that nomenclature. Often, a lit mag will request they are mentioned in the acknowledgments of a manuscript (book-length work).

        As to the question posed above, there are several community-sourced bulletin boards or message boards out there which require a membership (logon/password, and usually free) to read *and* post. These “closed-off” internet communities are usually ok to post work in for feedback, as not just anyone can read them. They also usually work similarly to a workshop, where you had better offer high-level constructive criticism if you expect any response to your own work.

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