In keeping with our discussion of creating proposals, Carol wrote to ask, “Do blog posts count as ‘prior publishing?’ Do I have publishing rights to my work if it’s been printed in a blog or an e-zine?”
This used to be an easy question to answer — if something appeared in a blog, it meant nothing to an editor. Blogs were seen as personal diaries, not as published, marketed venues for writers. They were ephemeral literature, but not as weighty as a newspaper story, not as significant as a magazine article, and certainly nowhere near the importance of a book.
Now all that has changed. Blogs are seen as being great tools for reaching a core audience, for marketing, for sharing an author’s story. And it’s clear that you can sometimes reach far more people with your blog than you will with a book. And with that fact, the importance of blog writing changed. Now every editor will ask if a prospective author has a blog, and if so, how many people read it. So, yes, your blog writing (and the accompanying audience) counts at “previous writing.”
Many editors aren’t comfortable accepting material that has already appeared on a blog. In fact, I just had a contract with a major publisher and we had to negotiate what the author could and couldn’t use from her blog. So make sure to research the publisher (be it books or magazines), and find out if they have guidelines already in place on the topic or re-using material. If you’re worried about selling a piece to a book publisher or magazine, you’re probably wise to not include everything you’ve got on your blog, since the publisher will want some fresh material. And by all means, if you’re asked about it, tell the editor the truth. If you blogged about a topic and now want to write an article on the same subject, admit that you’ve done so in the past. Tell them how popular it was with readers, then revise your piece so that there’s no question of impropriety.