Chip MacGregor

March 19, 2008

Online Writing and Publishing


Susan wrote to ask, "What is your opinion of e-publishing as a means to break into traditional publishing?"

I’ve yet to see this work much. I keep hearing about authors who plan to e-publish their novel one chapter at a time, which is an interesting concept and might be a nice alternative to those writers with a niche readership, but I’m not seeing it translate into regular royalty-paying deals. Stephen King tried selling his novel chapter-by-chapter and it went nowhere. And now publishers are becoming wary of allowing an author to include material in a book that has already been available on a blog or website or e-zine. I still believe the web is a great training ground for authors, but I’m not sure the practice of e-publishing is actually going to get you a traditional publishing deal.

Laura wants to know, "When an author sends an electronic proposal to an editor at a publishing house through a referral or because of a meeting at a writers’ conference, how long should the author expect to wait for a reply?"

It varies on the editor, the house, and the season (some seasons are busier than others), but it’s generally fair to say that an author will probably hear within 12 weeks or so. If you’ve been waiting longer than 3 months, it’s fine to check back with the editor, just to see if they’re still considering it. Be patient — publishing is a slow process.

Lynn writes to say, "I have an article that has been showcased on an online writers’ forum and has proven popular. Now I’d like to find a publication where I could submit my article. Since most magazines have an online edition, would they consider my article already published?"

You’re asking the question many writers are wondering. The fact is, this topic is still being debated, so I don’t have a definitive answer for you, Lynn. Check the magazine’s guidelines — they may state clearly that an article previously appearing on a website or e-zine is considered "published." However, if they don’t clearly preclude this practice, then you can probably assume they’ll consider it "unpublished." Everyone is still trying to decide if blogs and e-zines constitute publication or not.

Janet wrote, "Some authors I know have created promotional videos for their unpublished novels. There are 2-minute videos, combining photos, text, and music — sort of a music trailer for their book, made available online. Do you think there’s any value to doing this and putting it on your website?"

I’ve seen a couple of these videos that were really well done, and I’ve seen some that were hilariously bad (over the top romantic; shoddy camera work; authors taking themselves too seriously). My response? If it’s well done and helps promote your work, it certainly seems like a good idea. I don’t think it will necessarily help you get a deal — let’s face it, even an award-winning video won’t help you find a publisher if your writing is bad. But I don’t see how this could possibly harm your chances, and it might make a nice sales tool.

Rita wrote and noted, "I attend local RWA meetings, and read a number of writing websites. There are quite a few members writing paranormal romances. Is that growing in popularity? And could it survive in CBA?"

It certainly seems to be a growth category, Rita. There are already a number of CBA writers crafting paranormal stories, so its popularity in CBA is already a fact. Whether it has legs is another question — some publishers seem to be moving slowly into the category.

Ashley wrote and asked,  "What sort of encouragement can you give an aspiring writer who over-analyzes everything? I can sometimes have a tough time believing in myself and my writing. I read books on writing, then think too much, get too critical, and start to criticize everything. I end up thinking my writing is just BAD. Help!"

Hey, I understand how you can feel that way, Ashley. But remember something: you do NOT have to get published. I mean, the value of your life is based on something other than getting your words printed somewhere. There is value in writing, not just in being published. So ask yourself, "Why do I want to write?" Is it to make money? To become famous? To change people? I think, for most of us, we simply have stories we want to tell. So tell them. If you’re at a place where you’re over-analyzing things, decide to write more simply. Don’t write for publication — write letters. Write a prayer. Write in a journal. Write a story to a child. Look for a way to write something enjoyable, without the need to be self-critical or to judge it against someone else’s proposed guidelines. If you’re not stuck having to meet a book contract deadline, any pressure you’re feeling is self-imposed, so write something that is freeing, and come back to that Great American Novel some other day.

AND if you’re in the need for some actual laughter today, I urge you to check out the video at For everyone who writes or advertises on the web, this is essential gear. Trust me — big smiles or your money back!

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