- What is considered previously published work?
- Why won't literary agents consider previously published work?
- When CAN you successfully submit previously published work?
Defining Previously Published Work
Today, if your work appeared just about anywhere, including online in a blog, digital lit journal, social media or otherwise, literary journals and editors don't want it. Why? Because they want to make sure that their work is new, engaging, fresh and unique. If it's been out there already (no matter how innocent the sharing was) it's out of the question. They also want to steer clear of any rights violations or issues as well that can now arise with previously published work. So if I post on a blog, share a snippet on an online journal, or even cough up a brilliant comment on social media, THAT'S considered previously published material?
To many that is considered previously published work.
But what about private forums that required a secured login? Surely those can't be pinned as previously published work, right? Here, you've got some leg room. If you unveil an amazing piece of work on a forum or web board, most editors and literary agents will consider it for publication because those areas of the internet are private and intended for community use and feedback. Still, web-crawlers and caches can still have it pop up online and you may want to remove so that it doesn't cause conflict later on.
Quite a hairy dilemma right? I will admit I have done my fair share of online posting and work sharing. I've signed up for forums and support boards such as "Writer's Cafe" and "We-Book" and I never thought twice about it, until I tried to publish a short piece and was told it was previously online, thus it's "integrity" had been compromised!
Larger Writing Projects
A word to the wise. Know your limitations. Literary agents seek out potential talent for a living. They have a keen eye for the business and they are virtually marketing experts when ti comes to representation and lucrative investment in a new author. If they comb the net and find you (and 9 out of 10 times they will), they will see it as unappealing and even irresponsible. Let's not forget previously published work that is completely intentional such as self-publishing may put off an agent because you have been receiving income on the work already, without their help.
Technology is still light years ahead of the publishing industry in the way of trends, laws and rights. There is no doubt that these things are rapidly changing as we speak. As a general rule, it is best to remain on the side of caution and refrain from blasting the internet with your prized literary works of art. Take the proper steps and go the safe route. Seek an agent BEFORE you post work and save yourself the headache of previously published work issues.