Friday, October 17, 2008

Publishing Online: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If you've been following this blog you're not surprised to see a post on "the good" part of publishing online. You may be surprised that I added "the bad and the ugly." At the risk of repeating myself I'll start with the good.

Obviously, the Internet has brought about a proliferation in new publications, many of which are open to new and emerging writers as well as being more favorably disposed to genres and work that is edgy and experimental. The submission process has also become easier with even print journals often providing samples of published work online, and while a few diehards still remain, many like Glimmer Train not only allow, but prefer either online or e-submissions, saving writers literally hundreds of dollars in postage and SASEs not to mention paper and print cartridges.

The best part for me is receiving an e-mail from someone who just read a story or article of mine that was published several years ago. In fact,  recently I was offered over $200 bya  company that wanted to re-print an article I wrote in 2006 for a site that pays per hit and from which I was making, at most, $50 per year. There was a time I'd have preferred my articles to appear in the newspaper, but those that did made me only $50 a pop and dropped off the radar the next day.

But just as what goes up must come down, what has a good side must have a bad side. In this case it's increased submissions. Back in the day when one had to peck out a piece on a typewriter (and re-peck it when you made too many typos), then read sample journals, and cart submissions to the PO, only the most dedicated got past the "someday I'm gonna" stage. Now everyone can type out a story and submit, and as an editor/reviewer I've begun to feel that just about everyone does. This doesn't necessarily mean increased competition, because the majority of submissions just aren't that good, but it does mean increased response times, and editors looking for reasons to stop reading rather than continue, making the job of the writer that much harder.

Then there's the just plain ugly side. The side I like to ignore but sometimes can't. Too many people think that writing published on the Internet is free for the taking. Plagiarism isn't so much of an issue as fair use. I have seen my articles posted in their entirety on other sites without my permission.  I once interviewed a college professor who reproduced my entire interview on his site rather than link to it. While I was flattered he wanted to feature my work, I'm sure he would never have considered reproducing something that had appeared in print. Sometimes I find my work on sites I'd rather not be associated with, and in these days when many bloggers include ads on their sites, not linking to the original article can cost a blogger money.

I still love publishing on the Internet, and I wouldn't give it up for anything, but be aware there are bad and even ugly sides to it as well. Forewarned is forearmed.

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