Being that I just recently got back into writing flash fiction, I reviewed some of my old notes, and came across a reference to an incident that completely slipped my mind.
When a publisher sent me feedback last fall, they mentioned their practice of searching to see if the stories they receive have appeared online prior, and noticed that I "work shopped" mine on Hatrack a month prior. While they conceded this act wasn't an overly big deal to them, they suggested that some publishers might decline to purchase a store that was even partially posted on a crit board.
Maybe, that bit of news unnerved me more than I realized, because since then I have rarely used Hatrack's First 13 threads for stories that were slated for traditional submission.
Has anyone come across this practice before? For those of you who are editors or slush readers...does your publication follow this practice to any degree?
Of course...if anyone else is as secretive and/or as cautious and/or as paranoid as I am, I would be happy to swap flash crits even-up.
I've seen this cropping up more and more, and I ignore it. It's a fairly short-minded view, in my opinion. Pieces that are critiqued are just going to be stronger, and potential readers will enjoy them more. Getting honest feedback from people who owe you nothing is the best way to determine how compelling your writing is.
Plus, how many books have been picked up by publishers after they were already out on the internet? "50 Shades of Grey" was online at some point, right? That's how the author knew he had a fan base for his writing.
If your story is good enough, publishers will come up with a reason to take it that bends their rules, whether it's been workshopped online or not.
Posts: 357 | Registered: Nov 2011
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But I think evidence of it being worked on and of its current success online (smashwords) ought to be major pluses for publishers. I don't understand their policies in this regard.
Posts: 103 | Registered: Jun 2013
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But you weren't allowed to publish more than 13 lines of it here, and the number of people who gave you feedback on it was infinitesmal compared to how many they would anticipate buying it if they went ahead and bought it from you and published it.
That sounds like a pretty lame excuse for rejection to me. If it wasn't a "big deal" to them, why did they even mention it at all?
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Frankly, I never share my A-material in any workshop venue: in person or online. One time early on, I used a well-remarked voice technique that had come to me through hard-won deliberation. The very next session another writer had used it in the writer's workshop submission. Sure, that's the way workshops are supposed to work, but what took me agonizing hours to develop a unique expression was trivialized, and used lamely, in a finger-snap instant.
As far as online posted workshop content being rejected for prior publication, the policy is fluid, tending toward heightened initial resistance, relaxing when a publisher deliberates on the functions and purposes of online workshops; and a convenient, quick and dirty stateable reason to reject an otherwise unwanted submission.
Flash fiction, though, for its brevity convention, tends to post perhaps more substantive content than a best practice ought to. How much word-count real estate is appropriate? Less than ten percent? How much flash fiction content serves the role of introductions that a first page's submission introductions does for longer prose lengths? One-sixteenth? One-twelfth? Maybe as much as one-tenth? A voluntary strategy for posting flash fiction excerpts might respect a sort of less-than thirteen lines choice, that nonetheless presents an adequate introduction act. Hence fostering a new Hatrack paradigm that focuses on flash fiction's foreshortened introduction real estate and protects workshop content from capricious exposure.
I don't think anyone would be amazed, but most anything can be found online anymore. Where there's a will there's a way. I routinely check manuscripts for possible plagiarism and infringement when I'm suspicious a part or parcel is not in the same voice as the usual or rest of a writer's body of work. Heads have rolled. Lives and careers ruined. For egregious malappropriation. Correction resorted to for innocent laziness. As a publisher, I have a duty to protect reputations, mine as much as anyone's.
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