Over the last few years there has been a massive increase in the availability and accessibility of digital media for both writers and readers. You can very easily set up your own platform to share your work and build a following. It’s become easy to do this. But should you? Should you set up on Wattpad and share your short stories? Should you set up a blog and share your book reviews or writing tips?
The word exposure is often looked upon with disdain in the writing community, but it can be a very helpful tool to build up your brand, and will happen whether you are paid for your writing or not, although it is somewhat dependant on how heavily you promote yourself. To have something to promote, and get you exposure, you have to write. You have to write quite a bit. Your exposure content should mostly be writing for things outside of yourself: magazines, online news outlets, websites, and publishers like Thanet Writers. It does also include your own personal outlets that you share your work on, but, obviously, having things published outside of your own sphere increases your reputation and can help build a following. It also adds quite a lot of weight to you as a writer as well. It’ll be much easier to go to somebody who you want to sell your work to and say, “You can find three articles I wrote for the local newspaper,” instead of, “You can only find my writing on my own blog.”
With your exposure content you need to be using things you’ve written that you either don’t want to make money on, or you’ve tried to get it published elsewhere and it’s not taking. Some places that don’t pay you are happy for the content to be available elsewhere; however, as a rule, most publications want exclusivity. There are some quite complex rules and requirements to do with copyright, but, in general, if you publish something somewhere, it is now dead to everyone else. You can’t do anything with it anymore.
With that in mind, should we, as writers, share parts of our book? I self-published many years ago and am working on rewriting the story to try and take it a traditional publishing route. Because of my self-published past, I have had to accept that it’s going to be extremely difficult to next-to-impossible to get an agent to pick up the book. There are cases where self published authors have gone on to get their book traditionally published, but they are extremely rare. In the same vein, people have got book deals from sharing their work on Wattpad, but they are so few and far between that the odds are definitely not in your favour.
The question you need to ask is: why would a publisher invest in you and your product, with a view to making money by selling it, if it is already accessible for free on the internet?
You can take your content down and try and remove it from the internet but this isn’t really feasible with the amount of archiving and backups that automatically take place on the web. If you want to make money off of your product, or think you could in the future, then don’t give it away for free. This includes Facebook! I see a lot of people who share excerpts of their work on Facebook, their full poems or a page or entire chapters of their books. This is okay, and can be used to build up the buzz around upcoming work or help build a Facebook page, but you need to treat Facebook the same way that you’d treat any other platform. If you put something on there it cannot be sold later on, or even published through a non-paying website that requires exclusivity. Excerpts are okay, but that’s a whole other topic in itself, so try sticking to short passages and never more than a few sentences.
Should you share your work? Yes and no: it boils down to a personal choice. Submitting your work to get exposure can benefit you greatly, but keep something back for yourself. Try and use it to make money from. Whether it is a full novel or a short story that you think has potential, try and do something with it before you just give it away, and if you are going to put it online for free, give it more justice than a measly Facebook status that will be forgotten in a few hours. Put it on a website or submit it to a webzine. Don’t forget that exposure does go a long way to helping you build your name.
© 2017 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.