Publishing elsewhere for early feedback and self-marketing...Shameful?

by Hana

Question: I have a story that I'm considering serializing on a quick and free publishing site for original fiction (i.e. Wattpad, Booksie, Fictionpress, etc.).

However, my mid-term goal would be to publish said story, and I believe that these sites would help me: a) analyze whether there's a market for the story (i.e. reader demand for updates); b) finish the story (motivation), and c) continually edit and implement balanced plot structure via direct interaction with readers.

So, is this shameful?

As in I don't want to offer a story for free, and then yank that opportunity away from readers.

I am even thinking that I can reconcile my dilemma by putting up a few chapters to determine whether I want to continue to complete it through these above sites, or whether I'll leave that part up as a marketing tool and self-publish, or take the chapters down and query agents.

On another note, a great example of this type of marketing would be how publishers sometimes release longer excerpts of stories (from both established authors with established stories or new stories, and from debut authors with new stories or a new story in a new field).

For instance, I just finished reading Laini Taylor's free 7-chapter excerpt of her upcoming release "Days of Blood and Starlight" (a "gift" from her publisher). And I recall reading the first 100 pages of (then first time author) Veronica Roth's Divergent, her 2011 debut novel (which I believe is still available through her blog). And of course, there's E.L. James--the difference being her work was completed originally as fan fiction--and her lucrative Fifty Shades Trilogy (which I have as the original fan fiction in .pdf format).

But that didn't stop me from comparing James' now-published, now-original novels with her then-published, then-fan fiction version and realizing that the two stories are virtually identical (which has been felt by some readers to be a little miserly on the author's part when sometimes only the names of the hero and heroine have been altered). For this comparison, check out Jane Little's
DearAuthour blog:

I know it seems I'm ranting while trying to rationalize my happiness, but I want the facts (as they stand currently) to be laid out there before I get answer(s).

BTW, thank you again for that fast reply to my question yesterday!

It was a pleasant surprise to wake up at 1:30 this morning--tired as I was--only to see that my question had already been answered! (less than 24 hours! As a matter of fact, less than 12 hours! 8D)

It definitely eases up one of the many problems I have as I'm pushing through the plotting stage.

Answer: A lot of budding writers are using this type of online self-publishing or pre-publishing for the same reasons you describe.

Part of the motivation is also the fact that it's extremely difficult to get a publishing contract. Even if you have a great book, it can seem like the odds are against you. Publishers seem to want little besides guaranteed bestsellers. Getting some positive feedback can help you maintain your perseverance. Or, if you have a bad book, it can save you much wasted time trying to sell it.

As with the examples you give, in some cases (admittedly rare) pre-publishing can lead to a publishing contract. The publisher assumes that the new edition will be sold to readers who haven't seen the original, and most of the time that is true. They want you to take the original version offline because it would compete with the new one. There's nothing unfair about this. It's like giving away free samples of ice cream in order to attract customers. Sure, some people complain when you start charging for cones, but they have no real grounds.

From the publisher's point of view, if your book attracts a lot of praise and readers online - or if it makes a lot of money - it can signal that your book is worth moving to the top of the slushpile.

I suspect these sites are going to become training grounds for a lot of future professional writers.

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Feeling better...
by: Hana

Thanks for the reply, Glen!

I'm already feeling better, and it's made my resolve to pre-publish stronger. =)

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