With the ease of self-publishing and the changes in how readers can get access to the stories they love, there are more and more questions to what exactly counts as ‘published’. Although it might seem like a no-brainer that anything put out for sale is considered published, it goes a little bit farther than that because of something called first print rights.
Like the name implies, these are rights that go to whoever gets the privilege of printing or publishing a story first. This includes digitally published materials, which doesn’t just include things that are published directly to e-readers. It also includes things posted on the internet in general.
That means if you post a short story on your blog, you’ve used up the first rights on that particular story. If you intend to later publish it elsewhere, you’ll have to look carefully at places accepting reprints and what their conditions are. Remember too that once on the internet it’s out there forever. Simply removing it doesn’t return the first print rights.
There are of course, benefits to sharing and posting pieces to your own platform, especially as you try to build your audience. Not only will it help you attract readers who will get a taste of your style and become interested, it can also help you get your feet wet and learn how to market your work and interact with your community.
This also means that you yourself automatically retain those rights without having to decipher the legal jargon of a binding contract.
There are pros and cons of publishing in all its forms, and like anything else, it takes careful research and analysis of the benefits and risks. Thankfully the internet not only brought new changes to the world of publishing, but also the tools to navigate those changes.