I just have to share this with you, but maybe I shouldn’t… do you post excerpts?

Posting excerpts from a work in progress… can you do it? should you do it? I wanted to find some answers for myself since I’d love to be able to share some of what I’m working on with those of you who’ve been asking to see something. I found out that it’s important to note a distinction from the get go. What are your intentions with your writing? If the goal is to just write a book to share with your friends and family or to just do it to say you did it, posting on a blog or anywhere else on the internet should be fine. However, if you would like to go the traditional route, or even keep it as an option, you’re sometimes better served keeping all those juicy nuggets to yourself for the time being.

I tweeted Saladin Ahmed, author of the recently published Throne of the Crescent Moon and asked him if he had received permission or if he was even signed when he posted chapter one on his blog back in October. He responded:

@nmhall Permission to do so is typically part of contracts nowadays. And yes, I was already signed when the excerpt went up. (1/2)
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) February 9, 2012

@nmhall I tell clients who want to submit to agents or traditional publishers that they shouldn’t post ANY excerpts before signing a deal.
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) February 9, 2012

Good advice, but it doesn’t always work for everyone. For most writers, just getting someone to give your work a cursory glance is just about impossible. So if your stack of rejection letters is getting to be bigger than your book, what do you do? As Brian Klems notes on his blog over at Writer’s Digest, and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are stories of wild success based on self publishing and freely posting your work. Klems lists Cory Doctorow, Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood as examples. It’s important to note that each have found their own success through traditional publishing means as well.

Another benefit to posting your work online is the potential for growing your audience. Maybe you just decide, to hell with it, I’ll post my entire first book for free online, after all, I’m not short on ideas. Or you could work out some short stories that you’re not worried about publishing just to give people a sample of your voice. From what I’ve read, coming to a publisher with an audience already in tact is a great selling point.

Ultimately, the biggest risk you run is having a publisher view your online work as being already published. A lot of them will not touch work that has already been published elsewhere, including in your blog or on forums. We’re going through some changing times for the entire industry though. This could very well be a non-topic in the years to come. What’s your take? Do you take a risk and let people read what you’re working on?