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A whole lot of publishing houses look at works posted on blogs as "previously published". Now, let us say I put something on my blog and it is around for some months (or an year or two). One (not-so) fine (a) day I decide to get stuff published. I take down the (let us say) story off from my blog, wait for a few months (hoping that the cached versions will be wiped out) and then submit it to a publishing group.

My question is: does it still count as "previously published"? Ethically, I would say yes but what would be the legal status on it? If no one can see it, does it still remain published?

P.S: I understand that Writers is not a legal advisory group but as writers, what are your opinions from experience (in case a straight forward answer is not possible)?

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Check your blog in the Wayback Machine. –  SF. Mar 7 at 19:06
    
@SF. Not archived! –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 7 at 20:57

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Would it count as "previously published" if it appeared in your (print) newspaper, but it was three years ago and nobody is likely to still have old copies lying around? This seems like an analogous case.

Your blog post, if it was at any time public, probably is still out there, in the Wayback Machine if nothing else. (And the newspaper might well be in an archive at the local library.) Once published you lose control over propagation.

I am neither a lawyer nor a publisher, but I've seen friends who submit stories for publication (successfully) be extremely careful about not posting them publicly first, even temporarily, even on Internet-based critique sites that aren't locked somehow. It seems to me from all this that "previously published" means "was previously published", not "is still findable from a previous publication". Of course, you should seek clarification of what any particular publisher means by that contractual language.

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Yes. I agree. However, just for the sake of it, if there is no way of finding that post? Technically, of course, it still counts as "previously published" but can one (non-legal advice) get away with it? Is it like a loophole? –  Pravesh Parekh Mar 7 at 17:11
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I think you would have to ask in that case. And on the Internet, never say never. You don't know who saved a copy or where it might have gone. If not Google, the Wayback Machine. If not the Wayback Machine, something you don't yet know about. Back in the 80s people posted on Usenet thinking it was ephemeral; imagine the collective surprise when archives showed up on Google 10-15 years later. If it never had wide circulation and it's gone now there's a chance that the publisher doesn't care, but only the publisher can answer that. Good luck! –  Monica Cellio Mar 7 at 17:17

It sounds as if you're looking for an authoritative definition of "previously published." There may be such a definition, but I suspect not.

More importantly: I don't think you need one.

Instead, let the publishers decide. When you submit your manuscript, inform them of where and when you previously made your book available to the public, and let them decide. They can use their own definition. Or if your book is sufficiently compelling, they can relax their rules and accept it anyway.

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Great question, and I don't have a definitive answer. I believe the answer is no (in the book sense), I've been told there is a difference between "previously available" and "published." A good thing to check out would be those books that are actually just compilations of blog entries.

For myself, I would likely put on the copyright page of the book "Parts of this book were originally available on my blog xyz.abc" so that it's clear.

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