Right or Wrong? What Say You, Writers?

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

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Last week, I got a few texts from friends, asking me if I was trying to message them on Facebook. Ugh, I thought, do these hacker folks have nothing better to do? 

Normally I ignore this sort of thing but I do change my password thereby keeping hackers from messing with my pictures of flowers or pithy quotes. (Though in my humble opinion, a hacker is already on the wrong side of morality and my quotes, often of a spiritual and/or philosophical nature, might be just what the nosy criminal needs.) 

Anyway, after changing my password—which requires me to either remember or find my password, neither being an easy task—I had another thought. When was the last time I checked passwords, especially on sites and such that I rarely visit anymore? 

It’s a chore that’s been on my To Do List forever, not just for cyber security reasons but also because I like to keep up with where Cathy C. Hall’s words might be. So I spent some time checking old websites where my essays or blog posts might have been; all but one of them was no longer functional, or at least out there in the same context. 

I couldn’t login anymore. Any byline was missing. I’d disappeared! It was as if I’d never written for those sites.

And then I had another thought… What to do about all those essays and/or columns I’d written, some for pay and some for free? I mean, back in early days of my career, I wrote a lot of short pieces. Some of them were my best life stories and now they’re…well, it’s as if they never existed. 

As if they never existed. 

Hmmm…So what if I put them back out there? Maybe do a little sparkly editing and send them out again into the world? 

I know writers recycle pieces all the time—I’ve done it myself—but I’ve always noted that it would be a reprint, or that a version of it had appeared elsewhere. But what I’m wondering is this: does a writer need to specify that words have been published before when the website is defunct? When there’s no way to find the writing unless the author of said words could dig up a copy in their own files? 

To be clear, I’m not talking about essays or stories published in anthologies, hard copies or ebooks. I’m curious about all those online sites that are here today and gone tomorrow, never to be seen again. Can a writer, in good conscience, submit a piece that’s run on a bygone, belly-up website and not mention a word about where it may have appeared before? 

Right or wrong, writers? (Asking for a friend.)


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sure. You're asking for a friend. Actually, a friend of yours knows somebody who knows somebody... and you're asking for the friend.

I certainly think you should serve up some things you've written in the past. Chances are, people have not seen them, or they've forgotten them.

However, I think you should put a short note at the end, noting where it originally appeared. That just adds to your publishing cred. Your writing is sharp/clever enough and your advice is so on-point, someone else wanted to publish it.

That's just my opinion, of course...

Cathy C. Hall said...

So if it WERE me :-), (and thanks for your kinds words!), there's still the problem of referencing a website or ezine that no longer exists. If it were a well-known magazine--and lots of magazines are sadly no longer with us--that certainly could establish publishing cred. But a website/ezine that's virtually unknown? I don't think that would hold much weight, Sioux.

I think for something like Chicken Soup for the Soul, for example, it just gets you kicked to the rejection curb! :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Oh. Got ya. In that case, tell your friend's friend's friend that they should just republish their piece.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Hi Cath! If you're submitting a piece that was published online, you should mention the original publication when submitting it, but say it was previously published in the "now defunct" literary journal so-and-so. Anything that was online is still available to view through the Internet Archive Way Back Machine: http://web.archive.org. But many publishers will still consider publishing it because so many journals are shuttering these days.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered about this myself. Because my writing continues to evolve and, I hope, improve, I'd consider revisiting some of my older flash but would clean up and revise through the lens of where I am today.
I'd probably add a note about it being a revision.

Mary Krakow said...

When I was reading aloud as a teacher, I'd always follow the title with the author and illustrators name. They deserve recognition. By the same token, I would mention the "now defunct" website, as Angela suggests. They took a chance on you and desrve recognition for doing so.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Like Ang said, just point out that it was published in the now OP journal XYZ. Also point out if you are offering an "expanded and updated" piece.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ang! What an interesting site, had no idea that was out there! I would love to find some of those old columns but unfortunately, they weren't in the archives.

I will generally say something like "a version of this essay appeared..." but I think "expanded and updated" sounds ever so much better. Thanks, Sue!

Mary, I always appreciate attribution so thank you for being the teacher who set a great example. For a short story or essay wherein I was paid, I'd submit as a reprint (even if I made revisions or expanded, etc.) But a defunct site that got my work for free? I think I gave enough!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Cathy: Do you have the URL of the website that hosted the columns? The archive doesn't work like a search engine. You type in the main website's URL and then you look at the snapshots and find the year/month it published. I believe it records every site that was ever online and all the updates or changes to the site.

Renee Roberson said...

Cathy--This is an interesting dilemma! Here's what I would do. If you (I mean, ahem, your friend!) wrote these columns for a site that no longer exists, and you (I mean, her!) want to resubmit some of those pieces, I'd give them a new headline, rework the intro paragraph a bit, and voila! New piece. :-) If you didn't get paid originally, all bets are off in my opinion.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I did have the url for one of the ezines, Ang, but when I clicked on the snapshot, nothing was there. I must be doing something wrong; I'll check again when I have a bit of time to explore more thoroughly.

And yep, Renee, I agree, and will, of course, pass along your advice to my friend. :-)

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