Uploading = Publishing?

You Just Published That!

I created. I uploaded. I published.

[Image seen here.]


The so-called "little magazine," or more generic mainstream literary/art journal, has long been a tried-and-true avenue for artists and writers to distribute their work while insuring professional respectability. Why are such publications seen as more artistically credible? Since such journals/magazines are juried (screened or solicited by editors), these publications presumably bypass the stigma of the "vanity press," better known as self-publishing. After all, anyone calling themselves an artist can upload their own art to Flikr. Not every artist can be tapped to appear in Juxtapoz Magazine.

As print publishing becomes progressively expensive and environmentally unfriendly, more and more literary/art journals have and will move their operations online. But doing so has not changed the expectations of what editors want for submissions: first shot at publishing works of art and/or creative writing. In other words, only work that has not been previously published would be considered. In the dark ages of pre-WWW print-only culture, this meant any work that had not yet appeared "in print." The division was usually clear — even if sometimes hard to police. I mean, realistically, how could every or even most editors know that a poem or art work had previously appeared in a little magazine with a print run of one-hundred copies?

But, increasingly, the editors of online literary/art magazines are refusing to consider any work that has previously appeared online and is publicly accessible on the Internet. In their cyberspaced eyes, if you upload a creative work to a public online space, you have just published it. And, unlike their relatively blind print forebearers, cyber-editors have the means to enforce their criteria. They have Google.

Google says this one has 142 strings... 

Google says this piece’s made the rounds on deviantART, boys. Toss it on the reject pile.

[Image seen here.]

Here’s the quandary for OT’s readers. If you upload an image to any of the public Fractabook sites (deviantART, Fractal Forums, etc.) — or, worse, even to your own web site or blog, literary/art magazines can and often will consider such work to be already published. Simply by the act of uploading, you may, in fact, have slammed the door for future dissemination of that art work in other online professional art circles.

My question is: How do you feel about this development? I suspect your answer might depend on whether you are an artist or an editor. I’ve been both, so, sadly, I can see both sides.

As an Artist

This is an unreasonable situation. The Internet is the primary venue in which my art work can be seen. How am I supposed to promote my art if not through personal sites/blogs or online communities? Are there workable alternate means to "stand out amid the clutter" of other artists? How else can I build a reputation — or even be noticed enough to be solicited for work from a reputable lit-art magazine — if my work is not openly online and available for all to see? What a Catch-22. Besides, is posting a rough draft of a piece on deviantART, in the hopes that it will be critiqued (or, more likely, boisterously praised), really the same as actually publishing what should rightly be considered only a work in progress? That’s more like an online workshop than like a publishing act. How sorry.

As a Editor

This is a reasonable situation. When I’ve worked as an editor or associate editor, like with the now defunct Exquisite Corpse Annual, I was adamant about considering only unpublished (meaning: previously unseen) work. My readers/viewers expect and demand fresh writing and art. Why would I accept something posted on a personal site or blog that’s already indexed into Google — or something with a hefty hit count and lengthy comment thread on deviantART? By standing out from the clutter on search engines, your work can now be seen as damaged goods. Perhaps potential readers/viewers have already seen it. Magazines have reputations to build, too. The best course for doing so is to publish the new and avoid the old. If your work already shows up on Google, then it’s moth-eaten. Sorry.

Since I have dogs in both hunts, I don’t have an easy answer to this dilemma. I would, however, as always, welcome any insights from OT’s readers.

I can speculate on one thing though. If you don’t care about this issue at all, well…

…well, then, you might not be a professional. You just might be a hobbyist.


This heaven gives me migraine
Gang of Four, "Natural’s Not In It"

I’ve argued several times on OT, like in 2008 and more recently, that the model for Fractalbook infrastructure is the high school clique. Gina Barreca, another believer, recently spoke up in the Hartford Courant:

Social networking sites — from Facebook to Pinterest to StumbleUpon [to deviantART] — are very much like high school: As conducive as they are to the creation of community, they are simultaneously the cause of anxiety, bizarre competitions and weirdly contorted definitions of success.

Have a great weekend!!!!!!


I loved Tim’s post about fractal sculptures being made using 3D printing. You’d expect fractal images to be printed but would you have foreseen prints of food or weapons? And let’s not forget the gun porn videos.


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2 thoughts on “Uploading = Publishing?

  1. I’ve ran into this as a writer. While I’ve never had anything professionally published, I’ve submitted things plenty of times. I only found a very few online publishers that would consider something that was previously published on my own site, even if the piece had only one or two reads. I wonder how that would translate to a print publisher if one publishes an ebook and then tries to get picked up for print…

    As far as artwork, I’ve never tried to get published, though most contests or competitions do request new work.

  2. so, depending on the “work”, like a text can not be in “low resolution” perhaps if just excerpts are published, for the images you can safely consider a low-res publication of an image as not published, it is not worth stealing and not able to reproduce for the real usage you need to contact an author for the high quality data…

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