I was originally going to post this as a comment on this story, but it’s looking a little long. I eventually decided to write it in as a chapter in the existing “story.” Bleh. That doesn’t work at all, does it? It makes me want to make a few changes to how story settings work, to accomodate more non-fiction-type stuff. So here it is, as a blog post. This way I think everyone will get to see it, at least. :)
To give you a little context, we have an author who’s planning to leave the site because she’s concerned that her work on Protagonize may jeopardize a future writing career — specifically when it comes to being published, and the restrictions publishing houses (and various writing contests) have against having your work published previously elsewhere. Including on the ‘net.Obviously, as I develop and operate Protagonize, I’m not the best person to be taking advice from if you’re looking to leave the site. So what I’ll do is work under the assumption that the user in question is going to leave, and post this as a note to any others considering the option as well…
A few things come to my mind about how this site operates that may not be considered immediately by our users. I’ll try and keep it short and concise, and not be too marketing pitch-y, but if you want a more elaborate answer, just ask.
- You own your content on Protagonize.
This may not be obvious when you’re just writing and using the site, but if you check out the FAQ and the blog, it should be pretty clear that individual authors own all of their own content here. Obviously, this makes things pretty straightforward in terms of licensing. I understand that some publishers don’t want to have your work “previously published”, but this is a new medium, and they will eventually have to understand that posting bits and pieces of what eventually becomes a novella or novel to a collaborative web site is not the end of the world. See #5 for more on this.
- We’re a lot like Flickr.
Tonnes (and I mean a lot!) of professional photographers use Flickr to post reams and reams of their work for the entire world to see. This doesn’t preclude them from publishing their work professionally, does it? In fact, Flickr increases the exposure they get, gives them a way to create a permanent online portfolio, and shows off the excellent feedback and testimonials they receive on their work. Flickr has done an amazing job in allowing photographers, be they amateur or professional, to display their work in an easy-to-use, easy-to-provide-feedback-on fashion. The service Protagonize offers is very (very!) similar, aside from the collaborative and (currently) non-atomic aspect of each individual story — there could be multiple authors, obviously. The upcoming groups feature (especially private groups) should help with this a great deal. You’ll be able to practice and build a portfolio and make it private if you so choose, or restrict it to a smaller group of people.
- Think of Protagonize as the writer’s playground… or as a testbed for what may become your greatest works.
Tasha_Noble made a great point here — the best way to improve your writing is to write. And building a fan base is nothing to sneeze at. If Trish, or any of my favourite authors here, publishes a novel one day (and I’m sure she will!), I’ll be the first one in Vancouver lining up to buy it. And at the book signing. Protagonize offers you a lot of opportunities to build up a dedicated fan base at no cost. People can subscribe to your author feed and see all of your latest updates. You can experiment and post stuff here that you wouldn’t want published, or just come here to practice and have fun. You could always post your creative works on your own site or personal blog (and you still can, even if you post it here — nothing’s stopping you), but will you get the same creative feedback there? You have a large writing community here at your fingertips, ready and willing to provide you with constructive criticism, exposure… and praise. Why take away that option?
- Think of your work here as a portfolio.
I’m working hard on improving this aspect of the site — as I think it’s probably one of the weakest areas overall right now — but my eventual goal is for your work on Protagonize to be displayed as a portfolio. I’m still thinking about the best way to do this, as the current implementation is rough and could definitely use work. But that’s the goal. I want people to use Protagonize as their home base for creative writing works. I want their profile to be their portfolio; I want them to get people to read their works here and I want to make it as simple and pleasant to use as possible. I’m going to be adding options to display your content in a more friendly, usable way. I’m going to be adding ways to export your content to a few different formats. Making your Protagonize account into your online writing portfolio is the eventual aim, at least. Any suggestions you guys have on making this simpler would be welcome. :)
- Traditional publishers are living in the past.
As I mentioned back in #2, old-school publishers, as well as other more traditional writing sites, are going to need to rethink the way they do things online. Much of their reasoning comes from the fact that they don’t want to worry about copyright issues with re-publishing an existing work, or general issues relating to ownership, royalties, etc. Considering the content you publish on Protagonize is created and displayed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License, it should be a moot point. Publishers are still living in the pre-internet world, and they’re going to need to migrate to new standards and adopt new ways of doing things, the same way the music and movie industries are moving (slowly, yet surely.) It’s just a matter of time.
I hope this gives you all a little food for thought. I’m not going to preach at you, and I’m not going to tell you to stay if you’re dead set against it. But I will give you my arguments, and I’ll hope that you take them into consideration before doing anything drastic. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this, as well.