The Karl Malden Question on Essays, Short Fiction and Poetry

So, here is the Question of the Day, writers:
If you have had an essay, short fiction, or poem published ONLINE that is no longer available, do you recycle said essay, short fiction, or poem as an unpublished piece?
Now, think a moment before answering. Perhaps you’ve had a flash fiction win a contest, and the winners were published for a couple months, then dumped to make way for the next winners?
Or maybe you’ve had an essay published in an online magazine that has sadly gone defunct? Now, no trace at all of this work remains in cyberspace.

With most online contracts, the author’s rights revert back after 6 months to a year. So it’s not a question as to whether the author owns a piece of writing. It’s a question, I suppose, of writer ethics.
After all, only the author knows the publishing history of his/her work. And maybe that author really, really loved that essay (or short fiction or poem) and hates to see it relegated to the dusty laptop files where it languishes, unread and unenjoyed.
I’m just saying. In the immortal words of that great actor, Karl Malden, “What would you do?”
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7 thoughts on “The Karl Malden Question on Essays, Short Fiction and Poetry

  1. I would not take a chance to recycle a published piece of writing as unpublished. IF it were to be discovered you would get that liar liar pants on fire Title and it would lessen your chances of being publishable at all. And chances are that it would be found out.It would be better to state that said piece had been available online at blah blah, but has been removed or that the site is now defunct.

  2. Were you paid for it?If so I'd tell the new market that it was posted briefly online on a site that is no longer up. If not, I think I'd go with pretending it was never published, rather it was shared with close friends.

  3. Now what makes y'all think it's ME I'm talking about? I mean, it could be ANY Southern humor writer who happens to have a fabulous piece of writing laying about, gathering cyberdust. :-)But honestly, I don't have a market in mind. I remembered a site from five years back where a flash fiction piece ran–I believe it was a contest and the winners were pubbed online–but in 2007, the site went dark and now there's no sign it ever existed. And that made me think of several other cyberspots where my work showed up, but now are long gone.It's usually not a problem to recycle something for a contest, but most online markets ask for unpubbed because they don't want something that's already floating around, even if it's on your blog. But when it's absolutely, positively NOT floating around, then what's the issue…except for maybe that "liar, liar, pants on fire" thing. šŸ™‚

  4. Hi Cathy, I would have to tell the truth, no matter what. And if the honest explanation was about a now defunct site, I would think the publisher MIGHT accept it. But hey…even if he/she wouldn't….you CERTAINLY have plenty more scathingly brilliant pieces you've written, or will write!!!??? Don't you???!!! šŸ™‚

  5. Hmm…my first comment didn't take. Bad Blogger.I'm a chronic truth teller and would lose sleep over being dishonest. Also, I learned a long time ago that I'm a rotten liar in general. Best to stick with the truth. Also, if I stretched the truth, I would most assuredly be found out because that is the way my life rolls. I have a horror short that was pubbed in an online mag that has been defunct for about three years now. I've been wondering about using it again, but guess I'll have to fess up. Drat.

  6. We're a scrupulous bunch, aren't we? :-)Becky, I suspect an editor would get to "it's been pubbed before–" and quit reading. There are just too many wonderful writers out there, producing brilliant stuff, to consider an already-pubbed piece. But thanks for the compliment! I like to think I'm a fountain of flowing fab writing–not sure every editor feels that way-;-)And Lisa, I can't see you pulling off even a teensy, little fib. It wouldn't be a minute before you threw yourself at the feet of some editor, begging for mercy and yelling "I didn't want to submit it! Cathy made me do it!" :-DBut I feel compelled to say that I've never recycled a pubbed piece as unpublished, even when I knew I wouldn't get caught. 'Cause I got enough writing craziness to keep me awake at night without adding that to the mix. Yet. šŸ˜‰

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