Agency Lessons: How much is too much to post online

If you follow me on FB, you'll know that I posted a sneak peek of a new story I'm working on while I let my draft for Rite of Revelation sit. It's one that I've wanted to write for a while, but couldn't squeeze it in so I'm pretty pumped.
Pumped, get it, pumped. I'm a dork.

It was a bit different for me because usually no one, NO ONE, reads the first draft. They are all kinds of craptastic. But I'm just so pumped for this story, I figured it wouldn't kill me to post a little bit. And it was little, around 300 words.

I've been asked before about writers posting snippets of their unpublished works online and if that's okay or not. So this seems like a good time to broach the subject.

What is considered published?
If you put your book up on Amazon, even if it was just to share with a few friends, you are published. Is that going to mean the death of your book? Not necessarily, but it's also not great. It just depends on a lot of different factors. If you are planning to seek traditional publication for a project, I would advise to not put it up for sale anywhere.

What about social publishing?
Now we have test sites like Wattpad, where writers can post anything from fan fiction to whole novels. So can you post your work there? Again, if it's a novel you plan to seek publication for, I would say no. Now, there are stories out there of someone posting their novel and getting so many reads that a publisher swooped in to hand them a big fat deal. First off, there are only a handful of those so they are hardly the norm, and I expect we will see fewer and fewer of these. Why? Because getting people to read your book for free does not always equal sales. We all know there are books we get on Kindle because they are free that we wouldn't be willing to shell out money on.

But going even further than that, do you really want the world reading something that hasn't been through a really thorough and professional edit? I know that sounds horrifying to me. I would hate for readers to judge my ability as a writer based on something that only went through spell check.

Can I post on my blog?
Yes, I think you can. But, you know, in moderation. I would say no to posting a whole novel. I would even say no to posting the whole first chapter. To be clear. That is not considered published. But, you are creating potential issues that don't need to be created. For example, sometimes for a big release, publishers can sell first rights that give a publication, such as a magazine for your target readers, the right to publish your first chapter before anyone else. And even if they can't, those parts can be used in marketing the lead up to your release.

However, I don't see any issue with posting a short (less than 500 word) snippet of your book on your website or social media page. I can see where this could be especially useful for an author working on a series. Posting little snippets can keep your readers engaged during the wait between books. So long as you don't post any spoilers.

The main thing to keep in mind when posting your unpublished material online is, what are you trying to accomplish. Are you looking for a new reader base? Trying to energize an existing base? Gauging interest in a potential project? Know why you are posting it, and that should help you determine if you should, and how much.

Those questions are much more important than, will posting this hurt my chances of getting an agent. You should be asking, will posting this help me get closer to my goals.