What does “published” mean anymore?

By Deane Barker on May 12, 2012

“Self-published” is not in any way analogous to “published”: There’s a very interesting discussion going on over at Reddit that’s very similar to something a line of thought I’ve had for quite a while.

The Internet has made it very easy to “publish” writing, in some form.  Pre-Internet, to get “published” meant to send a book off to a publisher, go through a long vetting process, and see your book on the shelves of a store somewhere.  Not anymore.  With Lulu, you can get a hardcopy from a PDF, and with Amazon, you can have your book distributed as an ebook quite easily (it doesn’t even have to be a book – you can “publish” a glorified blog post as a Kindle Single, even).

So, does this mean you’re “published”?

Nononno!  Being published is not just about having a hard copy of one’s work – that misses the forest for the trees. Being published is about convincing a third party that your work is worthwhile enough to support and make public. It’s about earning the respect of a group completely independent of you and having them fund the dissemination of your ideas.

Some of the comments are quite good and thought-provoking:

I was just having a discussion on this yesterday in my library studies class. A lady in the class kept referring to herself as a ‘published author’ and when I investigated further I found that all she does is chuck her romance novels up on her website as eBooks.

[…] I came here to say something like this, specifically about the wrench that sites like kickstarter throw into the works. As the original post states, “Being published is about convincing a third party that your work is worthwhile enough to support and make public” but traditional publishing houses are no longer the only viable way of doing that.



  1. Agreed, and I must say I’ve never seen the definition of “published” expressed more clearly: Having a third party–i.e. “publisher” willing to invest their time and money into your writing because they think it’s worth it. I might add this: “Going through the agony of years of rejection until you learn the craft of writing and then having a third party willing to invest in your art.” That’s being “published.” No short cuts.

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