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.

Comments (1)

Douglas Arvidson says:

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.