What does “being published” mean, anyway?
If a work is published, supposedly somewhere someone is reading, has read, or will read it. Well, maybe they’ll skim it. Or scare up the Cliff Notes (do they still exist?). Anyhow…
Back in the day, we read newspapers and hardcovers, romance or western or science fiction paperbacks, textbooks and glossy magazines. The heft of a physics book, the slippery magazine pages, the barely held together pages of a script, the carbon ink transferred from cheap newsprint to your fingers or elbows or favorite shirt – reading was tactile. You’d pick up whatever you needed to get through, set it in front of you or maybe curl up in a
chair, focus your eyes on the paper, and there you were.
Now, we read novels on tablets, our phones, in our ears. Newspapers and textbooks are online, and they’re interactive. We take in memes and social media posts and blogs and all form of online media. We get much of our news in 40-character blasts.
So what does it mean to be published?
We still have anthologies and journals, magazines, news outlets, chapbooks and novels and poetry and all manner of nonfiction. Textbooks, pulp fiction, mysteries and romance haven’t disappeared. People still read.
Just not necessarily on paper.
Successful blogs become bestselling books. We “read” audio books while vacuuming or mowing the lawn. Guest contributors have bylines on blogs. Each day, scads of new e-books in every imaginable genre are published and available to download. Writers can enter competitions, the prize may be a magazine subscription or an online posting of their work. Some writers make a living creating nothing but web content or (gasp, yes, its true) clickbait.
So, if you write a blog post, are you published? Does web content count? What about ebooks, or your own little small press? Audio books?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines publication as the act of making information or stories available to people in a printed or electronic form. Seems simple, and it looks like those audio books, blog posts, and e-books qualify. Maybe not your tweets or that sunset you shared on Instagram.
So, good for you! Did you feel your credibility swell? Or at least your confidence? Then my work is finished here.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and these are merely my musings. Please do not consider this to contain any more substance than my meandering thoughts. And actual intellectual property attorney likely would have far more to say on this subject, and I welcome any who require a definitive answer to consider more in-depth research.