Whenever we enter contests, we glaze right over those two little words: “previously unpublished.” We think, sure, we’ve posted this story/book on our blog or maybe Wattpad, but that’s not “published.” Published means a literary journal, or a publisher, or an anthology, or just winning a contest.
Guess what. We were wrong.
Recently I shared a Wattpad short story with friends, claiming it to be ready for publication… and one of those friends replied with, “Some contests won’t accept previously published work. Isn’t Wattpad considered published?” I didn’t believe this to be true, but I figured I might as well double-check. Turns out he was right: if you post a story online, anywhere, that is considered “published.” And if an editor catches you at it, some of them might get mad.
Uh-oh. I had a story on submission that was also on my blog.
Enter the mad scramble to take most of my book (leaving only a sampler) and one short story off of Wattpad, and to de-publish a story from my blog as well. I definitely didn’t want to give myself a bad reputation! Unfortunately, even deletion doesn’t remove your work from the equation entirely. For me, Wattpad seemed to clean up house pretty well, but my blog, not so much. Even after permanent deletion (not just putting the page in the Trash folder), I can still find my story on Google’s search results. It just turns up a 404 page when the link is clicked.
Good news, though: after six months, Google will supposedly stop displaying my page in search results, since it keeps turning up a 404. Further good news: the contest I submitted my story to says specifically that I can’t have published my story between submitting it to the contest and hearing the results (which, lucky me, I didn’t do). Of course, even with that, I could have an upset contest judge on my hands in the event that I win… it’s all subjective to the people involved.
Anyway, if you find yourself in a similar position and want to erase stuff fast, consider the following links before you do anything with your blog. I repeat, don’t delete your work first thing. It turns out you can add an HTML tag to your page that asks search engines to not index your page. Then, once you confirm that this works, you can move the page to Trash and then maybe delete it. This should keep it off the radar, especially after that six month interim.
- Block Search Indexing With Meta-Tags
- Removing Information From Google
- How to Remove Your Web Page From Google
I suppose this can appear dishonest, so treat the process with caution. But, as someone who slaved over their first major short story project and felt it was my only shot at short-form fiction success, I can also understand the desire to make up for one’s own unintended ignorance. Frankly, if your work never wins a contest or gets accepted to be published, this will never come up. The main thing is, a publication wants to publish your stuff because it’s new and never-before-seen… so do your best to keep it that way!
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