Be careful what you share.
A few blogs ago I mentioned writer sharing sites, such as Wattpad, and wondered if sharing work online would preclude it from submission in contests or publications that ask for “unpublished” work. The answer is yes. Anytime you put a piece of writing onto a public forum it constitutes publishing. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Wattpad, Pinterest, and all the others.
The confusion for me came from Wattpad itself. On the writers’ page it states, “Anything you post on Wattpad can be published in as many other places as you like.” It’s true but a bit misleading. It can be published in “as many places as you like,” as long as those places will consider already published work. The next sentence makes it sound as if the difference is in copyrights: “We don’t demand any rights to your work, or any control over where you share it.” Most short story and poetry venues ask for one time rights, but not asking for rights has nothing to do with whether a piece is considered published.
Several publications and writers answered my query on this topic and all were in agreement. If you post something on an open site—anything—it is published. So why would you want to do that at all? It would be a good marketing tool for self-published, soon to be published, or already published work. The piece Margaret Atwood had on Wattpad was a short story from her new collection Stone Mattress. She ran a contest based on the story’s characters. What a great idea! And a perfect use of sharing sites.
So if you have something to promote, by all means share it. But be smart. Offer free rides but don’t give away the horse.