It’s safe to say that one of the best things I have ever done was sharing my work online.

I have heard the old rule about never sharing a story you’re thinking of publishing online.  “Publishing companies want exclusive rights,” someone once told me.  The suggestion was that sharing a story online, even in a small community, made the story common and worthless.  It was getting the milk for free.  (Though sometimes I would get the feeling that it was more a fear of the story catching some horrible disease and becoming completely untouchable.)

Well a post by Jane Friedman over at Writer’s Unboxed helped me put this old suggestion in place.  It’s an archaic piece of advice.  She puts it into a much better perspective.  You should consider sharing work online as market research.

Over a year ago, I began posting up a snippet of story as a serialized piece of work with illustrations within a small but not insignificant community.  This was a more personal type of story, one that I wasn’t sure anyone would like but I truly enjoyed writing.  I had all sorts of doubts about it and frankly, I was terrified to do it.  But I was curious.  What would people say?

A story takes on an interesting life when shared with others.  I was amazed at all the things I learned.  It started with two readers, and from there it grew.  I don’t advertise, and I’m not as popular as some blogs, but I do feel as if I’ve gotten a good idea of the marketability of my story.  I now have an idea of who reads my story, what they enjoy about the story, what details they notice and what they like to see.  It has been very educational all the way around.

Sharing online is not for everyone, of course.  If you have a fantastic idea and you think someone might steal it, then you probably should not share online.  But if you’re a curious sort like I was, it might not be a bad idea to give it a try.  I mean, if I ever do publish this story, I now have a good amount of readers who may support me.  They might download the story, talk about it online, share it with others.  That’s usually how it starts.