Can Online Critiquing Hurt My Pub Chances?


Dear Wendy….

Editors and agents don’t care if your material has been posted in online critique forums. In fact, some publishers are actively searching for unknowns online, as evidenced with publisher-founded writing communities such as Authonomy (HarperCollins) and the brand new Book Country (Penguin; see today’s Publishers Weekly). But don’t post in online critique communities with the goal of being “discovered.” No one can attest to the odds of that happening or even to the likelihood that publishing companies can realistically maintain such a communal ideal. Post because you seriously want critiques and you seriously intend to give them. Because when all is said and done, the reason such forums exist is to serve your very real need for constructive, objective input on your writing. Before you commit to any critique community, follow it for a bit to get a feel for the quality of participants’ criticism. Then work to build relationships within that community that are built on respect, dependability, and trust.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. I have been leery of critique boards, too, since having my work stolen years ago. I had shared a short article for critique, intending to offer it to a magazine for publication, then found out later that someone had simply copied and published it without my permission.

    Whoosh — First Publication Rights were gone.

    You would be wise to only share small portions of your work, and to be careful where it is posted.

    • What a terrible experience. That’s definitely a risk, and folks need to think realistically about where they sit on the risk/reward spectrum. Some writers are geographically isolated and don’t have easy access to other writers and so turn to the online community for the all-important critique. Absolutely study each forum, and forge individual critique relationships through those groups if possible. They can be great places to find members for your own small, long term critique group.

  2. I’m on both sides of this fence. I believe online crit groups can be very helpful and plagiarism is relatively negligible. However, publically accessible sites like Authonomy are too big a risk. Anyone can read your work – there’s no control. I prefer private online crit groups where your work cannot be googled.

  3. I also agree that samples of your work are safest on critique forums that have privacy walls (i.e. a password) so that the document then doesn’t end up on google.

    But, I would also suggest not posting your entire MS. In the best writing forums, you can post a sampling of your work, or a summary, or a query letter, and if someone wants to crit your entire work, you email it to them. That way the pool of potential “thieves” is almost nonexistent.

  4. I don’t like posting my work in public places. I swap with critique partners online, and that is enough. I’ve done a page or so on writing forums, but I feel uncomfy doing so. Maybe I just like to be “in control.” LOL

    • Okay, totally off topic, but I gotta do this: Congrats, Carol, on signing with agent Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown!!!! She’s wonderful and the agency is wonderful and I’m very, very excited for you. I’ve gotten to know you from your comments on this site, so to see your name pop up on her list today was a fantastic delight. Thrilled for you. Please keep us posted on your journey to publication.

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