This is a real and a serious concern to some of you, so I wanted to address it as much as I could. The general information is sparse, because ultimately, it still depends upon each publisher. The issue falls upon electronic rights, and publishers have become less paranoid with the thought that posting on personal blogs or web sites are actually using them up. It depends on how the work is presented and your reason for posting it.
Restricting work to a limited audience will not ordinarily jeopardize publication if:
You posted for feedback for development and improvement, with the intention of revising. This includes posting WIP (work in progress) on a writing group site for the sole purpose of obtaining feedback.
It is extremely rare that a work floating around the internet is the same version being considered for publication. Take advantage of the restriction option to allow only site members to read it. Do not allow the public.
This should keep it out of search engines because a person has to sign in to read it. Even if it does show up on Google before you restrict it, it won't be in its final form until your final polishing so the version shown in Google is not the same version you'll submit for publication.
As long as it's clearly presented as a work in progress—it's probably not considered prior publication.
How many people have read it? On WDC and other writing groups, you'll have a record of views.
Have you retained all of your copyrights?
WDC only has the right to post it on their site for viewing--you have given up none of your rights to remove it, to post it elsewhere at the same time, or to sell it to whomever you can. Check the terms of your writing group.
Non-exclusive means that you may give these same rights to anyone else as well; for money or for free!
It will be considered published if it has been:
1. Submitted and accepted to ebook or content publishers and published to the public.
2. Posted for sale or you've given up any rights.
3. Presented on a blog or writers page as a final version with the effort to direct traffic to it via links on other sites, attracting attention to it.
4. Been viewed by more than the publisher allows--whatever that number is. It would be more than fifty.
At the same time, don't be overly afraid to post openly on your blog.
Unless you have a readership of thousands, it's probably okay to post it for comments, especially if you're planning on taking it down when you submit the work. Do you really care if you ever sell a particular piece? Some authors write for their internet crowd, with the intention of building their fanbase--their readership. They'll write an internet version or separate short story around the novel they plan to try to sell; even post the first chapter and pitch the published book to their readers.
And, if you do have a readership of thousands, your publisher will likely be delighted to catch a proven popular writer. Really.
Let the internet work for you.
Posting related stories or a couple of chapters to interest your fans is good marketing, and you will be expected to do a lot of the marketing yourself.
There are safety measures you can and should take. Don't post the whole thing at once, and take it down when you've received all the feedback/comments you need. That way there's less chance of a full version being found by a search engine. You know in your heart when you've had all the feedback you intend to use, leaving it up means you just want to be read. In that case, you're building the 'fan base' spoken of above. That's a good thing for your marketing.
When you remove it from your site, replace the page (but use the same URL) with a blank page holding a statement such as: "Looking for my story? It's not online any longer, but I'm always happy to share--drop a comment below, be sure to include your email address, and watch your Inbox!"
This is more friendly than giving Google a plain blank page, which it could see as an error and just go back to showing the cached copy. Google will cache the new page so the work will no longer be available to the public but you can still hold the readers interest. And, you don't want to irritate your readers by giving them a 404 error page.
Publishers were much more cautious about internet first serial rights in the early years of internet publishing. In the last year or two they have been opening their minds a little about different ways to syndicate content. In theory, you should be able to "peel off" internet first serial on your blog without disrupting any other rights.
We still have to be careful.
Authors who post on a public web site and do not want it to be considered publication, should post a disclosure statement such as: “This draft is intended for review and comments only. It is not intended for any other use in any form.
This is a point I've learned during my time at WDC. Members who correctly posted a note at the top of their work such as: WIP, were advised they didn't have to do that because all of our work is presumed to be WIP'S. I've advised it myself while parroting others. We were wrong--I was wrong--type WIP to protect the writing.
There's no real consensus on what constitutes prior publication, and opinion will vary from house to house. Rules are easing though, according to my research. When you submit a piece you should always let them know where it has been and the intention of the posting, so they can determine whether to proceed or not. Taking precautions now will prevent a lot of issues later.
The final word is: posting on writing groups pages for the purpose of reviews and improvements is (probably) not going to be considered publishing. Especially if you restrict your port to members only.
” Common Statement on Prior publication Policy. Editors of Health Services & Health policy journals. 10/25/02"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XJGVn1riTs&feature=related#