I just found your blog today and am hoping you can answer a question that I have been trying to find an answer to for a while. I've heard many writers mention recently that they have been asked by agents and publishers to have a blog and an established web presence before submitting for publication. I assume this is because you then have a pool of people who are already interested in your book.
My question is where does the line fall between developing a web presence and self publishing? Could having a blog and posting some of your work end up hurting a writer's chances of publishing their first book?
Harlan Ellison is very against this, but publishing today involves giving away a lot of things for free. He went on about this for five minutes or so in the documentary on him, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, but Harlan lives in a world of his own - specifically, the world of a well-published, extremely well-established and respected sci-fi writer who can demand money for things the rest of us give away for free.
Aside from Harlan's rant, I've never heard anything bad about publishing online first. I did it, and even kept the stuff up when it was published. I have heard a lot of great things about web presence, so that's something you should get behind. Web presence. Media presence. Facebook. Other words that sound important and justify blowing an afternoon on Facebook instead of getting work done. Hopefully my Farmville friends will start buying my books soon.
The only problem that comes along is when you sell the book to a publisher. The publisher then has the right, if they've bought digital rights, to ask you to take down you content. See, they own it. That's what you sold them - the right to copy and distribute your own work - and that's why they gave you money. Until the contract lapses, it has to stay down so that they can distribute it for a profit instead. My experience with publishers, though, is that they're not necessarily strict on enforcing this, depending on the publisher and the nature of the content. And the fact that some people plain old don't like to read books on computers.