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publishing questionEarlier this month I met a writer who attended my Book Marketing 2.0 class in Asheville, North Carolina. She sent along a great question that I thought loyal Write Naked readers would find valuable as well.

One of the questions relates to earning money by selling an already ‘published’ blog post to a print market. I know several writers who have turned their blogs into books. Another writer who attended one of my classes last summer has this goal. Additionally, another writer in my class last fall spoke with me about doing this. For the past year I have also toyed with the idea of expanding the most popular posts on Write Naked into a book! (I’ve decided to table that project for the time being and instead finish my short story collection.) This seems to be a growing market.

There are many services available that help individuals convert blogs into books. I have not used these and have not spoken with anyone who has either, but if you are interested in exploring these types of services check out Blog2Print and Blurb.

Here is the email I received:

I have 2 writing questions for you, and I’m not sure how your consulting business works with out-of-towners, so let me ask them here and let me know how you charge for this kind of thing.

My daughter works in a hospital and writes about her work for a blog.

  1. Can she take something published on this blog and submit it to a print publication? I have been hearing that blog posts are considered previously published, but there seem to be two camps about this.
  2. How can she protect her patients’ privacy? Is it sufficient to change someone’s sex and age, maybe the nature of their illness or their ethnicity? And is it then still considered non-fiction?

Thanks for any help you can give.

My response:

Thanks for your questions. Generally I provide a 2-hour consult for $125. For individuals who are not local for in-person meetings I can structure phone or video Skype meetings. Before scheduling a consult we will review the individual’s goals and questions so that we can optimize time.

Great that your daughter gets to write about her work. Is her writing for a blog done independently outside of her hospital work or is it organized and/or connected to the hospital? To answer your questions:

  1. She may be able to have her already published blog posts re-printed in another market. There are a few things to consider here – 1) The answer to my question above. If her blog contributions are through the hospital, the hospital may claim partial rights. 2) What each blog’s policies are with posted material. Some acquire digital rights only, which would leave her free to shop around print rights. 3) If she is able to re-print in an alternate digital market, she may not want to unless she re-writes the piece with a different angle or subject. Google has duplicate content penalties so there may be little benefit to having her work reappear digitally on multiple sites.
  2. Protecting patient privacy is best reviewed by her hospital’s human resources department and/or an attorney. There are a number of attorneys available for pro bono or reduced fee services for individuals in creative professions through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. I’ve consulted with one in North Carolina and found their organization superb. HR and an attorney can provide guidelines for her to follow that may protect her and patients. For peace of mind, she might want to purchase a media liability insurance policy. I purchase mine annually for approximately $350 through the Freelancer’s Union’s connection with Hiscox. Unless she is dramatically changing facts of the circumstances involving the anonymous patients, I don’t see why her pieces would be considered anything other than non-fiction. Adding a footnote or a disclaimer in an introduction to the piece explaining patients’ names have been changed and all identifying information has been excluded to satisfy federal patient privacy guidelines should be fine–but again, HR and an attorney are the best sources for an answer like this!