Self-publishing in the Wild West of the Internet

Poetic justice!

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007


  Barbara Ruckman has been listed by the International Who's Who in Poetry. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Barbara Ruckman has been listed by the International Who's Who in Poetry.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

In the age of e-mail, text messaging and the World Wide Web, the way people communicate has definitely changed. Contact is lightning fast. You want it? You can have it in your home almost overnight — no matter what it is. Music can be downloaded, sampled or shared without ever walking into a store.

In the same way, literature and publishing also has changed radically. Are you interested in writing an editorial? Now you can get on the Internet and start your own blog, or post to another Internet journalist’s board. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Go ahead, there are any number of Web sites where you can self-publish your own novel.

Web sites like provide services from copy editing to marketing and promotion. AuthorHouse has an online bookstore that sells the works of more than 30,000 self-published authors. Granted, the self-publishing author is obligated to foot the bill, but he also retains the copyright to his material.

For those of poetic spirit, allows people to go on their Web site and publish as many poems as they wish, within certain limitations. The site features poetry contests and cash prizes for some of the contests.

Barbara Joan Ruckman, a lifelong Alaskan and substitute teacher, recently submitted poetry to the site and won an editor’s choice award.

“I taught school in Ecuador in 2004,” Ruckman said. “My students there didn’t have a lot of access outside the jungle, but they did have a computer. I got my students there started with it. I was familiar with it just because I was a teacher.

“I love language arts, it’s my favorite thing to teach.”

Ruckman has been writing poetry since she was a child. As life goes, however, she has never had the opportunity to pursue it as her main vocation. A site like gives her the opportunity to see her work in print and to receive accolades for it.

“They have contests, too, which makes it fun. It encourages people to submit more often,” she said.

She does caution people going on the Internet to participate to look for the ability to copyright their work, though.

“The reason I like ( is because you can copyright your work. I’ve never seen another one online where you can do that.”

Another caution: beware the sites that “phish.” Phishing is a term used to describe a technique that Internet con artists utilize to gather sensitive information about an individual. It can be difficult to tell a legitimate poetry advocacy site from a fraudulent one. A good rule of thumb is if a Web site pitches a free service, then asks for a Social Security number, credit card information or other personal data, err on the side of caution.

“Anything online needs to be scrutinized. You need to be wise about it.” Ruckman said. “It’s completely open — it’s like the Wild West out there. You need to be very careful about what you put online, because it’s going to be there forever.”

Most computers with updated security software will catch such sites and warn against a site that generates spam or is related to other fraudulent Web sites. Depending on the security software, a report may be generated that indicates if the site is phishing, spam-generating or perpetrating some other Internet fraud.

Some organizations will offer a free service, and then follow the free service with communication about publishing in a book that the author must then purchase. This can be a good experience for those who would like to see their work in print, but often the book is expensive and not widely sold. This is referred to as “vanity-publishing.” has a number of helpful hints for teachers, students and poets who want to get their work into publication. The site is maintained by the Academy of American Poets, whose mission is, according to the Web site “to support American poets at all stages of their careers.”

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