How to publish cyberliterature?

Publishing in cyberspace is easy, and it's hard—easy to hit the publish button, hard to be "discovered." Even the meaning of the word "publish" holds a different connation for cyberspace. Every internet-connected desktop publishing application offers to "publish" a work by choosing the word from a menu and launching it into cyberspace, and that self-publishing dynamic is what has given the cyberlit medium its disreputable "aura" since its inception. As theorist Amanda Griscom (2000) described it, "This literary renaissance in which the masses can distribute their information without having to be chosen or favored by the powers that be is theoretically appealing, but it can be utterly overwhelming to try to navigate."

It's as if someone has placed the library and bookstore in the middle of the highway and is herding every last diary, gossip, phone chat, and back alley banter through it. The constellation of bloggers exemplify that quandary. Words are everywhere, but which ones to read? And that, Griscom would say, begs the question for the cyberwriter: "Does a literary work on a website in cyberspace exist if no one visits it?"

The Old School Way with a Twist

In the "print" sense of the word, being published means gaining recognition for your work in some broad, communally accepted way dealing with audience. Oddly enough, the answer for quality cyber-publication is the same one it has always been, the old "print" way with a twist: Submitting is only a wonderfully easy click away, instead of the snail mail drudgery of envelope stuffings and SASEs. For more involved cybercreations, links, appropriately enough, are the cyberspace equivalent of a publishing future, the most desired links being with widely-visited sites and online journals who take submissions in the same way that print journals do, if via clicks instead of stamps. In other words, after a work is created from within a writer's website and server, the writer then "Net"works, literally and figuratively. And the best way to do that is through the time-honored way of submitting work to like-minded online publications and contests.


Readers must rely on some authority to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, just as it has always been, Griscom points out. Search engines, as good as they are, still do not a literary community make. Griscom quoted internet expert and MIT professor Randall Davis on the topic:

There remains still a necessity for editing, for putting faith in a credible source, and I think we are already beginning to see the same sorts of structures build up in the Internet world which are, in effect, critics and people who can vouch for or against the various information sources...anyone with a laser printer or an ink jet printer can pass out their leaflets on street corners, but why do millions of people read Time magazine and only an handful of people read those leaflets?
In his Slope article "Hyperliterature: The Apotheosis of Self-Publishing" Edward Picot (2002) suggested that, in theory, the old problem of a creative work's distribution is solved via cyberspace. Writers with their own websites can display their work around the globe, and the internet's email offers free publicity via email and web boards. But he admitted the best way to bring new work to the attention of a wider public is still through the literary ejournals/emagazines, many of which now boast substantial reputations and readerships. As he explained,
The good thing about e-zines from the public's point of view is that they are edited, which means that readers can feel confident the work in them will be up to a certain level, far above the level of vanity publishing. Writers who can consistently place their work in the more reputable e-zines will undoubtedly begin to build themselves reputations and followings, and readers can be expected to move on from the e-zines to the personal websites of the writers concerned. (Picot, 2002)
For more about the plethora of "print-text" cyber-journals, see Is there traditional "print" in cyberspace?

For some well-received electronic literary journals and hypertext cyberlit, see also What about some site-seeing?

For a good introduction to creating cyberlit, from basic how-to information to further links, offered, wonderfully enough as complementary web presence to creative nonfiction textbook Tell it Slant, authored by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, click here.

Suspended Publications yet Forever

One aspect of online publications is their longevity or lack thereof. You may find an online cyberlit journal you love, only to find that it is no longer taking submissions due to being suspended or even abandoned. The fact that it is so amazingly "there" on your screen, so seemingly alive seems to refute that. You know instantly if a print publisher has suspended operations. But unless such information is posted—and quite often it is not—suspended operation may not be so obvious in cyberspace as long as someone pays for server space. The "forever" aspect of cyberspace is a boon to those already published there, but a let-down for new writers stumbling on a marvel that no longer takes submission, such as PoemsThatGo whose impact on the cyber-poetry world was seminal and whose ongoing multi-model flash-based poetry archive will continue to mesmerize and be studied much as it was here in Road Trip, whether it begins operations again or not.

Cyberbook Publishing

What is the state of "book" publishing in cyberspace? The type of "book" published in cyberspace stretches the usual definition, from e-book, to download, to long works inside cyberlit magazines, which you'll notice as you begin to surf.

As with all publishing, they come, they go, yet some have stayed for a very long time. Four cyberpublishing leaders, still in business at the time of this writing and still committed to bringing original electronic literature into cyberspace print, are worthy of note—Eastgate, Alt-X, Coach House Books, and Ubu Editions whose tagline is "Publishing the Unpublishable." Coach House Books, which publishes online as well as in print, expresses the mission eloquently:

We believe in "full" (rather than semi) publishing, and as such see electronic publishing not as a marketing gimmick but as a reality and a necessity. After all, publishing means to make public, and the internet has become an important public "space."

Is there traditional "print" in cyberspace?
What about some site-seeing?
Tell it Slant textbook-web presence: Mixed Media and Hypertext
Coach House Books
Ubu Editions

RoadSite: references/ linkography