"Hello Noah :D I'm new to writing, I'm currently working on a womens fiction novel that I hope to finish this year. I do not have an agent, as I'm not at that stage yet, however I have been researching agents, queries, publishing and the like. I've also been looking into indie publishing, but I'm no PR or sales expert. My question relates to copyright etc, and I'm hoping you can advise me…? I have been advised to ‘blog the book,‘ chapter by chapter, to promote myself and my book, to hopefully gain an audience of potential readers before publication. However, although I will probably have to self publish initially , I understand that mainstream publishers buy the rights to your work when you sign a contract, so if I were to blog my actual book, would that mean that the rights would no longer be available to sell? Also, I have concerns re copyright theft. What is your opinion on ‘blogging a book‘ as a means of promotion? Your advice would be greatly appreciated."
You were given bad advice.
I would not recommend serializing your entire novel on your blog. There are several issues at stake. The first, as you say, is that you will be posting the entire text of the book onto the Internet, and hypothetically, anyone could copy and paste it for themselves. There is certainly a possibility, however remote, of theft. You can, of course, copyright your book, but that won't necessarily prevent piracy.
The second concern would be giving away too much of it to readers. If they've read the whole thing, then why would they buy it? Typically, readers are given a free excerpt of 10 or 20 percent of the book. Rarely, if ever, are they given the entire book for free.
Third, if your blog gains a huge following or a tremendous number of fans, and they've all read the entire book, there could be a concern among agents or editors that you have already serialized your entire book. This concern could hypothetically be shared by magazines, newspapers, or other publications. There is a real value to first and second serial rights. If a book is extremely well received, it is possible that a publication may want to buy first serial rights. But if it has already been serialized completely on your blog, there may be some concerns. Of course, if you only have a few dozen followers, that probably won't be as much of a concern. Publishing professionals will probably overlook it, and just tell you to take it down. But I don't envision your giving away the entire book on your blog gaining you more followers than your just giving away portions of it.
Finally, there are much more effective ways to gain followers than by serializing your entire book on your blog. I am skeptical as to how many fans that might get you anyway. There are other things you can do which might gain you far more fans, and carry no risk. For example diversify your efforts to Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads and a host of other places, instead of just your blog.
Not to mention, even if you do gain a large number of followers on your blog, that by no means will assure you a book deal.
Keep in mind that we are strictly discussing serializing your book for free on your blog. This is an entirely different scenario than you're giving away your book for free in e-book format, for example as an e-book whose price is free on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, or elsewhere. In some instances, that could be a very worthwhile endeavor. But that is an entirely different topic.