"Dear Mr. Lukeman, I was wondering if it was legal to post sample chapters of a book on, say, Facebook? I have been trying to publish for a while and want to establish my career as an author, so wish to create a Facebook page for my work. However, I am not sure if posting sample chapters would deter agents from picking up my work or if I could not do that because, once published, I would have restricted rights to post material. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! "
There are two questions here. The first is whether or not, legally, you have the right to post excerpts of your own work on Facebook or anywhere else online. The answer is yes, you do. You own the work, and it is yours to do with as you wish. Of course, this is assuming that you have not signed any agreements with any publishers for its publication which might restrict such activity.
The second question is about marketability and overexposure. I addressed the topic of serialization and overexposure in a recent blog post. Please search this blog for the response to that. But just to recap briefly, you don't want to risk overexposing your book too much, giving away all of it for free online. It can certainly be a good strategy to give away a little bit of it, say one or two chapters – but I would not recommend serializing the entire book.
The other issue is whether this strategy would turn away a potential agent. It is doubtful. Unless your page is read by millions, usually posting a chapter or two of it will have such little impact that it is not likely to affect an agent or publisher's decision. And it can work both ways: if you're giving away the book for free, and millions of people are downloading it, that just might help you entice an agent or publisher to want to take it on. Keep in mind that while I don't recommend serializing your entire book for free, giving your entire book away, as an e-book for sale on the etailers with the price listed as free, is a different matter entirely, which I will not go into here.
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