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 describes 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 place 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. 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?"

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. Links, appropriately enough, are the cyberspace equivalent of a publishing future, and the most desired links are to widely-visited sites and online journals who take submissions in the same way that print journals do. 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 one of the best ways is the time-honored way of submitting work to like-minded online publications and contests.

Why? 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 quotes 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 suggests 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 then he admits 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 explains:

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.