Every year I get so damn irritated by the NaNoWriMo.org forums.
Every year a large number of extroverted loudmouths blather at length about "By God, You Better Not Let Anyone See Your Writing On The Web Or Publishers Will Shit On Your Submissions!" Oh, bullshit. If your writing is really good, the publishers don't give a hang if your work has been published on the web. Unless you've been published on a website with a bigger following than Dilbert.com or say, BBC.com. Get real. Two years ago, there was a fellow on the NaNoForums who'd had his science fiction novel posted on a website for a year (if not more) and then an editor from Tor books saw it while browsing the web, contacted him and signed him up. Seeing it on the web only allowed the editor to see that it wasn't crap. Who listened to him? Not many. Much easier to run around with your hair on fire, screaming, "First Publication Rights! All is lost!"
I CAN, however, imagine an agent or publisher looking at a sheaf of poorly written, typo-laden garbage and smiling kindly and saying, "Sorry, it's already been published, can't help you here." Easy out.
There are writers I know who are sitting on their works, afraid to show them to anyone for fear they might be plagiarized, or are waiting for their words to magically become Perfect before they're confident enough to show them to others. In the mean time, years pass, the story moulders in manuscripts or degenerates on computer disk. The Story has taken a back seat to The Marketing. And if the Writer is not also a Marketer ... why, the writer is screwed. (But then that's why agents are so important.)
Oh, well. Our society teaches us from toddler on up that to be successful, important, or valid, you have to earn $$$ from your efforts, be they creative or daily. You must earn your allowance by doing chores, you must make your art pay for itself and then some or it's not worthwhile, you must be able to earn a living through a career. If you draw well, you must become a syndicated, madly popular cartoonist, if you paint, you must be able to show in the finest galleries (or market your own galleries like T. Kincade, yick), if you like to cook you must become a chef in an upscale restaurant. Money money money money money.
"I wrote a book," says the author proudly.
"Can I get it at Barnes and Noble?" says the potential reader.
"No, but you can see it on the web/at Lulu.com/ etc."
"Oh," the potential reader says. "Let me know when you've REALLY written a book."
Let's all run around in circles screaming that we didn't become the next Maeve Binchy or Jennifer Crusie or Nora Roberts and burn our manuscripts in despair. And By God, Don't Let Anyone See Those Ashes or We'll Lose First Publication Rights.