The plan was this: Write a few short stories, then turn to novels.
I thought that, as an unknown, it would be easier to sell shorts (I still think that) and I didn't want to spend a huge amount of effort on a novel only to find out that my writing sucked. I'd use shorts as a way of developing writing skill so that, when it came, the effort on the novel would be more likely well spent. Oh, and I didn't have any ideas that would sustain a novel :-(
Then I found Hatrack and offered a short story for crits. The crits were informed, encouraging and thought-provoking. Amongst other things I learned that despite my tendency to write long sentences, the story was too short! It needed more detail and authenticity. So off I went to do more research ... Google is my friend.
To my surprise I now have a back-story and world that will sustain several stories. The thing has taken me over. It's exciting!
I have plots for seven short stories in mind, like TV episodes. While the characters try to head off a dystopian future by fighting a variety of threats to world order, the overall arc is concerned with power and corruption.
And here's the problem: Do I write it as a series of short stories, or as a novella.
If I do it as shorts, then I'm on my original plan - establish name and skill with shorts. I think I know how to make each short deliver a satisfactory, stand-alone ending.
But the downside is that each story will have to repeat a little stuff from the previous ones for orientation, and that can get tedious for those who read all the stories. Is it ok for a short story that's part of a series to include a prologue that summarizes 'the story so far', or is that passe? (Of course if they're published electronically each story could include a hot-link to the previous ones, so that'd be easier.)
If it's good (and of course it will be!) is it as easy for an unknown to sell a novella as an equally good short?
I think I know the answer but would value Hatrackers' thoughts.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited August 19, 2007).]
Why does this sound familiar? Oh,yes. I went through nearly the same thing. I thought to put short stories before the workshop to get the critical, constructive feedback I had been missing. It would be easier to market short stories and build a list of publications than to start with a novel, even though I have progress on one and ideas for two more.
A difference in our experience is that Hatrackers told me I had too much plot and had cut too much backstory, characterization, world-building and texture in the effort to get down to a short length. I'm now working on filling in those cuts with a novella length target in mind. The way scenes are playing out, it could just as well be a series of shorts.
To your question: I think the novella would be easier to sell than the series of shorts. Individual short stories would be easier yet, if they each stand alone. If each story in the series has to be sold separately, you might not get them all into one publication. You might get them into several diverse publications, but then a reader trying to follow the series would have trouble. My vote, and current plan, is for the novella.
Yeah, way back when I started out, I typed out a list of stories I was going to write, ending with a novel. I think I wrote about four of those stories, then moved on to other things. I wrote out a series of one-page lists like that over the next year or so before giving up. It was about four years after starting, before I could sustain myself at novel length---I've never found it easy.
Posts: 8809 | Registered: Aug 2005
| IP: Logged |
This is not directed towards anyone in particular but more something thats been eating at me for a while......
Also as more of a non-writing but a state of the art thing, its a bit harder to sell novellas these days because of two things 1)price and 2) alot of people are writing novellas.
1) Novellas are expensive to buy for mags. At pro rate of .05 USD the novella starts to rack up serious money. Which is why so many of the non-pro (SFWA) markets have a maximum payment.
2)If Ralan.com is to be believed Analog is oversold on Long stories(7.5k or more).
While this may be because Stanley Schmidt was blessed to see on his desk a pile of novellas, say a couple dozen, so good that he couldn't help but buy them all or as is more likely saw a couple hundred (or thousand) novella length stories (or even serialized novels) that he whittled down into to a number of stories worth publishing.
What can be said about this?
1) People need to actually patronize short fiction markets. When was the last time you actually paid money to read short fiction?
If the answer is yesterday or in the last month, then I say bravo and bully for you.
If the answer is more like the last time you looked at a short fic mag was the last time you wanted to do market research then I personally say shame on you. This has nothing with writing as art but as to do with writing as business. If you want people to buy your book/short story, turnabout's the only fair play.
2)Novellas shouldn't be written as excuses for novels and shouldn't necessarily be made up of the first 1/3 of your novel. This again isn't a criticism of art but a critique of a professional choice. This statement is in fact, a corollary to the first solution. As I have explored the "writing community" as a whole, I have come to understand some/many people working on a novel are doing so because the short market is so low paying vs the possible reward of a best-selling novel (These people may not exist at Hatrack but I've heard the argument on other writing boards).
Well, I have to echo my previous axiom turnabout's fairplay. I realize so many of us are hobbyist's who hoard our time and I know many of us do patronize various markets but if numbers of Analog subscriptions reported by Dozois in Year's Best, are acurate then well, people, writers especially and even writers families, are hardly patronizing the business.
So if any of us want to have a market to sell to in the future, we need to buy the market in the present.
I went to the local library yesterday to look at some markets and read the stories there, and guess what? Not a single fantasy or sci fi mag there. One anime, which featured Japanese teenagers wearing New York clothes. Now I'm wondering if anyone in town sells fantasy/scifi mags. It's a pretty small town.
Posts: 1304 | Registered: May 2007
| IP: Logged |
Well, I don't have much to add than what the above posters mentioned, but I do have this to consider:
Short stories are, if anything, harder to sell than novels, especially in the sci-fi genre and especially given how competitive it is.
That said, probably the best option is to submit it to Analog magazine. This is more or less how OSC himself got his start - these were the guys who first published the Ender's Game short story. They'll accept short stories, novellas, or short story serials. I plan to submit my novella to them, since it seems like the best option.
Talespinner, I've been puzzling these same questions, so I'm no expert. But I'll mention one strategy that I've considered. Perhaps it will make sense for you.
The short stories could be written so that the overlap in SS-2 and above can simply be deleted to form a novella with a little patchwork. Then, shop SS-1 and the novella simultaneously or alternately and see which one gets a bite first. If the novella sells first, it might restrict your options for the SSs. If the SS sells first, I don't think there would be many restrictions on shopping SS-2 and the novella.
OSC offers examples of the overlap in the Maker series, although he can invest more in the overlap since these are novels.
oh, and another thing, if you do decide to go with the serial:
Don't bother worrying about recaps. Look at TV shows: at most they dedicate maybe 3 minutes of clips from the last episode (or even over an entire story arc), or daily strips, which at most offer a narration box three lines deep. If people care about your story, they're going to care from the beginning, and if they pick it up late, they're going to make the effort to make sure they've read the first parts.
quote:One anime, which featured Japanese teenagers wearing New York clothes.
Hmmm, I was pretty sure it might be Bleach because Bleach is pretty well-known for having fashion spreads and fashionably-dressed characters (apparently Tite Kubo is a retired or failed fashion designer).
It might be The Melancholy Life of Haruhi Suzumiya, although those are graphic novels as opposed to manga. Or probably just something else :P
As others have said if you sell your series of short stories to a number of publications it could be hard to follow, if however you could get an agreement with a certain publication to print the series of them then readers would just have to get past issues to find out what had happened.
Alternatively what about trying to publish a series of short stories, like George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards books, but all by one author. This is something I have considered with my fantasy-comedy stories. I find that the joke normally is only funny for 20 pages or so, but that characters from one story would be interesting as supporting cast or even main characters of a fresh joke adventure, but I wouldn't sell them off individually because it would just be too confusing.
Thanks, everyone, for your help. It's reassuring to hear that others have faced the same challenge.
Yes, the difficulty of selling a series of short stories is understood.
Thanks Matt for making me feel guilty ;-) I'm off to renew my sub to Analog! That said, SF seems to be one of the few genres that actually has dedicated mags, and that actually wants new writers, so I suppose that's something.
Thanks also for the pointer to ralan.com. Of course I had found the publisher's submission guidelines and so forth on their respective websites but I did not realise that ralan.com includes a valuable commentary on what markets do and don't want.
Yes, WouldBe, that's pretty much the strategy I have in mind. I'll start off writing them as shorts. I think that's the natural structure for this idea because each short has a distinct theme, that needs a chunk of research, within the overall arc. It will frankly be easier to get onto paper this way because each short finished will feel like a result, hopefully for the reader also. I can always smooth them into a novella later, that will not be hard work.
Then I'll shop the first around and see what the reaction is.
And thanks Grant for the idea of trying to get the shorts published together. I seem to recall that Spider Robinson did that with some of the Calahan's Bar books.
Finally, sorry to hear you can't buy SF mags in your neck of the woods, Deb. What a sad place - move!
I had a somewhat similar decision. I have in my head a bunch of stories that take place within the same family. I could put them all into the same story pretty easily or could break it into individual stories. I decided that short stories would be easier at this point since I could experiment more. If the style or formatting changed significantly between the stories, that would be okay. If it was one novella, I would need to be consistent.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
| IP: Logged |
The "patronizing" comment was not actually directed towards you but was a combination of my own feelings and a comment by Althea Kontis a few months back when someone was offering to give away an Apex mag.
Since then I've made it a point to be a "patron" of the arts, specifically writing.
I say this with the full belief, that even if I ever publish enough to be a "pro" according to SFWA standards, I'll never be a full time writer.
Yet I believe that I, as a fellow "writer," have a moral obligation to support the efforts of writers and not simply those who write Novels but also those who write short fiction.
"The "patronizing" comment was not actually directed towards you"
No worries, Matt, I had not taken it as such. But it is true that I am one of those who buys Analog or Asimov's irregularly. Some purchases are because a story attracts my attention, others for market research. I'd buy more often if they were more easily available but in England bookstores only carry a few copies and you have to snap them up quickly.
I sometimes wonder if they couldn't increase their sales by going glossy, like Interzone. There was a time when I thought the pulp presentation was an attractive throw-back to their Golden Age history. Now they just seem cheap, which I suppose is why they stick with the format.
Sideways slant on the magazine comments...I don't know what I would have done about writing if I hadn't known that magazines existed. I might not have taken up the writing trade at all.
It was only by chance that I ran across Analog for the first time---I was on vacation, and one issue was on one newsstand while the next issue was on the one 'round the corner. (It's one of my great regrets that I was permitted to buy one or the other, but not both.) I managed to subscribe a year later, but it was another year before I realized there were other magazines.
I think it was reading The Early Asimov, though, that made me realize I could write something and submit it---though it was some time later that I actually got around to it. There it was, laid out for anyone to follow---though it didn't work out as well for me as it did for Asimov.
As for the current crop, and where to find them, well...I walk into the local Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble, and there they are, the Big Three, plus lesser ones. (I haven't seen Apex in a while, though.) You don't seem them much elsewhere as in my long-ago childhood.
There have been any number of attempts to sell SF magazines in the USA in slick or large format---none have lasted particularly long. (Realms of Fantasy seems to be marketed as some kind of fantasy-movie magazine---whatever happens to be in it. In the abovementioned stores, I can usually find it down in among the movie mags.)
"I walk into the local Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble, and there they are, the Big Three"
This is one pleasure I miss having returned from the USA to England. I was pleased to discover that Borders have opened several shops over here and they usually seem to have the Big Three too, and Interzone, as well as a reasonable SF shelf. I suspect American booksellers understand the genre better than do English ones and give SF&F better coverage.