Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Occasionally I've seen novel excerpts published in short story venues. They're usually sections of a recent or forthcoming novel that also hold together as a self-contained story. Alternately, sometimes an author starts with the short story, which is later expanded into a novel and sold. (I believe Ender's Game is one such example).

How are these typically handled between the author, the novel publisher, and the short story publisher? Do novel publishers seek out these deals? Do the authors seek them out and then have to "OK" them with the novel publisher?

If I sold an excerpt as a short story, how would that complicate trying to sell the whole novel? If I've already sold the novel, how does that complicate selling the excerpt?

EDIT for clarification (hopefully): If I sell rights to the short story/chapter/excerpt, then go on to try and sell the whole novel (which contains that same bit), are those short story rights likely to conflict with the whole novel rights that the publisher is going to want? If, for example, I sell First North American Serial Rights for the short story, does that also exercise the same rights for the novel containing it?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Well, in the case of a short story that is expanded into a novel everything works pretty much the same as before. This is simply because you have written a self contained short story and would sell it as such.

As for an excerpt... well that depends on the editor and the magazine. I'm pretty sure you can't sell an excerpt with the promise that it will be a full novel soon or that it may come out someday. For an editor, publishing an excerpt with nothing attached to it really isn't a way to attract readers.

In this case I would say that you pretty much have to have the book sold before you can even think about getting at excerpt published in a magazine. In that case then this is probably something your publisher or agent would set up, the publisher might even have a deal with a magazine for this sort of thing.

That being said, if you want to see an excerpt in print you should check with your agent (if you have one) to see if it's okay, and make sure your contract allows for it as well. If you have an agent they might be able to do all the leg work to get it print without it getting lost in a slush pile.

Also, it's possible that running an excerpt might not count a sale, and you might not get much money from it as such. There might also be restrictions in your contract about how you can publish the excerpt. Back when I was an editor, if we had decided to publish an excerpt we would have made a different deal then for a normal story.

Note, this is mostly from my view of having both made a few sales and having been a publisher on a small magazine, so take it with a bit more salt then usual.

share|improve this answer
    
In response to your first paragraph - if I sell rights to the short story/chapter/excerpt, then go on to try and sell the whole novel (which contains that same bit), are those short story rights likely to conflict with the whole novel rights that the publisher is going to want? If, for example, I sell FNASR for the short story, does that also exercise the same rights for the novel containing it? –  sjohnston Jan 14 '11 at 19:43
    
@sjohnston well there always the chance for conflicts, and rights can be sticky, but here's how I would see it. You only sold the first run rights on the short story, not the whole novel. When you're shopping the novel around make sure it's clear that the short story part has been in print already, that way there are no surprises. One possible conflict is the contract for the short story might prevent you from reprinting it for a year or two. –  Fox Cutter Jan 14 '11 at 19:54
2  
@sjohnston The big rule in this case is to make sure everyone who's looking at the book knows and the short story/except ahead of time. That way it can be factored into their decisions. –  Fox Cutter Jan 14 '11 at 19:56

When you sale a book, the publisher usually asks for something like world rights, or north american rights or world-english rights. The right to publish part of a novel before publication in a magazine or journal is called first serial rights (the term applies to any time a story first appears in a periodical, not just excerpts from forthcoming novels, ie -- magazines also buy first serial rights for stand alone short stories).

Once you've sold your first serial rights, they're gone. No one else can buy them from you. Should it affect the sale of a novel if the first serial rights to a portion are already gone? Not really. It will depend on the publisher and you should be as clear as possible about the history of the piece.

Who sells the rights? If you're under contract with a publisher, it depends. Your contract should specify who can sell which serial rights and when under the heading of subsidiary rights. If the publisher has claimed that right, then it's up to them to sell and collect the proceeds and then split them with you according to the contract. If serial rights aren't mentioned, then they are yours to sell. It'd be nice to at least give the publisher a heads-up, even if they didn't claim the right to sale them themselves because timing can be important. If you can get a magazine to publish an excerpt, you want to maximize the potential exposure so you can turn it into sales of your novel.

share|improve this answer

With the increase in popularity of electronic book readers, there are more and more people choosing to self-publish their short stories as individual works, and then combining them to sell as a complete collection. The most common practice I have seen is to sell short stories at .99 and then combine five or more into a collection to sell at 2.99 or higher, depending on the number of stories. The idea is to use the indiviual stories as loss leaders in order to encourage people to take the plunge for the collection. Using Kindle as an example, you only get 35% royalties for the .99 stories, but you get 70% for anything that sells at 2.99 or up.

I personally am in the process of writing three separate suspense novellas of at least 20k words each which I will sell individually at .99, and then I will merge them together to sell as a collection for 2.99. Once I have finished them, I plan to do the same with three contemporary fantasy novellas.

I believe a lot of people are willing to buy a small story at 99 cents (look at the popularity of iTunes). If you have multiple titles out there then you'll find that if someone likes one of your stories they will go back and look for more, and conveniently enough, you'll have some waiting for them!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.