1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Publishing Serialized Novellas

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by lostinwebspace, May 30, 2014.

    Hey everyone. I'm trying to get some opinions on publishing a series of novellas. Yes, I realize the odds are stacked against me in every single way, as you'll read. But, like they say, I'm going for it!

    I've got a series of novellas that range from (the lowest word count) 25,000 words to (the highest word count) 40,500 (technically a novel), 90 pages to 145 pages. George Lucas has Star Wars, Stan Lee has Spider-Man, Walt Disney has Mickey Mouse, I have this series. I've written and published other things, but this is my opus. I've completed sixteen stories so far, so I've invested a lot of time, effort, and sweat in this series. It has a lot of mileage, and I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished and the little story world I've created.

    I submitted the first story to an agent a few years ago, which garnered a rejection, but not a form letter. An actual response. The guy seemed really interested in it, but told me he couldn't quite be the guy behind it. So I know the story has traction.

    I've considered putting the series on the Internet, which spells death in terms of traditional publishing, but I work out of love, not for money. And the bottom line is I want people to see, not necessarily buy it. The reasons I've considered Web publishing are these: I retain 100% control. I can title the series how I want. I can present it how I want. I compromise with no one. I can use whatever cover art I want. I own every right, though I'll have to do some research on international rights. Cons? Obviously money (but I think after getting to story 17 I've proven to myself I've got the endurance to see this into the future without payment). If I get sued (though I don't expect to be), I've got no backing. And those pros can easily, easily work against me if I don't do my research and learn how to do things properly.

    I'm nervous about submitting it, not because of rejection, but read on and you'll get the idea. I know everything has risk, and I'm prepared to accept it. I also know every place has different terms, and some of those might even be stated in the submission guidelines for some places. There is probably no blanket answer anyone can provide. But discuss away.

    I know there's a market for novellas, but for a series? What sort of publication would this likely get: in a collection of books, as an e-book, as a standalone publication?

    What if the first story fails? Can I take the second one elsewhere? Can I put the others up on the Web? Do I own the characters, universe, etc. even if the first publishing house owns rights to the first story? What I'm getting at is who owns what (or whom) if I sell the first.

    If a publishing house doesn't publish novellas, can I present the first...three...four...whatever as a single publication and make them aware it contains a number of stories?

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    I don't have any advice but am interested in the responses you get as I have a children's series I'd like to traditionally publish eventually and am curious about the process myself. I did want to ask why you think you could possibly be sued if you "web publish" and, as I'm not familiar with that term, do you mean just posting on a personal blog or self-publishing an eBook?
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    While it may be difficult to sell to a larger market, unless several of the initial novellas flow together into a larger story (to reach novel length), there are smaller publishers that publish mainly via ebooks (where length isn't such an issue) but often publish print (mainly POD) versions. The only thing I would say is to be very selective when deciding which smaller publishers to submit your work to. Some are excellent, while others--well, you'd be far better off self-publishing.

    If you decide to self-publish, there isn't a reason you cannot publish via Kindle, Smashwords, Nook etc., with an eye toward selling.

    Either way, having multiple works makes a difference with readers. If they enjoy the first story, they'll be looking for more, and that'll be of interest to publishers.

    Good luck, whichever route you take.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't know the answers to all your questions, so I'm just going to post any thoughts I think are relevant. Like you said, it's hard getting publishers to take on novellas. How closely related are the novellas? Maybe you can put 3 closely related ones together and have a novel in three parts.

    Regarding rights, all you're doing is giving up first publication rights when you sign with a publisher. A legit publisher won't ask you to sign over the rights to everything. So you can publish the first with a publisher and then put up the others (the ones with the same characters, etc.) online without any problems.

    You also have the option of self-publishing. I know a lot of writers give away their first work for free and then charge a reasonable price for any subsequent work. The free work is meant to attract an audience. The idea is that if they like the free piece, they'll be willing to pay for your other work because they know who you are and how you write.

    I hope you find a solution that works for you. Good luck.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I vaguely remember an introduction to one of Data Stabenow's novels in which she discusses the fact that she created her Liam Campbell series because her previous publisher still owned some rights to her Kate Shugak series. So it sounds like that can happen, yes.

    Edited to add: "That" being the publisher owning rights to more than just the actual book/story that they bought.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...as you'll be self-publishing, it will be in whatever form you choose...

    ...of course... as long as the contract you sign with the e-book publisher has a clause allowing you to do so... it's up to you to not sign any contract that does not have a withdrawal clause...

    ...see above....

    ...you own everything... they won't own the copyright on the story, you only sell/give them the right to publish it... unless, of course, you're foolish enough to give them the copyright...

    ...you retain the copyright on all of your works... which publishing rights [there are a slew of 'em... google for the list] you give or sell to a publisher is up to you...

    ...you can present whatever you want... they can either accept it or not...
     
  7. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    Why did you only submit your story to one agent? From the advice I've read, you should submit to about ten, wait a few weeks for responses, then submit another batch of queries. Sounds daunting, I know, but you could, for the most part, use the same query letter for all ten.

    I've done this myself, and roughly half of them respond. In my case, I had all rejections and I gave up on that story, but I wouldn't have gave up on traditional publishing just because of one single rejection.
     
  8. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Well, they're all part of the same series and use the same characters and setting, so there's that. But there are subplots that run through them. I always thought of them in groups of 4. Only problem with that is, if I go with one at a time, I have the problem I mentioned above about novellas. But if I go in fours, the first four, for instance, is 125,500, which is typically too big for a sci-fi novel. I could group them in threes, but some subplots begin and end in those fours, and I try to end each fourth with a big punch. So I'd miss that. Not the end of the world, mind you, but still...

    Self-publishing on other sites was something I'd thought of before, but with the stigma of self-publishing, I guess I'd put it out of my mind. Don't know why I went straight to literal self-publishing (with that site idea), but I should probably revisit the self-publishing idea, shouldn't I?

    That's an idea too. I guess I can put the first on Smashwords or some other site for free, then charge a fair price for the others.

    Like I said, fear of rejection wasn't the reason I didn't send them. It was more fear of the "baggage" that came with it all. And I didn't submit it to more than one agent because the agent didn't specify simultaneous submissions.

    For now, I might go checking around at some self-publishing sites like Smashwords and see what their options are. But I've also found an agency that will publish sci-fi novellas in my word range, so I might try them first. And I gotta dig up my old how-to query books. :p Have to look at the guidelines for submission and their terms though. But the idea of self-publishing is exciting too, if not making me a bit nervous since I'll need to be extra careful about what I do.

    Thanks, everyone who responded here. Keep the discussion coming.
     
  9. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    I've actually wanted to do the exact same thing! Except instead of a series, I just have "Part One, Part Two" up to 4 parts. This isn't really a "series" though, and I don't have as many stories as you do.

    The option I chose for this is ebook self publishing. You release each one when you want, and length doesn't matter because its not traditional publishing.

    It's kind of like Don Quijote.... It was written in Chapters, and each Chapter was released and sold for very cheap. The moment a new chapter was released, people would buy it and keep up with the story. I'm hoping to do something similar. Release Part One and see how that goes. If it's good enough, then release Part Two etc.
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think who owns rights to what can be negotiated with a publisher, which is why you need to get yourself an agent.

    Publishing on the internet doesn't necessarily spell death to chances of trad publishing. I wrote my novella on a blog, and due to popularity, was offered a publishing deal by one of the largest trad publishers in that country. This is very random and hard to achieve, mainly because in English speaking world, the blogging communities are massive and it's much harder to get noticed. But if you think of a good promotion strategy, and most importantly, if the readers like your stories, the potential is there.

    I always thing of novellas as being around 50k mark, 25 would be a 'novelette'. I think these days, readers expect at least 90k words in the books they buy. But shorter work can be a graphic novel, or even combining three stories, into three 'books' within one novel, and make it to length that's easier to sell, can work for you.

    Get a good agent first, though, and good luck! :)
     

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