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Old 11-21-2012, 09:54 AM   #1
Jonathan.Bentz
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Does this seem like a sound marketing strategy for a sci-fi compilation?

My first love has always been sci-fi, but I tend to write more episodic style than in one big book.

So here's what I've thought about doing: submitting my segments as separate stories or serials (the former being preferable) to Asimov's, Analog, or a similar sci-fi magazine.

Than, with the final segment, having a notation that the entire compilation will be available in electronic and print formats across various websites, through SmashWords, CreateSpace (print), and possibly Lulu.com (again print, since I don't think CS allows for a hardback edition).

Anyways, just wondering if this seems like a good strategy or if I'd be better off just waiting until I've got it completed. I figure this way I allow myself time to complete each segment rather than being forced to develop the entire story right off the bat.
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:08 AM   #2
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I've seen writers take various runs up at something like this over the years. It's never worked as far as I can tell because it's very difficult to get your work accepted into such magazines; and novel segments aren't the same as short stories, and don't tend to work well as both short pieces and parts of a larger novel.

You can try it, of course, but it's unlikely to go as swimmingly as you describe.

You also have to consider how many people would buy your book as a result of having read the final piece in a magazine--many people would be put off by having read the denoument (is that how you spell that?) already. And the editor might not want to put your sales announcement into their magazine.

Further, making a start on this before you've got your novel written seems like asking for trouble to me. How can you be sure that the book will turn out coherent and satisfying until you've written it? Especially when you're suggesting this "rather than being forced to develop the entire story right off the bat".

I'm sorry, it sounds wrong to me in so many ways.

Meanwhile, I'll move this to Book Promotion.
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:49 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
I've seen writers take various runs up at something like this over the years. It's never worked as far as I can tell because it's very difficult to get your work accepted into such magazines; and novel segments aren't the same as short stories, and don't tend to work well as both short pieces and parts of a larger novel.

You can try it, of course, but it's unlikely to go as swimmingly as you describe.

You also have to consider how many people would buy your book as a result of having read the final piece in a magazine--many people would be put off by having read the denoument (is that how you spell that?) already. And the editor might not want to put your sales announcement into their magazine.

Further, making a start on this before you've got your novel written seems like asking for trouble to me. How can you be sure that the book will turn out coherent and satisfying until you've written it? Especially when you're suggesting this "rather than being forced to develop the entire story right off the bat".

I'm sorry, it sounds wrong to me in so many ways.

Meanwhile, I'll move this to Book Promotion.
Hmm, I'll have to consider that, I guess. Thanks for the info. Glad I didn't go full-bore without asking advice from more experienced writers. That would've probably been a fiasco....
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:50 PM   #4
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Hmm, I'll have to consider that, I guess. Thanks for the info. Glad I didn't go full-bore without asking advice from more experienced writers. That would've probably been a fiasco....
If it's genuinely a short story series, and not a novel split into parts, there's no harm in trying the big markets. But you do need to be aware they're difficult to crack. Writing all your stories in the same setting is likely to reduce your chances (unless they happen to buy the first one because they love the setting). When writers sell a series that way, it's often due to the first story selling and deciding to write a sequel, rather than planning a series from the start.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:08 PM   #5
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You also want to read your contracts very carefully. It's less common with short story markets, but you may find they ask for at least the right of first refusal on other stories written with the same characters/setting. Also, if you send them to multiple markets you're going to need to keep a close eye on the exclusivity lengths, since they may vary (and may be longer than you anticipate). Most of the big markets take a long time to respond, so from sub to final collection you could be looking at a wait of several years.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:10 PM   #6
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Well, I would cite Charlie Stross as someone who has done this multiple times with some success. Accelerando was originally published in Asimov's - it's a story cycle rather than a novel, I guess. The Atrocity Archives was serialised in Spectrum SF. The Rapture of the Nerds (with Cory Doctorow) is a fixup incorporating several shorts originally done with Argosy.

I think it's a really good form for Stross - his novels which came out in chunks are his best, maybe because it forces him to write in a more tightly-structured way. (His longer unserialised novels can get a bit baggy and unfocused.)

I'd also point out that many classic SF novels were originally serialised in big chunks across SF mags back in the day, though that's certainly out of fashion these days.

I'd say if your novel is more like a story cycle - if the stories can stand alone, if necessary - and if they're of the right standard for the market you're submitting to, you might be able to make this work. I don't know, though, if it's anything other than a long shot.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:11 PM   #7
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Of course, if you do get multiple stories into the big magazines, you may well find you don't have to self publish the collection. Short story collections aren't as popular as novels, but if you prove you've got the chops you may find someone willing to take a risk on you anyway.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:18 PM   #8
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In addition to what others have said, I think you're grossly underestimating how hard it is to get accepted by the big-name magazines you list.

Making any kind of business plan for which one of the variables (getting a publishing contract with a major glossy) is something you can't control is, well, foolish.

If you want to get published by the biggies, go for it, by all means. 'Seeking publication' is something you can plan. And starting at the top is always the best way to go.

But planning on 'getting published by the biggies', well, you just can't do that, not when you aren't already an established writer.
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Old 11-21-2012, 07:31 PM   #9
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The Wool by Hugh Howey series is pretty much like this though released in parts as short novellas to kindle direct publishing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wool_(series).
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:19 PM   #10
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Analog does not ask for first refusal. I would assume Asimov's does not either as they are run by the same company and have the same legal department.
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan.Bentz View Post
My first love has always been sci-fi, but I tend to write more episodic style than in one big book.
Ah, episodic. I do sometimes wist for the old serials style of novels. Which I have seen people do online, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of money in that unless someone is very, very good at it.

Quote:
So here's what I've thought about doing: submitting my segments as separate stories or serials (the former being preferable) to Asimov's, Analog, or a similar sci-fi magazine.
This is not a bad idea as a first step! If the stories are truly stand-alone, then there's no reason not to send out first sales in various magazines. Serials are a damn hard sell--you're asking a magazine to commit to spending a huge chunk of their budget on just your writing for a long time--but if your writing is truly spectacular, it's not impossible.

Presumably you have a backup plan for whichever of the stories aren't accepted for publication?

Quote:
Than, with the final segment, having a notation that the entire compilation will be available in electronic and print formats across various websites, through SmashWords, CreateSpace (print), and possibly Lulu.com (again print, since I don't think CS allows for a hardback edition).
I'm not really sure how you mean to do this. Do you mean that you'd try to spring it on the magazines you mean to sell these things to? Because they have final edit approval on everything they put up on their website. (Though I imagine many are happy to link to where to get more of an author's writing from the bio at the end of the story.) Or that you'd ask for their help in promotion? (I know that Tor.com sells the stories it publishes individually through Amazon as well.) You'd also need to check the rights for each of the individual stories you sold, based on the rights available there... It's a bit complex to do it that way.

Quote:
Anyways, just wondering if this seems like a good strategy or if I'd be better off just waiting until I've got it completed. I figure this way I allow myself time to complete each segment rather than being forced to develop the entire story right off the bat.
...oh. I thought you had all of this completed. I don't think you'll find any top-line magazine willing to take a chance on a serial that's not even completed unless you have an amazing publication record already, and a name that'll bring in lots of fans right off.

I think this is a plan that rests heavily on assuming that very prestigious magazines will accept a lot of your stories, exactly as you want them. And having seen in slush reading a lot of attempts at sending the first story in some chain, where it clearly didn't stand alone properly, I think they'd be leery of even the attempt, unless you already have some strong reputation.

If you're really determined to get this published soon, I'd serialize at least portions of it for free on your own website, and then put the collected total up for sale. But unless you have some specific reason to be in a big hurry, I just wouldn't consider sales routes at all until the whole thing was done and edited.
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Old 11-24-2012, 01:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fadeaccompli View Post
Ah, episodic. I do sometimes wist for the old serials style of novels. Which I have seen people do online, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of money in that unless someone is very, very good at it.



This is not a bad idea as a first step! If the stories are truly stand-alone, then there's no reason not to send out first sales in various magazines. Serials are a damn hard sell--you're asking a magazine to commit to spending a huge chunk of their budget on just your writing for a long time--but if your writing is truly spectacular, it's not impossible.

Presumably you have a backup plan for whichever of the stories aren't accepted for publication?



I'm not really sure how you mean to do this. Do you mean that you'd try to spring it on the magazines you mean to sell these things to? Because they have final edit approval on everything they put up on their website. (Though I imagine many are happy to link to where to get more of an author's writing from the bio at the end of the story.) Or that you'd ask for their help in promotion? (I know that Tor.com sells the stories it publishes individually through Amazon as well.) You'd also need to check the rights for each of the individual stories you sold, based on the rights available there... It's a bit complex to do it that way.



...oh. I thought you had all of this completed. I don't think you'll find any top-line magazine willing to take a chance on a serial that's not even completed unless you have an amazing publication record already, and a name that'll bring in lots of fans right off.

I think this is a plan that rests heavily on assuming that very prestigious magazines will accept a lot of your stories, exactly as you want them. And having seen in slush reading a lot of attempts at sending the first story in some chain, where it clearly didn't stand alone properly, I think they'd be leery of even the attempt, unless you already have some strong reputation.

If you're really determined to get this published soon, I'd serialize at least portions of it for free on your own website, and then put the collected total up for sale. But unless you have some specific reason to be in a big hurry, I just wouldn't consider sales routes at all until the whole thing was done and edited.
I tend to plan things out way far in advance; its a bit of a quirk of mine. I like to get an idea of if something's going to be a good option or if I'm better off doing another route. in this case, just selling the stories individually on Amazon through KDP, and than maybe doing an Omnibus once they're finished...
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan.Bentz View Post
I tend to plan things out way far in advance; its a bit of a quirk of mine. I like to get an idea of if something's going to be a good option or if I'm better off doing another route. in this case, just selling the stories individually on Amazon through KDP, and than maybe doing an Omnibus once they're finished...
Success for the collected stories depends on the success you have selling the individual stories. If you land several in top-notch markets (Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Postscripts, Clarkesworld, etc.), and if you get some extra buzz such as award nominations or sales to a Year's Best anthology, then you have a very good chance indeed with the book itself--either you could sell it to a trade publisher, or you'd have an audience willing to buy a self-published version.

It can be done. I sold three linked, but stand-alone stories set in my alt-Ireland world to Asimov's, Postscripts, and PS Publishing. The book version, with a fourth novella, is coming out from Tor in a couple years. But it wasn't easy.
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