Short Story or Novel?

Right now I’m pretty snowed under with current projects.  The copyedited manuscript of Artemis Awakening arrived last week and I’ve been reviewing that.  I’m immersed in writing the sequel – still AA2, as far as a title goes.  I’ve promised an original short story to a charity anthology by the end of November and an original “Change War” novella to Steve (S.M.) Stirling for some time early in the year.  Then there’s all the work that comes with the impending release of Treecat Wars in October and Artemis Awakening in May.

Just a Few Possibilities

Just a Few Possibilities

However, that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking ahead to what to do in other arenas.  As some of you know, I brought back into print as both e-book and print-on-demand my Avon novels Changer (with an original introduction) and Legends Walking (now with its original title, Changer’s Daughter and an introduction that explains why I made the switch).  I’ve also done a short story collection called Star Messenger, featuring three short stories about continuing character Captain “Allie” Ah-Lee.

At the year’s Bubonicon, I was asked several times if I intended to do other e-books or print on demand projects.  I’m too busy to write anything new, but I think I can find time to get together the material for either a re-release of one of my early novels or a short story collection from my selection of over sixty published short stories.

I’m curious as to what readers might be interested in.  Certainly, based on sales figures for the three books I already have out, the reprinted novels have out-sold the short story collection.

Are readers at all interested in short fiction?  If so, would the preference be for a collection of inter-related stories (such as I did with Star Messenger) or a broader sampling?  Would the addition of a never-before published piece make a short story collection more appealing?

As for novel reprints, my choice would be limited to some of my Avon titles, since I believe that all the novels I have written for Tor are currently available as e-books. My first Avon novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls has already been reprinted.  That leaves Marks of Our Brothers, The Pipes of Orpheus, Smoke and Mirrors, and When the Gods Are Silent.  If you’re not familiar with these novels, I’ve included a little about each on the Novels page of my website. (

I’d welcome some preliminary feedback to help me sort out my options.  After all, I already have copies of all my stories.  I’d like to make sure that whatever comes out is something people would be interested in reading.


12 Responses to “Short Story or Novel?”

  1. Louis Robinson Says:

    Short answer: all of the above!

    I realise that that’s not really much help, but I do think you should make it a long-term project to get them all out.

    Short term, your best bet is probably either Smoke and Mirrors or When the Gods… They both seem to fit current taste, from the descriptions – I haven’t read either of them, but would like to.

    Unfortunately, I think that the short fiction isn’t going to provide the same return on your time. Which means that we, in turn, have to accept that you will be republishing it as and when you get to it, but I do want to encourage you to do it.

    If there are enough connected stories, publish them together, for the convenience of readers. I’m not sure that it would make much difference to how the books are received, unless they are connected in some way to the books your are currently writing. Lee and Miller seem to be doing rather well with their chapbook stories – Toni’s putting them in print as omnibi – and my guess is that it’s because of how they relate to the Liaden novels. Same thing with Grantville Gazette: people know how to pigeon-hole those stories when they pick them up, and that seems to be important these days. That’s not a good thing, IMHO, but it looks like a good explanation for what’s on bookshelves at the moment. [I’m betting you’ll get some pretty strong reactions to Artemis, simply because she isn’t Firekeeper]

  2. Peter Says:

    Put me down for “yes, please, take my money now” either way.

    A novel might be a safer bet commercially, but I’d think a short-story collection might do okay, especially if it included a new (or at least previously unpublished) story – perhaps a story set in a world readers are already familiar with (a Firekeeper story would probably have the best barb) might serve as a hook.

  3. Alan Robson Says:

    I was astonished to find that you’ve written sixty or more short stories. I’ve seen almost none of them — I presume they must have been published in magazines and collections that just never floated across my eyeballs.

    So my preference would be for the short stories. All of them! I’d be very happy to pay money for that collection. From my point of view, the novels would simply be icing on the cake. After all, I already have all of your novels in hard copy. Ebook editions would be nice, but not necessary.


  4. Chad Merkley Says:

    Honestly, I’m currently unlikely to spend money on new books, although I may request that the local library purchase them. I do scout the used book stores fairly regularly. I picked up a used copy of When the Gods are Silent a while back, and just re-read a couple of nights ago. It’s a fun story, with engaging characters, and good world-building through dialogue and scene-setting. I could see it selling well.

    I haven’t read any of the others on your list, but I’d like to.

  5. Paul Says:

    I want to put in a plug for “Star Messenger,” which, yes, is a collection of three short stories, but they are connected in that they involve the same character. You can read them as a short novel about “The Adventures of…” After all, Asimov’s and Bradbury’s first “novels” were all connected short stories from magazines, and they did pretty well (they’re still in print!) And there is another related group of short stories I’d like to see all together: the Albuquerque Adepts! One more thing: This might just be my own preference, but I like single-author collections where the author writes little introductions to each story, about herself or how the story came about or any number of interesting little tidbits. That might be a way to get the unrelated short stories out there, unless I’m the only one that likes that sort of collection.

    • Alan Robson Says:

      A resounding “YES!” to that suggestion. My own tastes run very much in the same direction as yours, Paul. I just love those introductions and afterwords. Please, please, pretty please with knobs on…


  6. Rowan Says:

    I love books of widely varying short stories. They’re like appetizers, palate cleansers between books, boxes of candy. It’s so hard to find collections of a single author’s shorts too sometimes, even when they have done LOTS of short fiction. I think maybe print-on-demand and ebooks can change that, and I think maybe they should. Viva la short story revolution!

  7. janelindskold Says:

    Thanks for the comments (and feel free to keep them coming).

    Sounds as if there would be an interest in a short story collection… Good to know. I wouldn’t mind writing the introductions that Paul and Alan mentioned liking. I, too, am fascinated with the process by which a story comes to be.

    This doesn’t mean I won’t also try to get my novel back list out as well.

    So many options, so little time!

  8. Other Jane Says:

    I’d enjoy a short story collection. They don’t need to be interrelated to be enjoyed. Rowan summed it up nicely.

  9. CBI Says:

    Of the books you asked about, Pipes of Orpheus is my favorite, followed by Smoke. I liked Gods are Silent (and haven’t read Marks of our Brothers), but would likely buy the first two just to have. (I may be atypical, though: Brother to Dragons remains one of my all-time favorites.)

    OTOH, the only short story of yours I know of is the one you read at Bubonicon a couple of years ago, so my preference would be for the collection. I would like to see them as well,

    Anyway, mine is one data point, since you requested. Go with what you think is best: you are a better judge than I.

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