Short stories and the author

So, I’m in receipt of several emails, and one crazily placed blog entry (read about it here, go over to a Whole ‘Nother Website, to a page that has nothing to do with the topic, and post the question.  Why would you do that?). . .asking when the short stories Steve and I have recently placed with anthologies (not magazines), will be “available,” by which they mean, as a chapbook from Pinbeam Books.  These folks don’t want to buy anthologies filled with stories by strange authors, just to get our new story, but they want the new stories Pretty Dern Quick.

Now, here’s the Thing.  Actually, a couple of Things.

Writers, including Steve and me, write to earn money.

Anthology gigs pay money up front.

One of the things that anthologies purchase with their up-front money is publication exclusivity, anything from 6 months to 2 years (to forever, but we turn those down; there isn’t enough up-front money in the world).

The purpose of anthologies, besides making money for the publishing house, the editor, and, maybe, some more money for their contributing authors, is to (1) draw in readers of Author A with the promise of a new story, and (2) introduce the readers of Author A to other cool writers those readers may have missed.  Anthologies are not inherently evil, honest.

Now, this is how the whole anthology publication works from the author side:

Invitation comes in –> Author rejects or accepts

If Author rejects, Author does not have to write a story to theme and deadline.  Author also does not get paid.

If Author accepts, Author receives contract from publisher.  Author writes story to theme and deadline, whereupon, sometime before publication of the anthology, a check will arrive in Author’s mailbox.

The contract issued by the publisher spells out things like rights purchased, desired word count, payment per word, how royalties will be computed, deadline for submission, deadline for publication, and!  exclusivity periods.

Once more, in short form, here is that process:
Invitation–>Author Acceptance–>Contract Arrives–>Author writes and submits story to Anthology Editor –>Revision letter arrives–>Author revises, resubmits–>Story accepted–>Payment received–>Anthology published

Some of these bits can be switched around, but these are the steps to publication.

When the anthology is published — that is when the exclusivity period starts.  Exclusivity is exactly what it sounds like — the anthology holds the exclusive right to publish Story A anywhere for:  6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 2 years (forever, but see above…)

After the exclusivity period is over, Author may sell the story to a reprint market, reprint the story Author’s self, or stick the story in a drawer and forget about it.

What we here at the Confusion Factory do is — After the exclusivity period is completed, we will cause Pinbeam Books to reprint Story A as an echapbook/paper chapbook.  Sometimes, there’s a little extra time built in before we get around to that, due to other pressing business, and whether we have at least two stories available for reprint (or have spontaneously generated another, free-range, story in the interim) so that we give value to our readers.

We also collect those stories into a big pile, and lately Baen Books has been kind enough to print those collections in the Liaden Universe® Constellation series.  So far, that is three volumes, with Constellation Four coming in Summer 2019*.

What all this means for the “availability” of the following stories: “Dark Secrets,” “Command Decision,” and “Vestals of Midnight,” is!

“Dark Secrets” will be published in Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers, which is now scheduled to be published in September 2019.  The exclusivity period for that story is 18 months.  So, it will be “available,” sometime in mid-2021.

We have not yet been informed of the exclusivity period for “Decision,” and “Vestal,” but assume a year from publication (November 2018), since that’s an average period.

Advertent readers will see that “Revolutionists” and “Excerpts from Two Lives,” will be collected in Constellation Four.  Sometime after, Pinbeam Books will collect them into a chapbook. The reason for that timing is also exclusivity, the period for “Revolutionists” doesn’t go over until next July, scant weeks before we can expect to see the next Liaden collection.

I trust this answers everyone’s questions — and really!  Try an anthology, why not?  You might find some new favorite authors.

*A Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume Four, coming from Baen in Summer 2019.  This reprints eight shorter works: 2 novellas, 4 novelettes, 2 short stories from 2016-2018.  Titles included are:  “Street Cred,” “Due Diligence,” “Friend of a Friend,” “Cutting Corners,” “Block Party,” “Degrees of Separation,” “Excerpts from Two Lives,” “Revolutionists.”


12 thoughts on “Short stories and the author”

  1. Thank you for the thorough explanation of the process. I rather thought it might be as much as a year from idea to print, for stories; longer for books. I love it when sometimes, a character in a story comes along years afterward as Our Heroine in a novella or novel.
    Is it standard practice for publishers to send paper checks? Wouldn’t e-deposits be easier? Just curious. One doctor’s office I used to frequent didn’t take credit cards, just personal checks; so it’s still a practice in some places.

  2. I might venture to add, that sometimes the story is rejected. A certain editor bought two of mine for a series of anthologies, and rejected a third (it’s OK, it was pretty terrible.). Otherwise my experience is (no surprise) exactly the same.

  3. Thank you for this. Even though I hadn’t really been wondering, this is both interesting and educational, and I will remember and use it, and possibly even tell others. But most especially I value having another layer of understanding added, for when I’m pining for your next story & telling myself to be patient.

  4. Hi Sharon! Very interesting on the process. Just curious, are there ever cases where anthologies are open to unsolicited stories? I know I would love an opportunity to submit something to help attract new readers to my series of books.

  5. Sometimes. You have to watch the market reports and the call outs on social media and whatnot. I know that Release the Virgins deliberately left a couple slots open for unsolicited submissions, after the project was funded. Zombies Needs Brains does the same. The solicited stories/authors make the nut, and open slots for stories submitted by other authors.

  6. Thank you for the concise explanation, I did wonder about the timing of the Constellation books. Is there a (print) collection book in the works for the Carousel Tides series?

  7. All the Carousel novels are still in print from Baen (I think). As for the shorts — There are only six of them (soon to be seven, when Release the Virgins is published. Far too few for a collection. And, given that the Carousel books are, um, Not Wildly Popular, not much chance that there would be any trad publishing interest in doing such a collection. There are three chapbooks available in paper from Amazon, they each have, yes, two stories each. Titles: Surfside, The Gift of Magic, Spellbound.

  8. Another thanks for the process details. I don’t buy a lot of anthologies, but if I see any authors I know I like, it gets more likely I will buy it. At least there will be a story or two I’m sure to enjoy. Sometimes, though, there will be many surprisingly appealing stories by authors I had never heard of before. That is a real joy, and I tend to rush off and see if those authors have any novels out.

  9. I didn’t used to be a ‘short story person’. But, thanks to you and Steve, I’ve discovered authors I wouldn’t have known about because I bought the anthologies you were in.

    In answer to Chip – look up ‘Zombies Need Brains’. (If you’re like me, the name is … a bit off putting, but Sharon and Steve are in ‘Razor’s Edge’, one of their anthologies.) Their current 3 anthologies ‘Portals’, ‘Temporally Disconnected’ and ‘Alternative Peace’ are on Kickstarter (now closed, but… read the Kickstarter page for instructions for submissions and to order previous anthologies and books) Also see the Zombies Need Brains website. Submissions will be accepted until the end of December.

    For those of you readers who haven’t read anything by Sharon and Steve besides the Liaden series, you are really missing something! In addition to the Archer Beach books, there are 2 mysteries, 2 sci fi books in completely different universes and a fantasy duology. Oh, yeah, and short stories.

    Sharon and Co., sending you good energy, as usual, even when I don’t tell you.

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