Publishing shorter fiction


Well-Known Member
Jun 30, 2011
Hi everyone,

I have a question about publishing shorter fiction, not short stories, but what I would call a novella coming in at around 20k words.
It is aimed at younger audiences, though there are more adult themes and elements, which I guess would fit it into a YA category perhaps.

I have sent it out to a few different publishers, with no success yet (I'm fairly sure my cover letter and synopsis is woeful though, so that doesn't help).
But, my question is, is this the route I should be going? Or does the fac that it isn't a traditonal novel length piece of fiction mean that I should be looking for other ways to publish? Should I be trying to send out to an agent first? Should I try market it as a short? Or do people just plain not want novella length pieces.

(I can't back track to add extras higher up on my iPad for some reason, so this is going down here) Another slight possible for not having luck yet, is that I haven't really had any betas for it... Whoops. Just my partner and a few booky family really. But my partner is quite a tough judge when it comes to these things and they maintain they like it despite telling me some of my other work is bad.

Anyway, just looking for advice on how to proceed, and as always any help is appreciated.
Thanks :)
First of all, why don't you put the first few hundred words of it up in Critiques. that will allow us to see if there's anything glaring in the opening which could put anyone off, and that might lead to offers from some members to read the rest, which will help set your mind to rest about quality etc. You could do the same with your cover letter and synopsis.

I don't read or write YA, but I think even there 20k is too short for most publishers, and I'm not sure if there are the equivalent of SFF magazines/ezines for that age group that might take longer short stories/novellas. Your best bet is to do a lot of research on the issue by reading the requirements YA agents and publishers set out -- once you've worked out if your story is indeed YA, of course, since you don't appear wholly sure.
You probably need to be surer of your market, first of all. What age group do you have in mind? What sort of lengths do comparitors run to?

EssentialLy, agents and publishers are looking for the same thing - something that sells! So neither will be keen on something that doesn't clearly have a market.

Also, you say your query and synopsis are weak. That's a huge stumbling block and, I think, a matter or urgency, especially for the query. Why not put it on crits and see if it's working?

Edit - ie what the Judge said.... ;)
Thanks guys. I was waiting until I got to know people a bit better (or until people got to knw me at least) before shoving my work at you all. But I guess there Aren't many better ways. I guess I'll post up the first small section in the next day or two. And then the query etc. afterwards...if it is still manages to be at that level after teething are sunk(n)

After a quick search around google, it turns out its slap bang in the middle grade range, with length, protagonist age, plot, themes and content, though there are one or two small fingers pointing out to the YA, such as the ending not being unhappy, but not happy either. Owning my ignorance on the publishing side of things a little more, I kinda thought MG was more an American age range rather than universal, but that's where this seems to fit.
I know I won´t make friends, but ... When I started writing I made something that I regretted later: When I started, I put all my stories on the internet. Of course I got readers and I learnt something, but when I wanted to publish them, I was always told that they want material not published before. Also somewhere in the internet, it is still some sort of publication. So if you want to have this printed by someone (self-publishing is of course no problem), you should not put it somewhere in the internet, at least not somewhere where it could be found by google. It is not impossible to get it printed, though, but it limits the possibilities. (Probably to some crappy fanzines.)
But posting small portions of a work for critique is not the same as putting the whole thing on the internet, and we have a 1500 word upper limit in the Critiques section, anyway. So posting a sample (and it can be a lot less than 1500 words) is not going to cause problems later unless that section is a significant percentage of the whole ... and may increase the chance of publication if the writer learns something from the critiques and applies it to the rest of the work.
Up to 10 percent of a piece can be posted online before it's considered published online. Having said that, agents aren't keen on the piece coming up in old google searches, so I think it's worth not including the full title of your book in the post. :)
But we are not talking about a novel, we are talking a shorter piece of literature. So I would nevertheless recommend to be careful (but even with novels). A limit does not prevent someone to post the whole story. I have seen so many users starting a topic with the beginning of their story and posting the rest of it by reply to it.
If you want to get it printed by a good publisher, I recommend not to post anything - and not including the title is an attitude like: "I know it is wrong, but I take precautions not being caught easily". I am serious about it. You can also give or send samples of your work to get an opinion without disposing it in public. If one really does not know anyone, you can also place an ad on a discussion board like this one who´d be willing to recieve such a story by mail and read it.
You are right, and we do warn people against posting too much in bits and pieces, and especially about posting the whole story. Sometimes they don't want to listen to warnings, precisely because they do see posting their work for critique as a form of publication, and they don't see any other way of getting the story before so many people. And some people just never heed warnings, no matter who gives them or how or what they are about. There is nothing we can do about that.

Mostly, when writers give a critique they expect a certain degree of reciprocity, and so placing an ad for someone willing to read a story and comment doesn't often yield a serious critique.

But you haven't been here long and don't know how the site works, so I can understand how you might hear some alarms going off and wish to warn people. And that you are doing so is a good thing. So when you say you won't make any friends here (meaning, I suppose, that people will resent what you have to say) you are wrong. I think we all appreciate your concerns and agree with them. Any reminder is welcome; some things cannot be said too many times. On the other hand, we do have a Critiques forum and we think it is a good one, and we think that those who follow the rules and heed our warnings about posting too much can benefit from participating.
No, not that you're doing anything wrong (re not including the title) - it's that agents don't want a trail on the internet showing its age as they want to present it as fresh when submitting.

I can only give my experience - I had all my books prior to getting an agent up on crits here and elsewhere, all short excerpt, but a lot of them. (Anything longer is password protected and not openly visited.) None of it presented a barrier to either an agent or a publisher although now I'm contracted I have to be a little more circumspect. Half the scenes no longer exist or don't bear any resemblance now.

But that's for novels - as you say for short fiction it's more of a risk and I rarely post anything of shorts I might want published. It's just I'd hate for someone to feel posting discreetly for crits, using short excerpts, would risk their work and then miss out on the sort of development that they might need....
Well, there would be a solution that worked pretty well on other boards: Having a part of the board closed for the public. Either it is open for registered members only, so cannot be found via google, or you even have to write an admin/mod before you may enter. The second method may lead to lesser comments on stories, but they usually have more substance.

And of course: Some authors just want to pratice or publish on the net - or probably self-publish. Then it is usually no problem. If you want to have it printed, then better think twice.
Oh, that´s good! Won´t use it myself, as English is not my mother tongue/language I am writing in (and other reasons), but sure many users are thankful for this.
300 posts, I think. Also, Brian changed the crits board so that after a month (I think) any excerpts fall off the search facility and have to be actively asked for in a pull down.

But, really, if it's only a short excerpt of a longer work, there is nothing to worry about.* Short works are certainly an issue, though, and it's a good thing to have raised in this thread, I think.

*Also worth mentioning are threads that capture where you are up to in your work in progress. Some agencies don't want their authors inputting into them.
Hi everyone,

I have a question about publishing shorter fiction, not short stories, but what I would call a novella coming in at around 20k words.
It is aimed at younger audiences, though there are more adult themes and elements, which I guess would fit it into a YA category perhaps.


Anyway, just looking for advice on how to proceed, and as always any help is appreciated.
Thanks :)

Obviously without seeing you novella I can't say one way of another, but... I once had a piece of 12k or so words and found TWB Press were very helpful with it. Your description of what it is sounds rather in their ballpark. See - for more info. Good luck if you submit.
Would that be the case if the WIP is not named or referred to in any way which might later identify it? I might be in trouble....

No historical entries are okay. The theory - I think - is once signed you're a professional writer (ha!) and such discussions about progress and what not should be had with your agent, not on the net. But not one to worry about in advance. :)

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