Moving forward on City of Glass, some thoughts on story length, and a new cover

Not too much to report this week. I’m enjoying writing the new version of “City of Glass” a lot, exploring avenues in the story world I couldn’t when I thought I had to keep it at short story length. When selling a specfic short story to traditional markets, the best chances of making a sale are for stories under 5,000 words. Some markets won’t even consider stories longer than 4,000 words. Since most online and print mags pay per word, it makes a lot of practical sense. For print mags, the shorter the stories, the “more” they have to offer their readers in each issue — one novella can take up half a magazine. For online mags, which often operate on a very low budget, it makes even more sense — the shorter the story, the less they have to pay the author.

In this brave new world of epublishing, the situation is diametrically opposite. Readers are used to getting complete novels for 99 cents, and if all they get is a short story, they feel cheated. I do my best on my covers and in my descriptions to make it completely clear that the product they are considering is a short story (officially defined by the Science Fiction Writers of of America as a piece of fiction under 7500 words), I list the word count and the number of pages, and yet I still get reviews from readers who were apparently expecting novels. I’m not the only one — it’s a common complaint on the Kindle Boards.

Anyway, “City of Glass” was originally 4500 words when I was trying to market it to traditional short story markets. It is now at 10,000 words, about half complete. The new first draft should come in at close to 20,000, after which I will have to fill in the blanks I left and add more sensory detail (window-dressing). It looks like it won’t be any problem to turn my reverse-Cinderella story about a glass-maker on Murano into a novella (officially defined by SFWA as over 17,500 words *g*).

This project has me thinking that I could do the same thing with some of my other short stories, like “Dragon Time.” (Not that I need any new projects …)

Speaking of short stories, I’m putting together a new mini-collection, a 99c jobbie like Never Ever After, Story Hunger. Here’s the first version of the cover:

What do you guys think? Any and all comments welcome!

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About Ruth Nestvold

Ruth Nestvold's short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov's, F&SF, Baen's Universe, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, and Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella "Looking Through Lace" won the "Premio Italia" award for best international work. Her novel Flamme und Harfe appeared in translation with the German imprint of Random House, Penhaligon, in 2009 and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. She maintains a web site at www.ruthnestvold.com.
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18 Responses to Moving forward on City of Glass, some thoughts on story length, and a new cover

  1. Emily says:

    Ooh, I like the cover! It is definitely the sort of thing I would pick off the shelf/click on. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve been able to expand on a story I originally thought had to be much shorter – it is quite exciting!

  2. Victoria says:

    1-I don’t like the calligraphic treatment of the title — this should be reserved for bodice-ripping novels. Also, “Hunger” should be the dominant word. Perhaps make “Story” a roman typeface and make “Hunger” italic, or find another way to set it off.
    2-LOVE the eerie glowing book image, but not the words coming up. (They add nothing.)
    3-Unless each tale is five pages (!), you don’t need the word “Short.” “Fantasy Tales” tells the reader that this is not a novel but many short stories.
    Having said that, I look forward to reading this!

  3. amyskennedy says:

    I love it. I think it looks Old-World and eerie, definately something I would buy. Sounds like you’re doing great–I never need new projects either, but I sure love thinking them up…

  4. Ryan King says:

    I always love your covers. Who does them? Or do you do them yourself?

    • I’ve hired people for covers a couple of times, but most of them I do with my daughter (who is the Photoshop expert). For this one, I bought a premade and Britta and I edited it.

  5. Lena Corazon says:

    Oh, that cover is absolutely exquisite! And I’m glad to hear that this new exploration that you are doing with City of Glass is going well. The story sounds exciting–can’t wait to read it!

  6. Shah Wharton says:

    Hey Ruth – great progress. You’re always accomplishing so much. After three weeks away I’m way behind. I know what you mean about short stories on Amazon and readers feeling ripped off, when it would only take a minute to read the blurb? I’m having a nightmare with reviews on my book at the moment. Grr! They have removed the few I know have been submitted, but they will not tell me why.

    I adore the cover! Gorgeous. And as for expanding on a short – Finding Esta began as a short story too. Sometimes there is so much more to write than we first think… with me, characters mature and their story sort of takes off.

    shahwharton.com

  7. Widdershins says:

    Hah! One can never have too many new projects … Not sure about the title either, but for different reasons. I reckon it could be solid colour and ‘bolded’ for more visibility. Love the book and the wisps of smoke, but not the words so much. They take away from the ‘hunger’ starkness of the whole image … softens it, which, taking another look, the title font does as well, to a certain extent. It hints at whimsy rather than hunger. Still, a certain feral whimsy might be what you’re aiming for!

    • Thanks for the comments, Widdershins. I think for these stories, a certain amount of whimsey might be appropriate. :) I think I’m also going to make the words coming out of the book more transparent so they don’t stand out as much. Maybe if the reader doesn’t recognize them immediately, they’ll be more effective.

  8. Widdershins says:

    P.S. In spite of those quibbles, I love how evocative this image is.

  9. Renata says:

    I absolutely love this cover! :)

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