I wrote a very compelling science fiction short story. I am currently writing a book about an entirely different universe, not related to this short story.

I made this story rest for a long time, had beta testers, and I am sure of its value.

I would like to submit it anywhere (publishers, competitions etc.) where it could lead to publishing a book out of it, and not just the single short story. Basically, I would like a potential publisher to express their interest.

The universe of this story is very vast, the possibilities of expanding it feel infinite already in the short story.

I just have the issue I cannot write two books at the same time. It wouldn't be fair for any of these universes. My attention wouldn't be entirely dedicated.

What are your thoughts about this? Which steps would you take?

Forgot to add: the short story could be already be regarded as 2-3 chapter samples.

  • Why not? (here is a dummy in book writing commenting) It seems like a fair idea to give it try to the next level, to decide which project to dive deeper.
    – Ricardo
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 18:35
  • @Ricardo Thank you for your answer. Definitely I need to understand if I should prioritise a project upon the other.. Commented May 4, 2019 at 19:53
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    Thanks for giving this a bounty, Liquid. I'd also love to hear from publishers or people experienced with them. I know in the comics world it's common to use a short story to attract interest for a series (see the Octal books for just this type of pitch). But I have no idea what works in the novel world.
    – Cyn
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 14:17
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    @Cyn Oh, it's nothing. I figured that a lot of still green, wannabe authors (like myself) would be interested in hearing the opinion of some professional or someone who's already tried.
    – Liquid
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 20:46
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    Thank you guys. I really appreciated everyone's interest. I hope this thread helped you too. Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:31

3 Answers 3


Alas, no.

As an unpublished writer, you absolutely should not submit anything less than a complete novel.

A few quotes to this effect:

You have to have a finished novel.
There are no exceptions to this.

The first step for writing a query letter is to finish the novel.

-- Query Shark

When you send your query, do not send an unfinished manuscript. If you’re writing fiction, agent will want to see a completed manuscript if they are interested in the project. They don’t want to wait for you to finish.

-- Diamond in the Slush

Q: I’m currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now?

A: Being a first-time novelist, it’s important to finish your book before sending out any query letters. Without a track record, you have no proof that you can finish a novel. And the number of folks who finish writing novels is dramatically smaller than the number of folks who start them (I’m certainly guilty of having three unfinished novels taking up valuable space in my underwear drawer.)

Agents are inundated with submissions and they don’t want to deal with unfinished work. From their perspective, it makes no sense to waste time getting excited about a story that may never get completed (or may not fulfill the promise made in a query letter).

-- Writer's Digest

An additional note here is that you speak of submitting to publishers. I'd strongly suggest you also look into submitting to literary agents. Getting an agent opens a lot of doors for you, and puts somebody else, hopefully a pro, on the task of actually selling your book. And many publishers don't even consider un-agented submissions. So, if you're not familiar with the concept or the potential benefits, definitely familiarize yourself with how agents work and how to find one.

But as you can see, you absolutely need to complete your book before submitting to basically anybody, whether agent or publisher.

But Consider Submitting Your Short Story

It sounds like you have a strong SF or fantasy story on your hands -- and that's something that absolutely has a market in its own right. You can submit it to magazines -- and if you publish it, that will be a solid writing credit to your name. That'll do you a lot of good on submissions for novels as well!

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    Thanks for the changes. With the edits, I upvoted. Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:04
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    Thought so: the market it's big, if you don't have a complete novel they will pass over you. The risk might be even compromising your name. Didn't think about the not finishing a novel issue. But it's obvious that this is the most important part of the matter: it's already hard getting selling authors to finish their books. Why would they lose precious time risking with you? Fair point. Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:09
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    Right, agent. I live in a country where agents are not really a thing. But since I am pointing to the English Market, definitely will have to get better insights of how it works. Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:11
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    Sorry about the multiple comments. Had some trouble on my phone... I will definitely publish it! And I think this is actually a better way. When a novel it's out there, in the wild, any "beast" can ingest it. The feedback I will get from the short story, will open up fundamental perspectives for the overall project. In this way I will have time to work on those enzymes, so when the time comes, the novel will be better digested. Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:28

A very good short story --or better yet, many of them --can definitely lead to a publishing contract for a novel. (In fact, that's been the classic path for generations of science fiction writers.) But not unless it's published. An unpublished story does less than nothing for you (submitting it as a sample of an unwritten novel is more likely to hurt than help).

Submit your short story to any of the many great outlets for science-fiction short stories, starting with the most prestigious, and working your way down. If it's as good as you think, it will make it into print. (Contests are fine too, but frankly, publication in a reputable magazine is better.) At that point, you're perfectly welcome to try to expand it into a full length novel --Ender's Game, Flowers for Algernon and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep being among just a few of the notable science-fiction books that were previously published in short-story form.

Once your story is published (to universal acclaim, of course!), include that fact prominently in your query letter (together with any significant positive response, such as a review, an award, or inclusion in an anthology). Better yet, ask your editor to recommend you to agents or publishers. As a established, published writer of good short stories, you'll have a huge advantage over unpublished writers in making your way out of the slush pile. (Science fiction writers have a step up in this regard, because there's a healthy market for science-fiction short stories that doesn't necessarily exist for all genres.) This route also has the feature that it gives you an advantage querying for either book --it doesn't necessarily commit you to the one based on the original story.

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    Thank you for your answer. This is definitely a way to go! In this way I can also easily test the market response : I can get a good feedback out of this single short story, opening up views and perspectives extremely useful for a future book. I'd say the personal gain I can get from it, it's far more valuable than winning the competition itself. Commented May 7, 2019 at 14:59
  • You might enjoy Orson Scott Card's book about writing science fiction, it has a fair amount of info about the well-worn pathway for a SF writer from stories to novels. Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:00
  • that's great. I find myself guilty of ignorance: had no idea Orson Scott published this. Thanks a lot, will get shortly on it. Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:10

I agree with Standback that submitting an unagented short story to a publisher is not likely to entice them to ask for a novel. I believe the answer to your question is no.

But I would modify this to say that publishing short stories and other forms of fiction, and winning contests, are good ways to improve your query letter when you seek representation for your novel.

Agents are unlikely to represent a short story (I've never heard of this) and many writers cut their teeth writing and publishing short stories so that when they seek an agent they can list their relevant publications--including short stories.

  • Upvoted -- I didn't notice, when I crafted my answer, that you'd already covered much of the same ground. Commented May 6, 2019 at 17:34
  • @ChrisSunami It was a slap-dash answer, because it seems fairly obvious... I had considered making it a comment.
    – SFWriter
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 18:05

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