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If I was to publish an original short story to get feedback for a concept and characters, would publishers find it distasteful if I then wanted to include the same text later as the prologue part of a novel?

On the one hand, I could see how that might give them indigestion since they'd be carrying the cost of publishing retreaded work. Some buyers may feel ripped off too.

On the other, if it strengthens the work as a whole then it seems like the net result would be more shelf appeal.

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No Problem!

I have heard of several authors turning a good short story later into a novel. A lot of movies are similarly based on a short story that then gets expended into a movie format. Some ideas are too good to keep down. They start percolating, and take on a life of their own.

In fact, getting short stories published is a good way to establish writing credentials, and the fact that the short story was published means it's already a proven concept. The discipline involved in writing story elements for a short story mean you are packing a lot into a small package, making for a powerful and complete beginning to the story. This is the part literary agents look at when they decide if they'll even look at your book. Whether this is a first chapter or a prologue is an entirely different debate (I'm torn on the virtues of a prologue vs the general stigma attached) so proceed with that part with caution.

Don't feel bounded to stay true to the original short story if the plot of the novel evolves in a new direction. Anyone who has read "Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?" and then watched Blade Runner would understand the central point of the movie is completely different, even if the characters and starting premise are the same.

You should still retain all rights to your published works unless the short story publisher has some REALLY bad clauses in the publishing agreement. A lot of short stories are not even under a contract, but may be covered in the publisher's legal verbiage, so be sure to read everything thoroughly first (and even then it's not a bad question to ask them).

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  • Thanks. So that applies not just to concept but actual text as well? I've just edited the Q to clarify that.
    – dhinson919
    Jun 5, 2021 at 17:00
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    @dhinson919 If you can get the short story published, that is already an accomplishment. If you're just writing it to show to friends, then there's absolutely no harm, because your novel audience will not read the short story. You should own it (literal/figurative).
    – DWKraus
    Jun 5, 2021 at 17:09
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When I was a kid I happened to read a list of science fiction novel titles which included A.E. van Vogt's The Weapons Shops of Isher (1951), and I was confused because I had read A.E. van Vogt's short story "The Weapons Shops of Isher" and knew it wasn't a novel.

Later I learned that The Weapons Shops of Isher (1951) was what A.E. van Vogt called a "fix-up novel", combining several previously published short stories and additional written material to make a novel.

The Weapon Shops of Isher is a science fiction novel by Canadian writer A. E. van Vogt, first published in 1951. The novel is a fix-up created from three previously published short stories about the Weapon Shops and Isher civilization:

"The Seesaw" (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July 1941)

"The Weapon Shop" (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 1942)

"The Weapon Shops of Isher" (Wonder Stories, February 1949)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Weapon_Shops_of_Isher[1]

A.E. van Vogt is hardly the only writer of "fix-up novels", although he did it a lot.

The first time I read a "fix-up novel" it was another by A.E. van Vogt, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950). The first section was obviously a revised version of the classic story "Black Destroyer".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_of_the_Space_Beagle[2]

If a writer's short story is published, and he retains the relevant rights, or gets permission from the publishers, he can use it in a novel.

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