I seem to be asking a lot of questions lately

Posted in Books, self-publishing, Short Stories, writing.

… And here’s another one. In multiple parts. But first, the back­ground. I will try to keep it short. (Yes, and I orig­i­nally thought the Sun Sword was going to be two books…)

A graphic designer I know is between clients, and she is doing covers for my short stories. If I haven’t mentioned this yet, I intend to bring them all out in ebooks as singles, with the first six being the West stories related to the West novels. (I also intend to bring out the six as a single, unified collec­tion, in both a print-on-demand large format paper­back and an ebook. If there is enough demand for it, I will also gather the stories and offer them in print-on-demand collec­tions as well, word­count permit­ting.)

I asked for simple, minimal covers that were similar in look so that people who saw them would realize they were short stories, not new novels. I’ll be inter­ested to hear what people think of them when they finally see them.

She’s just finished the first six covers (whereas I, of course, have not finished the format­ting of the first story, although I only have the Smash­words .doc to go).

For a variety of reasons, most of the stories were orig­i­nally published under the West by-line.

My husband and my Australian alpha reader both feel — moder­ately strongly — that the stories should be numbered; my long-suffering husband also feels that, with the excep­tion of the first six, they should be presented in order of publi­ca­tion. So far so good. (I objected to the numbering initially because it implies — to me — a series, and the stories, with the excep­tion of the two Augus­tine Painter shorts, are not connected. But…they will, in fact, be numbered, because my objec­tions were mild, and as so often happens in marriage, one compro­mises if one’s part­ner’s feel­ings are stronger.)

The graphic designer has finished covers for stories 1 through 6; she’s ready to keep working. I have to give her the stories, with a length (short or novella), title, and … author name.

I’m not sure what to do about the author name.

(a) I orig­i­nally thought I would sepa­rate them by tone: the high fantasy (or orig­inal world fantasy, i.e. the fantasy that doesn’t take place in our world) as Michelle West, and the contem­po­rary fantasy as Michelle Sagara. But I’m not sure what I would do with the SF stories (or the few alter­nate histo­ries).

(b) And then I thought I would just bring them all out as Michelle Sagara stories. © But the first six are defin­i­tively Michelle West stories. So maybe I should do them all as Michelle West, since that’s how they’re starting, and since they’ll be numbered.

(d) After this thought, I thought why don’t we just bring them out under the name they were orig­i­nally published under? Because I have already been threat­ened with bodily harm for not deciding on one name for the sake of bibli­og­ra­phers (it was an affec­tionate threat. Mostly).

And then I thought I would maybe go revise Skir­mish instead of angsting. (I’m almost finished that revi­sion; there was one tricky part and it was only recently that I figured out how to handle it in a way that didn’t give me ulcers, but I really like that part now. The problem with revi­sion, for me, is that frus­tra­tion breeds contempt, and if the frus­tra­tion continues, I lose all confi­dence in any of the words and start rewriting them in a way that doesn’t actu­ally make them better.)

But…the graphic designer can’t do any of the covers without that infor­ma­tion, and if I continue to wibble inde­ci­sively, she won’t have time to do them later.

Yes, I am finally getting to the ques­tion.

Should I:

(a) attempt to group them using either West or Sagara, which is highly subjec­tive

(b) keep them all under one name as Michelle Sagara

© keep them all under one name as Michelle West

(d) use the name under which they were orig­i­nally published

or

(e) some other option which you will explain in the comments.

The one thing I don’t want to do is bring them all out as Michelle Sagara West.

36 Responses to I seem to be asking a lot of questions lately

  1. Jon Lund says:

    The biggest enemy of a self published ebook is obscu­rity. Have you consid­ered publishing them as a collab­o­ra­tion? That way searching either of your names will find them.

    Megan Lind­holm is doing that with Robin Hobb for her short fiction collec­tion coming out in October.

  2. Nova says:

    I think you should do at least the first 6 numbered stories as Michelle West since they are already grouped as such. For the rest of the stories, I think you should either publish under their orig­inal published name or Michelle West, whichever is easier. When I look for your books, I tend to do a search of all the names you publish under anyway.

  3. Alea says:

    I vote for D as well — that keeps a simpler “paper trail.” Never under­es­ti­mate the ability of readers desperate for a new story to think an author writing under two names wrote two _different_ tales with the same title, one under each name.

  4. DG says:

    I’m for option “d”:

    (d) use the name under which they were orig­i­nally published

    Like other folks, I like the paper trail of knowing what book was published under what name (maiden name, married name, pen name, what­ever). I already know name x and name y are the same person, so the name change between books (or series of books) doesn’t bother me.

    DG,
    Self-Proclaimed Pres­i­dent of Team Night­shade

    P.S. I’ll gladly read your short stories for certain, but I must say I LOVE the long books. 1,000 page books make me giddy, but I know not everyone digs that kind of length.

  5. DeDe says:

    I like option C actu­ally, but option D would be my second choice.
    .
    Alter­na­tively — you can give the bibli­og­ra­phers ulcers — have the artist come up with the symbolic glyph repre­senting ‘Michelle’ with all that a True Name implies…Don’t symbols come up first in bibli­ogra­phies? :-)

  6. Thanks so much for your answers and opin­ions so far — you guys are really the best readers ever.

    Although DeDe, you have a subver­sive, cruel streak :)

  7. Aaron says:

    An enthu­si­astic vote for option (d).

    That will keep your bibli­og­raphy consis­tent. It also allows readers to more easily fill in the short stories they don’t already have, if they intend to buy them indi­vid­u­ally. If they see a Michelle Sagara story that was once Michelle West story (via anthology), they may get confused and buy a short story they already possess. Or worse, they may not buy a story that they don’t already possess.

  8. Option D. But, you could also do Michelle West writing as Michelle Sagara or Michelle Sagara writing as Michelle West; your graphic artist would prob­ably skin you. :))

  9. Aaron says:

    I was about to suggest some­thing similar for each stoy, e.g.:

    Michelle Sagara West (orig­i­nally published as Michelle _____)”

    But this seems unnec­es­sarily compli­cated and a lot of work for the artist.

  10. Meghan says:

    I think the first 6 should be West sine that would make them all easily recog­niz­able as that world and then publish the rest under the name they were orig­i­nally published as.

  11. Carol Duffy says:

    I think option (d) would be the easiest way for your readers to (a) find them; and (b) know which “Michelle” they were getting, as it were :)

    Although I kinda like that sigil/glyph idea…

  12. Genna Warner says:

    I am all for option D. And like most once I know an author is writing under mutliple names, I search on all the names.

  13. David Youngs says:

    Blurb:
    Michelle Sagara and Michelle West — together at last in the same volume!

    Wheel of Fortune:
    Same First Name
    XXXXXXXX
    XXXXXX &
    XXXX

  14. H.Renee says:

    I would guess that people will be searching by the name you published the works under. The idea is that they are find­able so they can be purchased so… D?

  15. cherylcan says:

    I think you should publish under their orig­inal published name. When I look for your books, I tend to do a search of all the names you publish under anyway.

  16. Hilda says:

    The stories and books were published under different names as if they were written by different authors. Why not continue like that if that will create less confu­sion? Use both names in the cover as if it were a collec­tion by two different authors; they do have different styles,or theme. I don’t know if your (d) fit this but using both names in the cover as if there are two authors may be the solu­tion. Each story inside may state whether it’s a Sagara or a West story.
    Like your Cast in Moon­light with Mercedes Lackey and Cameron Haley in the Harvest Moon Book.

  17. Hilda says:

    Her books can be 2,000 pages and I still would like them. Maybe that way we can then find whether it’s Night­shade (my pref­er­ence) or wimpy Severn, who took like 10 pages to tell her why he loved her when she had only asked “what do you love about me”. Let’s see if in the next two books she ask Night­shade the same ques­tion.

  18. Mary Allen says:

    I just want them avail­able to read. I will find them under what ever you choose. I do hope you put all the Aver­alaan in the same group. I have been looking for the stories for a long time and am hoping they answer some ques­tions.

  19. @ Mary Allen: I will be putting them out in a single collec­tion, as single stories (because all the rest are singles) and as a print-on-demand trade paper­back.

    I also want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to comment — and state their pref­er­ences. I’m going with option D, and will put the stories out under the by-line of their orig­inal publi­ca­tion (all of the Essalieyan stories were published under the name Michelle West, for obvious reasons ).

  20. hjbau says:

    So i didn’t under­stand that you are looking into releasing your other short stories, those outside of the Essalieyan universe, as well. I have never actu­ally read any of your short stories besides the six Essa­leyan stories so i would absolutely love to be able to get those. Are you just going to release them digi­tally or are we talking about the possi­bility of a paper collec­tion of shorts as well? Are all of your short stories besides the six stand alone shorts or are some of them from the same universe?

  21. All of the stories stand alone, with the excep­tion of two: The Augus­tine Painters and The Colors of Augus­tine. They’re set in the same city, and some of the char­ac­ters in the first appear in the much longer second one.

    I’d actu­ally like to write more of that world, but at the moment, it’s not feasible.

    As for possible print versions, I have to see how the collec­tion of Essalieyan stories work out, because print is inher­ently more work — but this is me. I have my iPad, and yes, ebooks are much, much more conve­nient — but I still read paper books almost exclu­sively, unless it’s user manuals.

  22. Estara says:

    e) Publish them as Michelle Sagara West, I’d say — so you get cross polli­na­tion people looking for you who have read your secondary world fantasy first, as well as the Chron­i­cles of Elantra readers.

    As for the numbering: Sharon Lee calls her chap­books (collec­tions of one or two short stories or novellas/novelletes) Tales of the Liaden Universe — then she says in the blurb which stories are included — and at some point she has the correct order of the short stories on her website. The BAEN Unibus ebook collec­tions have the first 12 chap­books in them (but the stories in those 12 chap­books are NOT chrono­log­i­cally ordered). Maybe some­thing similar would work?

  23. Viviana says:

    I have to say that, as a reader, Michelle Sagara West would be my pref­er­ence; I can’t tell you how long it was before I real­ized Michelle Sagara and Michelle West were the same writer (I don’t follow the publishing biz that much, I simply look for other books by authors whom I’ve previ­ously enjoyed reading). You might capture a few more dunces like myself that way.

    If that is some­thing you absolutely won’t consider, then I would say use the name under which they were orig­i­nally published. That would produce the least confu­sion for someone using a bibli­og­raphy of your previ­ously published works.

  24. I don’t consider that a dunce maneuver, espe­cially not compared to my day so far…

    There are some readers who really dislike multiple view­points, or poli­tics, or contin­uing multi-book story arcs. One of my favorite customers at the store hates these. But…she loves the Cast books, so she tried to buy Broken Crown. I made her put it back. She came in later when I wasn’t there, bought it — and has never finished it.

    Because she’s a long time customer, I had a pretty good idea of her likes and dislikes, and I could be reason­ably certain she wouldn’t like the West novels. Conversely, there are readers who like the West novels, and find the Cast novels too confining, tonally, and in terms of scope — and when they go into a Cast novel expecting a West novel, they’ve been disap­pointed.

    Which is why there are two different names; it’s not to hide the fact that they’re both me — just a way of denoting that (I think) they’re different. But with the shorts, it’s not nearly as clear cut.

  25. Genna Warner says:

    I have always wondered why authors write under different names. And then I find it funny when on the covers it states So-and-so writing as so-and-so. And I think to myself why don’t they just pick one name. But your expla­na­tion as to why you do it, makes perfect sense. But having started with the Sagara works, I didn’t find the West novels until I browsed the internet trying to find infor­ma­tion on the “Cast” books. And I am very happy to have found them and if they were all published under the same name I would have found them sooner.

  26. Theresa says:

    Ditto the Sagara West sugges­tion. That way when you search for either of your names the books will come up.

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