Alex Verus – The Future (Short Fiction)

As promised two weeks ago, here’s some news about where I am with the Alex Verus series.

First things first:  the manuscript of the final Alex Verus novel, Risen, is still with my publishers.  I’m supposed to get the first-round edits back by around the end of February.  If all goes to plan, release date will be the end of this year, December 2nd 2021 in the UK, and December 7th 2021 in the US.  

The main topic of this post, though, is shorter fiction, ie short stories.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any plans to write any further Alex Verus novels, since Risen is going to tie up Alex’s story in a fairly final manner.  However, the Alex Verus setting is a big one, and there are many parts of it that didn’t get much attention.  A lot of this is due to the series being written in the first person.  Since the books are all from Alex’s point of view, you only see and hear what Alex does, meaning that some quite important events never get told because there’s no way for Alex to be there to see them.  For example, one of the more common questions I get from readers is some variation of “where did Richard go in those missing years” and my answer to them is always that they’ll never know, because the reader only sees what Alex sees and Richard has absolutely zero inclination to reveal his personal secrets to Alex, or to anyone else.  (The other reason you’re never going to know is that the full answer would be such a ridiculously long story that it’d be the length of a novel, if not several novels, which I don’t intend to write.)

There are other Alex Verus side stories, though, that are a lot more practical to tell – first meetings, background events, and day-in-the-life style accounts.  A lot of them are stories that I worked out as background material or to flesh out characters, but which never made it into the books because they didn’t fit in with the plot.  Some of the ones that I’ve sketched out are:  

  • Dark Academy:  A story about Morden and Vihaela running Richard’s adept training school in the shadow realm of Arcadia.  
  • First Encounters:  How Variam became Landis’s apprentice.
  • Timesight:  An episode from Sonder’s work as a Keeper auxiliary, involving Council politics and Caldera.
  • (Redacted):  A story following two major characters set after Risen (identities withheld so as to prevent spoilers).

I’ve got quite a few of these stories lined up, and I’d be interested in telling them.  There are, however, a couple of problems.  

The first problem is that I don’t know how much time writing short stories would take away from my main job, which is (and will continue to be) writing novels.  I think – in theory – I ought to be able to write the occasional story in between novels during the kinds of periods when I wouldn’t be getting any work done on the main book anyway.  However, I don’t know this for sure, and it’s possible that short stories would end up conflicting with my novel writing.  If that ever turns out to be the case, then the short stories are getting axed.  

The second problem is a much bigger one:  it’s really hard to make short fiction commercially viable.  Most successful short story writers, like Stephen King, are successful because they’re famous through having sold a truckload of non-short-story books already.  There are ways to try to sell individual short stories, but they require quite a lot of effort and marketing, and I’m very doubtful that it’s worth the amount of work it’d take, given that any time I’m spending on that is time I’m not spending on writing the next book.  

So what I’m leaning towards at the moment is a kind of experimental trial.  I’ll put up a handful of short stories online, either here or on a site like Patreon, make them freely available, and ask readers to pay what they think they’re worth.  Honour system, basically.  Then, depending on how they do, I’ll either keep writing more, or I won’t.  (If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see what the answer to “what do readers think they’re worth” turns out to be.)  This’ll still require a bit of time and effort to set up, but less so than any kind of shop arrangement.

Anyway, this is still all in the theory-and-planning stage, so it won’t be happening especially soon.  Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have any suggestions.  

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14 Responses to Alex Verus – The Future (Short Fiction)

  1. Kevin says:

    I would absolutely pay to read more Alex Verus stories be it on Patreon or on other similar platforms! Especially if they showed things like Light Council and Dark mage politics or how Alex Verus is viewed from the outside looking in.

    I don’t know what would be the ones to release for free or the one to pay aside from the last redacted story, but maybe the one that has the most Alex Verus characters to get the most impact as it were?

    My suggestions for the stories themselves would be to make sure that the stories always had world building and plot points that add to the universe and of course show character depth we wouldn’t see otherwise. What I think is key is to make sure the short stories are worth the audience’s time and not be like anime filler which is what quite a few other properties do.

    And is the where Richard went question worth a novel to answer less about the actually place and more about how and why Richard wanted to go there in the first place which would need to explain his whole backstory to do so?

    Not trying to get spoilers honestly but I am really blanking on what else it could be because just naming the place would be I think relatively simple? Just trying to clarify which again I don’t want to know the official answer to where Richard because I think it is more fun for fans to discover on their own what it is, which I think the series has left enough crumbs for or to come up with their own theories.

  2. Larry R Kuderick says:

    Why not consider an anthology of short stories? Jim Butcher does this occasionally with Dresden and it appears that they do well. Release 6-8 stories together. Also, at least in the Dresden universe, some of the short stories while interesting are just not as popular as those surrounding characters that are loved by the reader. So your example of Morden and Vihaela might do better in a book with the stories of Sonder and Variam.

    But to answer your question, I would definitely be interested in purchasing short stories in any way you release them.

  3. DarkCloud says:

    “December 7th 2021 in the US” … a date which will live in infamy?

  4. Taldren says:

    What about when Sonder went and worked for the US Council? Probably a good story or two in there. Plus, it be interesting to hear what other Councils are like.

  5. Alan says:

    Great. Looking forward to it. How about something with Chalice too? I like how you’ve nuanced the dark mage society.

  6. Eugene G says:

    Would love to read them. Even better if it’s downloadable audio versions that are paid for… I know Kevin Hearn has a few short story compilations on audible from iron Druid series and they are great. Something comparable would be great!

  7. Ilona Andrews has done quite a few short stories on her own between her main novel writing (Ilona Andrews is Ilona and her husband writing team). You might ask them as they are very generous about answering publishing questions. When they do works on their own, they pay for artwork or, in at least one case, created their own, had beta readers do at least some of the editing, and I think their agent helped with editing, placement, marketing and the like as well. And I believe the agent still gets a cut of any stories where they helped. One problem they did run into when they did stories for free–readers thought it was okay to share, try to sell–someone actually put it up on Amazon for sale if I recall correctly–or upload to pirate sites. Just because authors put out a free or “pay what you think” title does not mean it should be stolen or redistributed, but. So copyright still has to be filed and so on. Artwork can be done relatively cheaply these days from stock art, or you can find an artist to put together stock art pretty cheaply. Is it worth doing…hmm. When I’ve done short stories, free or otherwise, it’s a mixed bag. Some are quite popular, but I have run into the “I loved the story, but don’t want to pay for short stories.” See such a review over at Kobobooks for one of my Sedona short stories. You are much more popular, and I believe this means readers expect to pay something, but there are still disheartening issues: Readers thought you’d write a story about Luna, Readers didn’t like x so they decided not to pay for it, etc. I guess there’s no easy answer, but from reading other author blogs and my own experience, if you are going to do it, make it for sale. Figure out a few sites where it’s worth uploading. Charge 99 cents, charge 2.99 if your fans support the price. Why? Because it’s work either way. It won’t be any less work loading to x site for “pay what it’s worth” or donations. If you want to try that model, you can still do that kind of pricing on Smashwords or Patreon, etc, but in all honestly, I think if the demand is there, you may as well make it worth your while–and worth the readers’ while. You can use them as marketing tools and give them away now and then, even on Amazon. I have also seen authors use them as a marketing tool. It’s hard to say how effective they are, but again, you get something out of it and still have the stories on major sites where eyeballs can find them. I’d be happy to blog about any of your releases and include them in my newsletter (one going out March 11-ish if you have anything you’d like to share). Either way, good luck with it. Do I think they are worth writing? Yes. But in that case they are also worth selling!

  8. Tim Emmitt says:

    I’d love to read them. I’d expect to pay 2-5$ for a short story. All of those ideas sound awesome.

  9. Bob says:

    Yes, I would pay for short stories. Obviously, Butcher has had some success. Another Urban Fantasy writer MD Massey has at least 5 short stories spinoffs from his Junkyard Druid novels and all worked to elucidate his world building and did sell.

  10. Dakota says:

    Generally speaking I equate 2 or 3 short stories to a novel cost-wise, so I’d pay around $4-$5 for each. You could release each individually or you could bundle them together and sell it for around the same cost as one of the novels.

  11. Kayla says:

    I know you’ve already said you don’t intend to write this, but I just wanted to say that I personally would LOVE to read a novel, or even a series of novels about Richard’s backstory and where he went during those missing years and why. I would buy every single one, because Richard is so intriguing to me and I want to know more about him. Just so you have this feedback in case you ever decide to consider it in the future, you know at least one reader’s opinion on it.

  12. Celia says:

    Would definitely pay for short stories. (TBH I’ve always thought your novels were underpriced for the exceptional quality!) Personally I’d prefer downloadable content, specifically for kindle, so it’s all in one place on my phone and easy to access. And so I can see it easily with poor eyesight. Would still be ok with other formats like Patreon or some such. It just can be kind of hard to remember what I have or haven’t read or what order stories should be read in or where they fit into the chronology of the books. Would adore audiobook versions too.

    Still would love a short story about how Kyle ended up bonded with Cinder and how their friendship developed. 🙂

    Also would love some stories about Alex’s apprenticeship with Richard.

  13. Caroline witham says:

    Put together a compilation book including the short stories for the virus world. Some of my other favorite authors Kevin Hearne & Melissa Meyers have done just that and I happily bought up each one at the same cost as a novel. We want to heR the stories however you want to tell them it’s just easier if we can keep getting them from Amazon, audible and local booksellers.

  14. Samuel says:

    I would love to read a collection of stories set in Alex’ universe. Really, I’d be up for anything you come up with, as I really appreciate your inventiveness in the worldbuilding of your novels. Although I’d love to read more about a time when there were more magical creatures, like Arachne’s mentioned a few times.

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