Help:How to convert a novel to a chapbook

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A note about record type names

In this help page, terms in ALL CAPS are intended as the names of record types in the ISFDB database, and not as the names of types of literary works or publications. A "chapbook" is a type of publication, and a "novel" is a type of literary work, but a "CHAPBOOK" and a "NOVEL" are types of records in the ISFDB database.

Why the ISFDB "CHAPBOOK" type exists and what it is generally used for

For ISFDB purposes (and agreeing with the current standards for the Hugo and Nebula awards), a novel is generally defined as a work of 40,000 or more words, although this definition is not always strictly applied. (See Help:Screen:EditPub#EntryType.) Novels are displayed in the Novels section of author-specific bibliography pages. Works that are less than 40,000 words are generally classified as short fiction and appear in the Shortfiction section of bibliography pages.

Sometimes a single work of short fiction or a single poem is published as a standalone publication. Many reference sources note these separate publications, e.g. SFE (Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). So the ISFDB created a distinct designation for this type of publication: CHAPBOOK. In addition to the single SHORTFICTION or POEM content record, CHAPBOOKs may also contain one or more ESSAY and INTERIORART content records, and a COVERART record. This type covers all bindings and formats, including ebooks and audiobooks of works of fiction which are less-than-novel length.

Other uses of "chapbook" and related terms

CHAPBOOK, as used by the ISFDB, should not be confused with the generally accepted publishing format for pamphlets or lightly-bound publications also called chapbook. Nor should it be confused with the publishing term used for books intended for intermediate readers called chapter book.

How a CHAPBOOK publication works

In general a CHAPBOOK publication will have at least three records associated with it. The first is the CHAPBOOK type publication record. This represents the actual publication, and includes details like the publication date, price, ISBN, publisher, page count, etc. The second is the SHORTFICTION type title record. This represents the text of the fiction, and will be associated with every publication of this text, whether in a "chapbook", collection, anthology, or wherever. The third is the CHAPBOOK type title record, which will be associated with every "chapbook" publication of the fiction, but not with other publications. If additional essays (prefaces, introductions, afterwords, etc) are recorded, then each will have an ESSAY type title record entered for them. There may also be one or more INTERIORART type title records and a COVERART record associated with the publication.

In many ways a chapbook publication is handled very similarly to a single-item collection. A collection has a COLLECTION type publication record, a COLLECTION type title record, and multiple SHORTFICTION type title records. It may also include ESSAY or INTERIORART title records. The analogy should be clear.

Converting a NOVEL publication to a CHAPBOOK

You've come across a publication record which you have determined has been incorrectly typed as a NOVEL. Through a word count or a reliable secondary source, you can confirm that the work is less than 40,000 words. Here's how you convert this publication record from NOVEL to CHAPBOOK.

First you must determine whether the changes can be made from the publication record, or if you'll need to edit both the title reference record and the publication record.

  • Click on the "Title Reference Link" near the bottom of the publication record's metadata section. This will lead you to the title record.
  • If there is only one publication record listed under this title, go back to the publication record. Then go the first step of the following instructions.
  • If there is more than one publication record listed under this title, go to the Special Instructions below.

Publication Record Edit Only (Titles with a single publication)

  1. On the publication record page, click the link "Edit This Pub" under the Editing Tools menu on the left side of the page.
  2. On the edit page, go to the "Pub Type" field of the Publication Metadata section, and using the dropdown menu, change NOVEL to CHAPBOOK.
  3. Go down to the Regular Titles section of the edit page, and change the "Entry Type" field of the title reference from NOVEL to SHORTFICTION.
  4. Click the "Add Title" button. A new set of fields will open.
  5. Enter the title of the work in the "Title" field. In most cases, this should match the title in the "Title" field of the Metadata section at the top of the edit page. (There are very rare exceptions to this which should be discussed with a moderator before making the submission.)
  6. Enter the author of the work in the "Author1" field. If there is more than one author, click the "Add Author" button. Again, this must match the author credit in the author field of the Metadata section.
  7. Set the "Entry Type" field to CHAPBOOK in the dropdown menu.
  8. The "Date" field should be left blank because it's almost always the same as the date given in the Metadata section.
  9. If you know the word count of the work, you can edit the "Length" field to the proper designation. If you're not sure of the word count, leave the field blank.
  10. Click the button "Submit Changed Data" at the bottom of the edit page.

Special Instructions (Titles with more than one publication record)

  1. At the title record page, click on the link "Edit Title Data" under the Editing Tools menu.
  2. On the title edit page, change the "Title Type" field from NOVEL to SHORTFICTION, using the dropdown menu. (Warning: Do not change NOVEL to CHAPBOOK at this step!)
  3. In the "Note to Moderator" field, let the moderator know that you will be making subsequent submissions which will convert this title's publication records from NOVEL to CHAPBOOK as well.
  4. Click the button "Submit Data" at the bottom of the edit page. You do not have to wait for moderation before proceeding to the next step.
  5. Go to each of the publication records under this title and follow the same procedure as described in the first section for converting a publication record from NOVEL to CHAPBOOK. You will skip Step #3, because the title reference has already been changed to SHORTFICTION. (You will not be able to edit it in any case, since it appears in more than one publication record.)

Because you are creating individual CHAPBOOK records for each publication, these records will have to be merged once all of publications under a title have been converted. It is a good idea to go back to the author's summary page and do a check for duplicate titles, using the "Check for Duplicate Titles" function. This ensures that you won't accidentally merge the CHAPBOOK title with the SHORTFICTION title, because the system will not display such matches using this function. (Using the Advanced Search method of finding duplicates will display all duplicate titles regardless of their type, so care must be taken not to merge the wrong records.)

Note: All series, synopsis, notes, webpage links, tags, and awards data assigned to the NOVEL title record will be transferrred automatically to the SHORTFICTION record.

Cautions about doing conversions

If a publication has been primary verified, it should normally not be converted from NOVEL to CHAPBOOK without consulting, or at least informing, the primary verifier.

Care should be taken in deciding to convert a publication record from NOVEL to CHAPBOOK. Page counts, while helpful, are not definitive. Any one of the following situations might indicate a need for conversion:

  • The same work is recorded as a work of short fiction in an anthology or collection.
  • There is a listing in the Locus Index (or Locus Magazine) as short fiction. (This is a relatively strong indication)
  • There is a review describing the work as one of short fiction (depending on the source).
  • The work was nominated for or won an award in a short fiction category. (This is often a strong indication, depending on the award and its rules and practices.)

An actual word count, when available, will often settle the matter, but there will be exceptions. Some works, although shorter than 40,000 words, are so commonly regarded as novels that it would only confuse users to list them otherwise.

Note also that some works of short fiction are later expanded into novels while keeping the same title. (For example "In the Presence of Mine Enemies" is a work of short fiction, while In the Presence of Mine Enemies is a novel.) Publications of such novels should not be converted to CHAPBOOK records.

If in doubt, consult with other editors on the Help desk or the Community Portal.

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