I have not yet posted in the forum/discussion section, but have been quite active in the writer's workshop. Nice to meet any new members who may reply to this discussion!
My question to you all is this: If I submit a short story to a publication- and it gets accepted- will I be able to (later, after it has been published) go back to the idea and create a novel-length work with the same characters, theme, etc.?
I ask this question because I understand some publications do not accept "reprints." However, if I develop a 4,000 word short story that was accepted and printed by a publication that does technically "buy the rights," but then convert this short story to a 80,000 word novel, is that okay?
Sorry if my phrasing is a bit weird.
As I understand it, the publisher has the right to publish the material once it has been accepted. After it has in fact been published, the rights of the material revert back to the author...in most cases. You may do what you like after that, but I believe if you do create something longer, you must inform the next publisher, if different, that this work is based on something already published.
That's my amateur understanding of publishing.
Transparency and honesty are the keys to do whatever the hell you want.
I'm pretty sure lots of sci-fi and fantasy novels (maybe others as well) have been based off an author's published short stories. It is possible to do what you describe, but it would depend on the contract (assuming there is one). Read it. Ask questions. In your case, look out for clauses concerning exclusivity and derivative works. If the terms don't allow you to do what you wish with the story, then you refuse it, ask for something else, or settle for less than you want, depending on whatever is important to you at the time.
As far as the publisher who first publishes your story, few stories are sold outright and I wouldn't sell one of my stories outright. What magazines and anthologies usually buy is first rights to your story. That just means they get to be the first one to publish it. Beyond that, it just depends on what's in the contract you sign with them. It's not uncommon for you to not be able to re-publish that story for an amount of time, six months, for example. And they often want you to acknowledge in any reprints that it was published with them first.
The next issue is with the publisher who buys the book you write from the story. You'd want to mention that it was adapted from the short story and tell the agent or publisher where the story was published. I have not heard of novels that began as published stories being either especially wanted or especially not wanted by book publishers. But that is where my knowledge ends. Good luck with it!
Thank you all for your enlightening responses! They are much appreciated.
You should make sure the contract you sign lets you keep the rights to the characters and world you create.
If it's not a reprint and in the U.S. markets almost always ask for First North American Serial Rights (meaning it's the first time your story will be published in North America). If you're concerned and the place doesn't tell you upfront then just ask.
If you sign a contract saying that you can't reprint the story for a while make sure you're getting decent pay for it and/or it's a market that will give the story a lot of exposure. Usually, the two go hand in hand.
Writing a novel based on a story is completely different from reprinting the story. Although if you include the story as part of the novel then it's probably considered a reprint. That sort of thing is when you would put something like this on the copyright page: "An excerpt from this book appeared in ______ Journal."
As many above have said already, make sure that any contract you engage in allows you to maintain full rights to any and all aspects of your story, including your characters, plot, etc. For example, many (if not all) journals and the like will not print for publication a story that has already been published in another publication and will go so far as to ask you not to submit concurrently to other journals and/or ask for the names of the journals in which you've submitted, which is separate from whether or not it's even been or being published. Again, it really depends on where your seeking submission and what type of affiliations the journal has with any publishing houses.
Best word of advice: don't assume anything. Ask questions and request answers that are not written in legalese. From a legal perspective, there are many ways to confuse most authors who are hungry to publish and are novices when it comes to the business of publication and rights and the Big Five. Take the time to research publishing versus self-publication for this very reason: retention of rights. There are many aspects to consider when signing a deal for publication, including marketing and advertising, royalties, etc. and as writers, it's imperative to educate yourself as to how to protect your art and be business savvy.