There are many times when writers, especially fiction writers, get too hung up on the size of their book. This doesn’t happen to non-fiction writers too often because they keep writing until they are finished and then publish the book. If there’s a lot to say about the topic, then the book will be long. Otherwise, it’s short. Fiction writers feel pushed to either bundle a bunch of short stories together into an anthology, or go for a full novel at 40,000+ words. While there’s nothing wrong with publishing something this long or longer, some stories are best on the shorter side. True or not, many writers would prefer to push the story further than to face publishing a novella. However, the truth is that novellas can be just as successful as their longer counterparts.
Everyone’s heard of successful novels. Nearly every major seller in the fiction world is a novel. Think of either a famous or well selling book. It’s almost certainly a novel. However, chances are that you know of some famous novellas.
For example, did you know that “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was a novella? The same goes for “A River Runs Through It,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Of Mice and Men.” These aren’t just classical books; they’re great sellers that are enjoyed at schools, libraries and bookstores.
Want something a little more modern? All of the “Goosebumps” books are novellas. There’s also “Quest for Pandaria” and “The Woman Who Waited.”
If you want to create a novel simply to fulfill a size requirement, then you need to stop and take a look at your book. Would it truly be better over 40,000 words, or should you stick around the 20,000-35,000 word length? There’s nothing wrong with going smaller, especially in today’s world where people want quick entertainment so they can go about their day.
Here’s something else that authors might worry about. Someone is walking through a bookstore and wants to buy a book. He picks up two books and finds that one (your novella) is substantially thinner than the other book that he was considering. So, what does he logically do? He puts down the thin book because he wants to enjoy a longer experience with a full novel.
This is a viable and justified fear that can, and has a good chance of, hurting your print sales. However, the same doesn’t go for digital copies. Yes, the customer can easily see how many pages and words are in your book, but seeing a book with a somewhat smaller number of pages isn’t as jarring as feeling a very thin book. The difference won’t bother the potential customer as much, which makes it much easier to sell the novella.
You also have to consider what people want from digital books. While some people curl up and read full novels from their Kindles, many others want a book that they can read occasionally when they are going to work or waiting in line. A shorter book is actually better for the on-the-go crowd because they can enjoy a full story in a fraction of the time.
Instead of being a detriment, some writers have found that novellas better cater to today’s busy reader.
Quality is always better than quantity, let no one tell you otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that quantity isn’t important. While you might have that one book that sells more than all of your other books combined, you still need to create more books to make people remember you (and to see if you can write something else that’s massively popular).
Novels take considerably longer to write and edit than novellas. You can typically write about two or three novellas in the time that it would take to write a single novel. Now, that doesn’t mean that the novella will instantly be better, but it does allow you to quickly build a portfolio that represents your skills. Many publishers urge writers to try different book lengths, and having several books under your belt will help improve your craft. Not only that, but this is a great way for new writers to get ready for the daunting task of making a new novel.
While it’s true that novels are usually the most successful books, novellas can be equally successful. They seem almost made for the modern crowd because they have all of the power of a novel, but they are smaller and easier to read when people are on the go. Write one and see how well it does.
Filed under: Publishing
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