The Growing Popularity of Novellas

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

If you're like me, you may not have read many novellas in your life. In fact, for a long time I didn't even really know what a novella was.

Over the years, I've learned that a novella is simply a short novel, usually about a quarter of the size of a full length book. It contains all the same elements as a novel–well-drawn characters, interesting plot, love interest (if you're writing romance), and internal character growth. But . . . obviously, the story is much less complicated and moves fairly quickly.

With the advent of ebooks, the publishing industry has been experimenting a lot to discover what works in this new age. And of course that means authors and publishers have experimented with novellas–particularly e-novellas which are available for e-readers but usually not in print.

While e-novellas go through the same editing, cover design, and formatting process as full length novels, the shorter word count obviously cuts back on some of the time and cost involved in the process. So does the fact that the e-novella doesn't have to be printed, sent out to distributors, put in buyer catalogs, etc.

In addition to the fact that novellas are quicker to write and produce, publishers and authors are also seeing some other benefits to e-novellas:

1. Novellas can act as a marketing tool. 

Authors and publishers have quickly realized that one of the best promotional/marketing tools is to offer a book at a discounted price (or perhaps even for free) as a means of attracting attention to the author's other books. Readers see the discounted or free book, read it, then (hopefully) fall in love with the writer and go on to purchase her other books.

While writers may balk at discounting or giving away full length novels that require considerable time and effort, we're more apt to consider putting a novella up for sale. We realize that in the short term, the sale can give us more exposure and sometimes move us up into best-seller ranks.

My publisher has been experimenting with giving away novellas as a way to kick off a series. For example, I just had an e-novella, Out of the Storm, release that introduces my new historical romance lighthouse series. The first full-length novel, Love Unexpected, comes out Dec. 1, but the free novella just released as a way to introduce readers to the series and get them excited about the first book.

2. Novellas help build a backlist.

This has clearly become an age when having multiple books for sale works to an author's advantage. Not too many years ago, once books were out-of-print or no longer on a bookstore shelf, the books basically died (sometimes a quick death!).

But now, those previously published books (also known as a backlist) are continuously available for readers online. Once a reader finishes a current release, they're able to go to any online bookstore, to the author's website, or to Goodreads and easily view and purchase the rest of the author's books.

The ease and availability of past books means that having a multitude of books works to an author's advantage. Readers talk about and continue to promote our older books which in turn helps current books. In a sense, the book promotion becomes cyclical.

Since newer authors don't have a large backlist, novellas can become one way to help build a strong author presence a little faster and that backlist then helps continue to promote current books.

3. Novellas appeal to the busy modern reader.  

The shorter length and the subsequently lower price, make novellas an easy buy.

Let's face it. The modern readers' attention is growing shorter especially since so many things are competing for their limited time. That means readers are more hesitant to pay $10-$15 on a new book that they might not have time to actually read.

But readers are more willing to pay a couple of bucks. If they end up not having the time or end up not liking the author, then they don't feel they've "blown" their money. Thus the shorter, inexpensive book offers an appeal that can put novellas at an advantage over longer more expensive books.

What do you think? Have you read any novellas lately? Do you like or dislike them?

If you haven't read a novella yet, I invite you to try mine, Out of the Storm. It's FREE! See what you think, then come back and let me know. Links to download the ebook: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,

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