Sunday, December 4, 2011

Novellas and short novels

One of the things I've noticed is that a lot of the novel submissions I get sent for Hukilau feel like they're too long, as if they've been padded out to hit the publishers' sweet spot of 80,000 words, when in reality they'd be better as short novels, or even novellas.

Print publishers don't like short books. They take about as much work to create and market, but they don't generate as much money. And readers like to buy big books so they feel they've got their money's worth. When I was first reading, I was used to novels of 150 pages. Now most publishers won't even touch anything under 300 pages, and some genres seem to demand even more.

E-books, on the other hand, don't have that sort of prejudice. I'm wondering whether e-books are going to spark a revival in shorter forms.  Any thoughts?


J.R. LeMar said...

Well, certainly, with the ability to lower prices for ebooks, it's easier to justify publishing shorter stories, and then selling it for, say, .99 cents.

Will Shetterly said...

I hope it brings back the short novel. Paperback originals tended to be short until the '80s. Someone has argued that the ideal length of a science fiction story is the novella, long enough to develop the characters and the ideas and then stop.

Craig G said...

I agree. It seems like anything genre-esque has gone the way of Stephen King.

Personally, I always preferred the Michael Moorcock and Phillip K Dick length books of around 150 pages.

And, for the record, there has never been a more unintentionally dirty comment involving two authors and book length.

Matt Kelland said...

I hope that this gets authors writing shorter. They've become accustomed to writing 80k+ in order to satisfy print publishers' constraints (which, incidentally, I understand perfectly), and have been avoiding the black spot of 30k-60k as much as possible.

Dave Morris said...

Some random musings...

Genre fiction's star cradle was the pulp magazines, where novels tended to be short (~50k words) and the average word count was brought down further by short stories. I feel this may be a more comfortable length for genre stuff like SF, as Will says.

The length of novels has always been steered by economic factors. Charlotte Bronte's first rejection letter included a note saying, in effect, "...but if you could see your way to writing a 3-volume work..."

And not just books. Von Stroheim thought movies should be 12 hours long. And, because of cable, we have Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc.