Novella? Short Novel? Does It Matter?


There are books of all sizes. Does its length and what you call it affect how marketable it is? (Image credit: Lynn Kelley Author via WANACommons.)

When I was writing my first novel, the now-retired ESTRA Corp., I had no idea about, well, anything writing related, really. I was just putting words on the page. I didn’t know about character or story arcs, the three-act structure (Which I sometimes believe to be a frivolous rule, depending on the story,) or word counts. I was just writing. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to that time. Everything seemed simpler. However, I know I’m a much better writer now than I was then, so I’ll take increased proficiency over ignorance any day.

Now, when I write, before I begin planning I consider what length of book I want to write. I use it as more of a guideline than anything else. I’ll set a goal to write a 50,000 word novel, and I may or may not reach that goal. I don’t put in extra fluff to reach my goals. I just tell the story. Or, well, tell and show the story, I suppose. Which brings me to my main point: You’ve written this manuscript, and it’s “x” number of words. Okay, so, what is it? Sure, it’s a book. It may be garbage or a masterpiece, but is it a novel? A novella? A novelette? I know the rules are pretty loose, and there is a basic guideline, and some of it depends on the genre in which you’re writing. But, I’m also curious from a marketing standpoint.

A few weeks ago I was perusing Facebook instead of writing, and someone mentioned they had written a novella and were wondering how to go about marketing it, or if it was even worth publishing a novella. Someone then responded by saying that they would sell more books by calling it a short novel instead of a novella.

I don’t know if I fully grasp that. So, because people see “short novel” instead of “novella”–two things that are essentially synonymous–people are more likely to click the “buy” button? I don’t know if I “buy” that (HA!). Does it really matter what we call our story, as long as it’s good? As long as we’ve done our job as writers and told a good story, does it matter if it’s a short story or novella or novel or epic novel? It’s a book with characters and plot and setting and conflict, what does it matter what we call it based on length? As long as it’s a good story, I don’t see how giving it a length-based identifier has any impact on how marketable the book is.

What about you? Do you buy books based on length? Does the “title” of its length impact what you perceive of it? Is a longer book better than a shorter book?

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3 thoughts on “Novella? Short Novel? Does It Matter?

  1. Right now I’m writing a story that is considered a novella (38,000 words) but all I care about is making sure the story is well written, fast paced and the dialogue convincing. I can understand people not buying a novel for six or seven bucks if it’s short and want their monies worth. Then again, the price of ebooks is so cheap that it doesn’t cost readers much regardless of the length of the story.

    • I agree. Price should reflect the length of the story to a certain degree. I mean, no one should have to pay $15 for a 15,000 word story, I suppose unless it’s really THAT good. Even then, I’m not sure if I would pay that.

  2. To tell you the truth, I didn’t start reading any shorter lengths until exploring other Indies. I must say I prefer longer reads, because I love getting into the characters and stories deeply. Sometimes the short ones leave me hanging a bit.

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