5 reasons for the return of the novella

Jon Watt of indie publisher Type & Tell hails the return of the novella and the part authors have played in it. 

The novella has had a tough few decades. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was an admired format, with Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Kipling, Conrad and Woolf all embracing short form. But for some reason it lost popularity at the end of the millennium – to quote The Atlantic:Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, the form became the ugly stepchild of the literary world’.

But of late that has all changed again and the novella is back – shorter, cheaper and better selling than ever!

The novella’s resurgence is down to five main factors:

1) Discoverability

When online retailers became increasingly important, it was clear that there was going to be great difficultly in finding titles in such an infinite online space. Success was going to depend on visibility. But how to make a book stand out? Publishers found the answer by increasing spending on marketing and massaging metadata – but what could authors do? The answer is that authors found that they could increase visibility for their titles by having more titles available in the retail space: more titles, more reviews, more recommendations.

2) Maximising author income

For many authors, advances are not what they were and new author revenue streams have had to be found. For some, this has been through literary events or historical tours, for others it has been penning quick novellas in-between writing more substantial, traditionally-published works.

3) Fast publishing

Thanks to the advent digital distribution, a 25,000-word novella can now be self-published a six weeks and an author can have their first royalty cheque in their bank in six months.

Many traditional publishers simply aren’t set up for this quick turnaround publishing. This is why many authors are choosing to self-publishing novellas and reap the benefits of more revenue and more readers (who, happily, often go on to buy other titles by the same author).

4) Reader habits

Sad but true: recent studies – not to mention the success of James Patterson’s Book Shots – have shown that many readers prefer quick reads.

5) Pricing

Many of today’s book buyers are highly price-sensitive – especially when purchasing ebooks and paperbacks. Short-form works benefit from low prices and low costs, which means they have strong profit margins – which is crucial when you are self-publishing and receiving 100% of the profits from a sale (as you do with Type & Tell).

If you would like to know more about publishing novellas, then please drop me a line at jon@typeandtell.com