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child with piles of books forest

 

By Daniel Ottalini

A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

There is undeniably something instinctively attractive about novellas for the self-published or small-published author. Think of it this way, a novella is faster to type, edit, format, and requires only an ebook cover, reducing costs and time in multiple areas, even with multiple checks and reviews.

So why novellas? Well, for one thing, exposure in this industry is key. You are more likely to catch more ‘browsing’ readers with five books out, even short novellas, than with two novels out. By reading one, you have a good chance of them reading more, especially if they are well done. You charge less, so people may be more willing to take a chance, especially on a 99 cent or free loss leader than on a $3.99 100,000 word novel. And they do work exceptionally well as loss leaders, bringing in new readers who, having identified the quality of your work, are willing to lay out money for your other written works.

But are they really worth it for a beginning author to write? As a self-published author, I’m struggling with this situation. First, time spent on novellas is time NOT spent on novel number three. Second, I am having a hard time mustering the effort to finish up the last leg of Antioch Burns. Having the cover ready (wow, that came faster than I thought!) has helped, but still, this hill seems extraordinarily difficult to climb. My first novella is only doing mediocre in sales. In some ways, I attribute this to the higher cost – $1.99 – rather than the more traditional $0.99 cents. I’ve also been forced to cut back on what little promotion I do, due to some other issues. I suppose that you must be prepared to offer your novella for a reduced price, or provide some other tantalizing tid-bit for readers in addition. Now these may be more personal components in some ways, but they are, in fact, a factor for many others. Burnout, exhaustion, weak story lines, all can reduce the effectiveness of a novella.
For example, the delay in Antioch Burns is actually a good thing at this point. This is the first I’m sharing with you, but the novella will be delayed until Spring, 2014. My publisher has some personal things to attend too, and currently I’m not quite happy with the novella. But this is good. Why? Because I can add that extra tid-bit into the novella, like the first chapter of Iron Tribune. Yes, exciting, isn’t it? Already, this is getting me into the mood.

So in the end, what’s my final opinion? Novellas are great, if you can commit to them and pump them out completely. In some ways, the smartest self-published author waits to publish book one until they have novella one or even book two. Just a thought, as I certainly didn’t begin that way.

What do you think? Novellas & Novels together? Novellas first? Or are they a waste of time?