Thursday, January 31, 2008

Novellas?


Today's Wall Street Journal has a little blip titled "How Novellas Could Rescue Fiction Writers and Readers."  The gist of the story is that since everyone knows people read less these days, perhaps we can entice them to read novellas instead of novels.  

Says the author, taking a cue from Jean Hannah Edelstein's book blog on The Guardian:  "with a length somewhere between a short story and a novel, the novella can deliver a sophisticated read in the time it takes to watch a reality-television program or a movie.  Thanks to the amount of paper they require, novellas can profitably sell for the price of a magazine. Best of all, growth in novellas would bolster intellectual standards in an industry that lately has been accused of dumbing down literature. The novella's brevity tends to bring out "care and thought ad the extra level of creative gusto" in authors." 

Okay.   While I applaud the idea in theory, I don't think someone who is averse to books--and I know people who are--is more likely to pick up a novella than a novel.  And those who DO love to read tend to feel dissatisfied if you only give them one main plot (all you typically have room for in a novella.)  Furthermore, novellas tend to be produced in hardcover, not softcover, so the initial expense is actually much greater than a magazine--unless you're talking one of those showy magazines that I don't usually read.  :-) 

I've written at least one novella (it's too early in the morning to do an extensive search of my memory bank), and its sales were dismal.  Readers want an emotional payoff that's worth the time they've invested into a book, and while it may be possible in a shorter work, it's much more difficult.  So the publisher who pushes novellas may actually be asking his authors to work harder for less money and fewer sales. 

What about you?  Would you rather read a novella than a novel?  Does size matter?  (Sorry for the double entendre.)  Does a really thick book give you pause at the cash register?  I think Harry Potter proved that length doesn't hurt sales if the readers are invested in the story, but I doubt many new readers would be willing to take a chance on a book that weighs more than two pounds. 

What are your thoughts?  And, BTW, is there a book we haven't done as a BOM that you'd like to hear about?  Let me know! 

~~Angie 

16 comments:

Kathy said...

I'd grab a novella if I were going somewhere where I want a book but know I can't concentrate on anything too profound--like my daughters' dance classes. Otherwise, a novel.

I don't know what BOMs you've done before. I just finished The Awakening so that's what comes to mind right now. I'm just starting The Justice.

Amy Beth @ Ministry So Fabulous! said...

Honestly, I don't have a preference. Sad to say, but unless a book comes recommended to me or I've read the author's previous work and enjoyed it, I do tend to judge a book by its cover -- not by its size.

Sad, isnt' it? :)

Carrie K. said...

I found myself nodding when you said that most readers find novellas unsatisfying - that's exactly how I feel. I love to read, and if a book is really good, I like it nice and long. Case in point: The Book Thief. Very long book, brilliantly written, completely satisfying.

I have read some novellas - the Christmas-themed Christian fiction collections come to mind - and they're fun for light reading, but not something I choose very often.

Mocha with Linda said...

I'm a pretty fast reader, and novellas frustrate me. They are entirely too quick, and many times shallow! I like something I can sink my teeth into!

And yeah, I like multiple plots or multiple views of the same story.

I LOVED how you did that with The Elevator.

And Kathy, The Justice is superb.

I really don't like a book to be less than 350-400 pages.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Angie, pal, you really must stop reading the same newspapers I read. This is not the first time you've stolen a blog post from me.

Methinks I shall have to teach you a lesson. Perhaps shortsheeting your bed at Mount Hermon?

Long live WSJ.

Anonymous said...

I expect that the consensus in this group will be in favor of the novel. Novellas are the appetizers in life - worthwhile when a light read is in order, but not delivering the depth that this reader craves. However, they are perfect for those interminable waits in a doctor's waiting room! Clyde

Christy Lockstein said...

I don't care for short stories or novellas. I like more of a pay off. I usually don't pay attention to the size of the book until it's on my shelf, but I do tend to shuffle thicker books to the back of the stack. However, some books need to be two pounds and still leave you wanting more like Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. :)

Doni Brinkman said...

I have a serious dislike for novellas. I can only recall one set of novellas that I ever read that I enjoyed and this is because all four stories played into one another and they had good characters. Definitely not enough of an investment for me and I get bored with simple plots. In fact, I also get frustrated with short novels. I love them to look VERY thick! If an author I love writes a think book, I am SO excited! :)

Have you reviewed the Afton of Margate Castle series from years ago? I loved that series. You may have reviewed it in years past and I missed it.

Doni Brinkman said...

Ignore the grammatical errors in the above post and I meant to say "thick" book...not "think" book - though I like "think" books too LOL.

Kay said...

I think I prefer to write novellas! Yes. Definitely.

As far as reading. I don't care. I have read several Novellas that I like. I also like short stories because they usually have more bang for the buck. Short, to the point. I like that.
I am put almost always scared of a very thick book. But often, as someone else said, even a long book can leave me wanting more. So I think it all boils down to the writer.
A good writer writes good novellas. A good writer can make a long book a page turner.
(By good, I guess I need to say, a writer who writes in a style I personally enjoy. Dickens was a good writer, but I can't read his stuff.)

Cara Putman said...

I agree with you. The few novellas I've read (as a sophisticated reader LOL), left me looking for more. It's an acquired taste, since the pacing, character cast, plot, etc., are smaller by necessity. I like a book that whisks me away...and that requires some heft.

Deborah said...

i'm not a big fan of novellas. i like more meat with the story.

i don't think you've done the Flee the Darkness series yet For the BOM....*crosses fingers*

Amy said...

We need to improve reading education. It will take care of the problem. Sorry, I'm a "reading teacher" and I honestly think it's the driving problem.

Someone mentioned the Christmas novellas and those tend to be the only ones I read. I love chunky books!

CrownLaidDown said...

I've once heard Beth Moore say that she reads anything from a book to the labels on a product. I think I'm like that--I will read anything good no matter the size, because I just love to read! So novel or novella, it's all good.

There are some that I have decided not to finish for one reason or another. Honestly, I have a different book in nearly every single room that I spend time in.

OH, you need to stop by my blog when you can and listen to RinderCella. I think it will make you smile!

Blessings, friend! 'Wish I could meet you for lunch at Glen Eyrie--only 20 minutes from my home!

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Novels, hands down. I used to love James A. Michener's books because they were so long and had so much in them... I've only bought a few novellas, as usually they cost just as much as a novel for half the story. Give me the depth and thought required in a longer work. (Unless, of course, you're writing something like Heart of Darkness... but Joseph Conrad perhaps has a monopoly on deep novellas.)

Dawn said...

I literally crave books! Size doesn't really matter. However, I love books that weave many different story lines and characters together, and I just don't think a novella works that way. I guess a novella would be fine, and I would definitely read one, but it would leave me still wanting more.