What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? Is there a varied approach in how they are published and marketed? What is right for me?
The technical differences between a novella and a novel is chiefly length. A guide to the different categories is as follows:
For this post I’m focusing more on the idea of when you’ve finished your work and you’re not sure what you’ve got. Or if you have an idea and uncertain of what form you should deliver it in. The information here is merely a guide. Publishers tend to stick within the rules, but as writers, we are artists and can always break through into something new.
Novellas for me usually involve 70-120 pages, and focus on a single point of view. I see them as bite sized fiction that are strong in theme. I like them as additions to a series to introduce (prelude) or enhance the collection (from another character’s point of view.) But as a standalone, I usually feel like the story packs a big punch, have a fast pace, and leave the reader to think afterwards.
Because of this, personally, I’m not a fan of releasing a novel in parts. I know some authors do this to get around a current publishing contracts, or to create a hype in their marketing strategy. But I prefer my story to make sense, and not end in the middle of things – not to be confused with a cliff-hanger. A cliff-hanger is a suggestion of things to come. Ending in the middle of things is when hardly any of the plot points introduced at the start of your story have not been addressed or resolved. It’s a big turn off for readers too – so if you go down the road of releasing a novella, pay particular attention to this concept.
With the structure and concept of novellas out of the way, we usually see them released in the form of an e-book. Yes, there are physical books published too, but you need to have a cost effective release to a ready-made audience for this to be successful, as the printing costs for novellas is proportionally higher. Hence the popularity for publishing in e-book form. It also gives a little exclusivity to the story. Later, if the novella is a part of a series, you can add it at the end of a novel (formatting permitting) as an added bonus in a limited release to give another sales boost.
I like the concept of a novella, its publishing options are much more flexible and offer unique marketing possibilities. Also they are quicker to create – or can compile of edited-out parts of your novel/series that you expand for a companion story.
This is all my preference, and how I like to use the form of the novella to my advantage. It’s slightly different in tone and pacing to my novel writing, and used to enhance a series. If I release a stand-alone novella you can expect it will only be in a digital format, a condensed punchy read.
Novels are my sweet spot. I like to get lost in the world I create on paper. Take my time to build the world and all of the characters within. So that inevitably leads to story arcs, backstories and differing motivations for my cast… and there is no way you can fit all that information in a novella.
Developing a character and watching them change and grow through a number of experiences is a delight. Having that time to explore and discover the characters, mythology and landscape is what a novel is all about for me. You get to play with tense, point of view, printing format, change and build tension to set the mood. A novel opens up a lot more creative doors in storytelling to allow you to grip the reader. It’s complexity by nature creates interest.
Plus I love the journey in producing a novel – the editing and re-writes, the attention to detail. Like producing a film, there is much more involved than simply telling a story. It’s about editing, scene transition, tone, pace, a climactic ending. The journey. And then there’s the fine tuning of the physical product – formatting the pages, creating content for the end pages, cover art. How you are going to launch your novel, a marketing strategy and other related activities to get the word out. I find it all fascinating. As authors we wear different hats to walk in each of our characters shoes – and so in the real world with go through the same process taking on different roles to launch and promote our writing. It’s a constant discovery and learning process – especially in the advent of the digital age.
Depending which publishing track you go down: traditional or self-publishing, will also influence your activities. With novellas, I’m looking at more the self-publishing route. For me it means reaching a wider audience and having more control over the finished product than I would with a traditional publisher, as I mentioned, novellas are sometimes not so cost effective, and the return on them smaller. But with a novel, the reach of a traditional publisher exceeds what I could get online. It also adds credibility – not to mention the vetting process most publishers put your book through to really polish your baby to be ready for the reading public. You still need your own marketing campaign (and online platform) in tandem with that of the publisher, but a traditional publisher certainly opens doors that would otherwise remain padlocked down in any other route.
This is all very general and conceptual, but an interesting discussion and guide into the writing/publishing process. As the industry changes, laws are introduced, and the digital market grows stronger our options too will change. I’m excited to see where this all goes over the next ten to twenty years.
Will novellas become more popular in the advent of a generation of instant-gratification digital users leading the market? Or is a new multi-media form going to evolve?
Keep your eyes on the pulse fellow writers…
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