Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books: Are Novellas The Future Of Publishing?

(Drivebycuriosity) - "Novellas are the future of publishing", claims the website io9 (io9 ). Novellas are longer than short stories but shorter than novels. For instance the Nebula Awards for the best science fiction novellas of the year are given to stories of between 17,500 and 40,000 words (wikipedia).

The online publisher recently announced "the  formation of a new publishing program, dedicated to publishing the best novellas and short novels from emerging writers as well as established authors" (tor). The new program "will be made available in ebook, print on demand, and audio formats via online retailers".

I appreciate this idea. I like to read, but I often give up on a book before its end because I lose my interest.  Often a writer has an interesting idea which carries a story about maybe 100 pages or less, but when she stretches the plot the story gets thinner and thinner and the text has too many fillers. Just a minority of authors is capable to keep the tension over hundreds of pages. Long books are often like watered down wine.

Some of the finest pieces of literature are novellas like Franz Kafka´s "Metamorphosis", Stefan Zweig´s "The Royal Game" and  John W. Campbell, Jr`s., haunting science fiction & horror story "Who Goes There?" (John Carpenter adapted this to his masterpiece "The Thing"). But publishers and booksellers don`t`really appreciate novellas. The prices, they could get for them, don´t justify an expensive marketing strategy and don´t finance their administrations. And bookshops want to impress with huge piles of heavy books.  Often the publishers compromise and combine novellas  with other short stories. On my books shelf is Truman Capote´s novella "Breakfast at Tiffany´s" with the tag "a short novel and three stories".

But things are changing - thanks to the Internet. Since the arrival of e-books novellas can easily be sold -  and the length doesn´t matter any more. For instance Amazon offers short texts (fiction & non-fiction) as Kindle Singles. Their prices usually vary from 99 cents to $2.99.

I think novellas are a chance for newcomers and other unknown writers to introduce themselves. Authors can focus on an idea and publish faster. And readers can sneak into something unknown without wasting too much time and money. Novellas could rekindle the dwindling interest in books. It seems people are spending less time for books because of the growing flood of leisure time alternatives like social networks.

I believe people will still read well written novels and non-fiction with 500 pages or more, but I think they will buy more books shaped as novellas and maybe even read more than before. Welcome to the novellas.

PS: For illustration I choose Jonathan Viner´s painting "Cult Classic" .

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