One of the trends I’m noticing as I buy new ebooks is the lengths, and most of my recent purchases have been novellas from both indie and pro market writers. This makes me realize that there’s a side of this self-publishing story that isn’t being talked about: the return of the novella market.
Mainstream publishing has all but abandoned the novella, and even among mid-size and small publishers, it’s hard to find a novella a good home. Many places choose to double up authors to make a larger print book, and while this works, it has problems, in my opinion. For one thing, some readers will decide not to buy the book if they like one book blurb, but not the other. The other is, it’s hard to figure out how to sell them. Do you pair up two stories that are similar and risk making the second novella look like a clone? Or do you pair contrasting stories, even if it might cost you some readers? (For the reason given above that readers like one, but not the other.)
Traditional publishers have tended to look down on the novella because the length to payout ratio isn’t “cost effective.” I put that in quotes because this is the same industry that banks lousy books using their blockbusters, and that has been operating on a shotgun marketing approach to sell a book within a very limited window of time. They abandon many works even as those books are just starting to find an audience. And they’ve operated this way for decades knowing this approach meant marginal returns, at best. You pro publishing proponents may try to claim that I’m wrong, but let’s look at Borders, or B. Dalton, or at the diminishing sales of print books while ebook markets are soaring. The fact is, these people don’t have room to talk about what’s cost effective when so many industry standard practices aren’t.