Monday, February 18, 2013

A Novella Approach

March 2010
I was a bit disappointed
when Yesterday's Promise
was contracted as an e-Book.
It's just under PBG's required
length for a print book.
Novellas are a new thing for me, as a writer. I’ve read many through the years, usually in anthologies such as the Barbour Christmas collections. But it never occurred to me to write one myself until I was contracted by White Rose Publishing, and I have discovered that I truly enjoy writing these shorter works.

That said, please don’t misunderstand: I did not say they’re easier to write. They’re not.

What they are is less difficult to plot. At less than half the length of a full-length novel, these stories simply don’t have room for an excess of sub-plots and cliffhangers. However, it can become quite a challenge to fit all the elements necessary to the storyline into 20,000 words—or less, depending on the project. So the novella becomes an exercise in brevity—a challenge to find ways of saying a thing less wordily, but with equal impact.

“Why should I write a novella, when I can write a novel that’ll actually go to print?”

December 2010
Admit it, that’s what you’re thinking. I know you are, because that’s what I used to think…and I’m not all that different from everyone else. (At least, I’d like to think I’m not.) Getting a book into print seems somehow more like legitimate publication than having an e-Book contract. Books are real…you can hold them in your hand, and folks can buy them—you can sign those babies!

But a very wise woman who happens to know a great deal about publishing convinced me that these shorter stories have their place in the industry and that they can be a boon to an author’s career. She may not even remember the conversation, but I do.

I probably won’t be able to quote her word-for-word, ‘cause my memory’s not that good. I left the half-century mark behind a few years ago, so I hope Nicola Martinez won’t come back with, “I never said any such thing.”

April 2011
If I'd been on my toes,
and clued in to the benefit
of novellas, I might
 have avoided the long
gap without a release
between this book and
the next one...
Here’s what I remember her saying: “I’ve seen a direct correlation between authors who consistently have good sales and the ones who write novellas for release in between their full-length novels.”

I’ve thought about those words a lot. And I’ve come up with a few reasons for that “correlation.” Just my opinion, but that’s what this blog is for, right?

1.         The author’s name remains out there in the public eye, so readers don’t forget a writer they like in between books.

Let’s face it…the length of time between contracts for full-length novels can be daunting. And that’s not even counting the wait between “the call” and seeing the book in print. I was averaging a book every couple of years up until Solomon’s Gate. That’s long enough for a reader to forget they ever read a book with my name on the cover.

2.         The author continues to write.

The temptation to rest in between books is almost irresistible…but a bad idea. Having shorter projects in between keeps the imagination active and the writing skills honed.

March 2012
3.         The author takes home more of the book sales profit.
‘Nuff said.

4.         E-publishing is the wave of the future. Why not get in on the ground floor?

Although it still has a ways to go as far as convincing the public to embrace it, e-reading has gained considerable ground in recent years. Almost everyone owns an e-Reader of some kind. Which says to me that e-Books are becoming recognized as “real” books. Readers are learning to appreciate the ease of purchase (order, pay, and be reading within a couple of minutes—and all from the comfort of their recliner); compact storage (yes, I love bookshelves, but they’re never big enough for an avid reader, which means books overflow into every area of the house); ease of transport (ever tried to pack ten Summer reads into a suitcase small enough to fit overhead in a jetliner’s coach class seating—along with all your clothes and toiletries?); and cost-effectiveness of e-Books.

4.         They’re fun to write.

And who needs any better reason than that?

by Delia Latham