I've been noticing a lot of shorter ebooks in the Kindle store recently and I'm still trying to decide what I feel about them. There is also an ongoing debate about the serialization of fiction and what that could mean for authors and readers.
Some of my favorite authors have released novellas as prequels or teasers for their main series characters and I can see the sense in that as a writer. It keeps people entertained in between the full-length books you write and you can produce them more quickly. But as a reader I feel faintly cheated by the length of the ‘book' I am paying for. The price is often not that different to a full length novel even though a novella is 20,000-40,000 words, half or even a third the length of a novel. I also feel that many are not ‘meaty' enough.
But Amazon is selling 1 million Kindles a week at the moment and the US has seen the successful release of the Kindle Fire. This is shaping up to be the first mainstream digital Christmas and you can bet that a stack of novellas will be downloaded in the weeks after people open their new e-readers.It's got to be worth considering writing one.
My friend, action-adventure author, David Wood has just released a novella, IceFall. It's part of his Dane Maddock adventure series and is a fast-paced romp through a winter wonderland. I caught up with him briefly to chat about the novella idea and also to discuss the upcoming digital Christmas.
Why did you write a novella?
I was researching and planning the next Dane Maddock novel and I had this idea to write a little 5000 word short story themed around Christmas in some way. Not the Christmas message itself but more that the setting and the McGuffin had those ideas. And I'm not very good at writing short stories so it turned into a 30,000 word novella. The plot centers around our heroes Dane and Bones as well as Jade, Dane's girlfriend and Angel, Bone's sister, who are in Germany for a Christmas vacation to check out some cathedrals and enjoy a white Christmas holiday. So they're wandering through Cologne where the bones of the Magi are kept in the cathedral when the bad guys steal the bones and the adventure kicks off. It's a bit of Dan Brown with the various cathedrals and religious sites and then it's all David Wood/ Indiana Jones with the crazy ending and the creepy monsters. It's good fun!
Is the novella gaining ground as a format?
It's a great way to write as a teaser or as a lead-in to a bigger series as I'm doing for the Dane Maddock books. To me, it's like the old pulps of the mid 20th century where they were cranking out short paperback novels just as fun short stories, for a low price. As that went away, books became thicker so the spine would be more noticeable on the shelf. A thin novella would get lost and bookstores probably weren't going to buy them. The advent of ebooks and print on demand is bringing the novella back. We're seeing more and more writers putting them out on a regular basis. It's a good form as some stories don't need to be as long as they are. You've probably shared the experience I have. When an author reaches a certain level of popularity, they stop being edited so much. So books end up longer than they need to be and we end up skimming through them.
The other thing I like about it is that readers don't have to wait a year for a book. There's no reason you can't pop out a novella here and there so you can have new content to keep them interested. It might even be a gateway to serializing stories once again like in the old days. One of the things I personally like is that I'm an impatient person and when I get to 30,000 words in one of my novels, I get whiney and want to quit. With a novella, about the time I get bored, I'm done. They're great fun to write.
Is this is the first mainstream digital Christmas?
We will see. I'm a cynic by nature but I wouldn't have believed last year that this year I'd be writing full-time and doing better than I was as a teacher. So it's possible that this year will be huge. The Kindle Fire and other tablets won't necessary represent new readers, they may be upgrading or existing e-reader crossover. But I don't think there's any question that ebooks are becoming mainstream. I'm also hoping that some people who aren't big readers but love gadgets will pick up some of these and buy a few books to try the new medium. It might be a good gateway drug. I have actually met people like this who have rediscovered reading because of these gadgets. For example, people who are dyslexic seem to find it easier to read on a screen with no other stimuli. Also older adults who can adjust the font size or listen to the book are trying them out. I'm hopeful that at least the trend will continue upwards.
I hear you have a Christmas special on your Thriller podcast?
Yes, there will be a ThrillerCast Christmas special starring special guest Boyd Morrison, author of The Ark. We're also giving away a lot of books so tune in over the Christmas weekend and there will be lots to win. ThrillerCast is on iTunes here or you can find it at ThrillerPodcast.com
I also did a full length podcast with David a while back if you ‘re interested in Writing thrillers and action-adventure.
What do you think about novellas? And are you taking advantage of the first mainstream ebook Christmas?
(Top image: iStockphoto)