Today’s Wall Street Journal has a little blip titled “How Novellas Could Rescue Fiction Writers and Readers.” The gist of the story is that since everyone knows people read less these days, perhaps we can entice them to read novellas instead of novels.
Says the author, taking a cue from Jean Hannah Edelstein’s book blog on The Guardian: “with a length somewhere between a short story and a novel, the novella can deliver a sophisticated read in the time it takes to watch a reality-television program or a movie. Thanks to the amount of paper they require, novellas can profitably sell for the price of a magazine. Best of all, growth in novellas would bolster intellectual standards in an industry that lately has been accused of dumbing down literature. The novella’s brevity tends to bring out “care and thought ad the extra level of creative gusto” in authors.”
Okay. While I applaud the idea in theory, I don’t think someone who is averse to books–and I know people who are–is more likely to pick up a novella than a novel. And those who DO love to read tend to feel dissatisfied if you only give them one main plot (all you typically have room for in a novella.) Furthermore, novellas tend to be produced in hardcover, not softcover, so the initial expense is actually much greater than a magazine–unless you’re talking one of those showy magazines that I don’t usually read. 🙂
I’ve written at least one novella (it’s too early in the morning to do an extensive search of my memory bank), and its sales were dismal. Readers want an emotional payoff that’s worth the time they’ve invested into a book, and while it may be possible in a shorter work, it’s much more difficult. So the publisher who pushes novellas may actually be asking his authors to work harder for less money and fewer sales.
What about you? Would you rather read a novella than a novel? Does size matter? (Sorry for the double entendre.) Does a really thick book give you pause at the cash register? I think Harry Potter proved that length doesn’t hurt sales if the readers are invested in the story, but I doubt many new readers would be willing to take a chance on a book that weighs more than two pounds.
What are your thoughts? And, BTW, is there a book we haven’t done as a BOM that you’d like to hear about? Let me know!