We’ve mentioned a few times that the e-book has been a boon to the novella format. Freed from the economic constraints of minimum length for tree-book publication, novellas have been popping up in Kindle Singles, as well as self-published formats. The Guardian has a fresh look at these factors, interviewing Australian novelist Nick Earls and touching upon other e-book/novella connections.
The first smash hit best-selling e-book, Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet, was a novella, after all. (The Guardian calls it “the first-ever mass-market ebook” but that’s not right; Peanut Press, Fictionwise, and Baen had all been selling electronic editions of mass-market paper books before then.) Other big-name authors have released novella-length works since then as well.
Earls, who is releasing a monthly e-book and audiobook series of novellas under the series title “Wisdom Tree,” talks some about the different constraints that different lengths work under, and suggests that the difference between lengths of works may only be important to authors in this new digital world—with shorter works, you have just one thing to do and you need to do it, whereas novel-length works can have multiple interweaving subplots. I’m not sure I’d entirely agree as a reader, given that I’m going to be willing to pay more money for a longer work than a shorter one, so I’ll want to know how long a work is to evaluate its price.
It’s good that novella and short-story-length works are more readily salable in this new e-publishing world. The more different ways authors can get their works out there, the better.