As someone who is new to this independent author thing, I really didn’t have a clue what the distinctions were between a novel and novella. Then one day, I stumbled upon this nifty post that really highlighted the difference between writing categories. Essentially, short stories are no longer than 10,000 words, novellas are no longer than 40,000 words and anything over 40,000 words is generally considered a novel. With that in mind, blog posts and articles that I’ve come across have a majority consensus that states the shorter the story, the less likely readers will enjoy it (Ouch! My little story is only 138 pages). Of course that got me thinking if that majority opinion was true. In order to validate this assertion, I did a quick cursory glance at the top 10 books on the New York Times Bestsellers list. As of the date of this post, the average length of the top 10 books is about 373 pages with the shortest length at 236 pages and the longest at 531 pages. That raised yet another question; do shorter narratives somehow cheapen the reader’s experience?
My very unscientific research suggests that readers do enjoy rather lengthy novels. I find this interesting, mainly because we live in a society where everyone is constantly on the go. If what you have to say can’t be conveyed in 140 characters or less, then people are less inclined to find out more about what you’re saying or trying to push (thanks Twitter!). I don’t know if you’re like this as well, but my attention span is so bad that I’ll even flip channels to another program during the commercials of the program that I was watching. When I shop for books, I’ll also tend to go for the shorter stories (but obviously I’m an oddball in that category). Although social media and other forms of technology have altered our attention spans, why do readers still appear to invest their dough in longer novels? I have two theories.
The first theory is the most obvious; people invest money in items that they deem valuable. Basically, you’re getting more bang for your buck; if the book is 700 pages long, then it’s worth spending $8.99 to purchase the Kindle edition because you’re sure to be entertained, right? Secondly, people read as a form of escapism. As such, the lengthier the novel, the longer the reader can remain absorbed in the fantasy world of the story, thus forgetting whatever issues may be going on in their lives. So, with both of these theories in mind, does this mean that (on average) shorter novels don’t stand a chance to reach the pinnacles of success like lengthier ones?
Surely, many other factors play a role in whether or not a reader will purchase a book (e.g. name recognition, marketing, en vogue genres, etc.), but what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy reading longer or shorter stories? If you’re a writer, do you prefer writing longer or shorter manuscripts? As always, leave your comments below or find me on social media (I’m now on Facebook, although I’m seriously considering shutting that down. It’s too complex!)