I’ve seen a number of people online complaining about the recent explosion of novellas in the world of young adult literature, claiming that novellas are unnecessary—nothing more than a disingenuous, desperate, money-grubbing ploy orchestrated by publishers and authors.
Since I have a novella coming out this August, I wanted to contribute to this conversation, explain why I wrote a Winterspell novella, and why publishers have been releasing novellas in general.
First of all, why did I write Summerfall, my Winterspell prequel novella?
Winterspell is my young adult debut (releases September 30), and is a standalone, self-contained fantasy novel, a re-telling of the Nutcracker ballet.
Since Winterspell is a fantasy novel, it includes some pretty complex world building and backstory, a lot of which I was only able to hint at when writing Winterspell itself. While interesting, this information was only peripherally relevant to the story at hand. Winterspell is the story of 17-year-old Clara Stole’s journey through the wintry, war-ravaged kingdom of Cane; Winterspell is not about the people who came before Clara, the people who started the war and fought the war and made Clara’s story possible.
But these people and their stories were fascinating to me. I wanted to explore them in greater detail.
Summerfall is the story of Rinka, a faery, and Alban, a human. They fall in love, even though they’re not supposed to. Even when, by doing so, they risk shattering their already troubled kingdom.
While developing the world of Winterspell, I created their story, and it was one I could not forget, one I wanted to share with readers.
That is why I wrote Summerfall.
That being said …
Okay, so I loved the story I wrote. But don’t authors and publishers also release these novellas to make money?
Uh … yeah? But that’s not a bad thing, and I’m not sure why anyone would think it was.
I feel like this should be obvious, but let me clarify: Writing is a business.
Yes, I and other authors write first and foremost because we love writing. We love telling stories, using our imaginations, and connecting with readers. If we didn’t love writing with the fire of a thousand Targaryen dragons, no way would we be doing this. The publishing industry is too brutal and unpredictable to tolerate otherwise.
But we also write to put food on the table and pay the bills. So, if there’s a chance to write a story we didn’t have room to tell in one of our novels, if there’s a chance to explore a character we loved and didn’t want to leave, AND make a bit of money in the process?
Let’s be real: We’re gonna do it.
But doesn’t that make this whole novella thing just a desperate scheme to earn money?
No, it doesn’t. Unless you consider everything an author writes to be part of some evil, money-grubbing plot, because we go about writing everything we write in the same way—everything from novels to novellas to blog posts.
Remember, first and foremost, the motivation for writing anything stems from love. (See above: no love for writing, try to survive in the publishing industry, lose sanity.) We authors are not suckering you into buying these novellas only to reward you with lackluster storytelling. We work hard on our novellas, just like we work hard on our novels.
I wouldn’t have written Summerfall—and my publisher and agent wouldn’t have wanted me to write Summerfall—unless I (and they) had true passion for the story. Otherwise, the process would have been miserable for all of us.
And besides, relative to the sum total of readers out there, there aren’t a lot of novella readers. Novella sales pale in comparison to novel sales. That’s across the board—not just in YA. So it’s not like writing these novellas is going to make all the YA authors writing them suddenly crazy-rich anyway.
(Although that would be AWESOME.)
(I mean, seriously, if I wanted to orchestrate some grand money-making scheme, I’d round up ten cute guys and rob a casino or something.)
But every little bit of exposure counts. Every sale counts. Every sale enables me, as an author, to keep writing—even if it’s a small sale, as with these super affordable novellas.
Writing these novellas is an easy way for authors to market our other books while getting some creative fulfillment, as well.
Also, I should say:
We write these novellas not just to explore our own stories further but also because we want to share them with readers—readers who want to see those missing scenes, or see a pivotal plot development from another character’s perspective, or have something to tide them over between novel releases.
Or, in the case of Summerfall, readers who are excited about an upcoming release and want a little taste of what’s to come.
If you’re not interested in these things, do you have to read these novellas?
No, you do not. These novellas are obviously not for you—and that’s okay! We authors still love you!
So, to sum up, that is why I and other authors write these novellas—because we genuinely want to tell these stories, because we love our characters, and because writing them is a great business opportunity.
You know, basically for the same reasons we write all our other books. I promise, we are not out to get you.
Also, you’re cute. Let’s dance.