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  1. #1
    A.J. Fisk

    Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    I've been wondering on the differences of these three. Everyone that I speak with tend to be focused solely on "the novel" rather than anything else. My question then, is...: Short stories and Novellas, are they just as marketable as Novels? Are there any known pitfalls with staying away from longer works (novels) unless the story dictates it?

    I have more questions on this but I'm in a tremendous amount of pain so I'll see if I can't write more later. Thanks.


  2. #2
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    Anything up to 20,000 words is considered a short story; adult novels (as opposed to YA) start at 60,000 words. What is in between (except for YA) is considered a novella. Short stories are marketed to the magazine and lit. journal world, which was contracting until on-line journals became popular. It's probably expanding now--but what authors are being paid for short stories (if anything) continues to contract. Also on-line short stories (and the contests for same) tend not to go above 3,500 words. Novellas are only marketable to on-line sites (unless your name is something like Steve Martin) because they aren't profitable in print (except for YA). There also are distinctions on the complexity of the work, but the categories are mostly defined by length.

    And, yes, the story does sort of dictate the length. The story is only good if it is "just enough."

  3. #3
    Janice W-D

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    I'm sorry to hear you're in pain. Fibromyalgia, arthritis and a few other chronic conditions cause pain and hinder my mobility. I'm having a rough day myself and hearing about somebody else's troubles keeps me from wallowing in self-pity. I'm sending good vibes in your direction and I hope you find something to distract your mind from the pain signals today.

    Take care,

  4. #4

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    Ditto. Fibromyalgia's a b*tch. I add my uplifting vibes to Janice's.

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    There's really nothing I could add to what Gary said. Spot on. Good luck.

  6. #6
    A.J. Fisk

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    First off, thank you for your thoughts. I didn't get a chance to find a distraction since I had to work today (and because I am in management... I find it incredibly hard to be sufficiently distracted in my current occupation). However, as far as fibromyalgia goes, I know the pain from a secondary perspective. My wife also suffers from that as well as a problem with her hip which occurred when she fell down a set of stairs when she was younger. Not fun to deal with at all. Hopefully it will all get sorted out in the end (can always hope for cures, eh?).

    As far as the aforementioned topic goes... regardless of its marketability, what about the virtues of shorter stories as compared to longer ones?

    I think you've pretty much nailed me in that I am asking in a mostly selfish sense. I have been working on a story that found its end at around 22,000 words. My "test audience" loved it but it is hardly any length that would be taken seriously from a publishers view point--especially since I am an unknown. The length is after the first draft and I have been thinking about rewriting it with a larger scope to meet the requirements of what would be considered a novel. Thankfully, the characters have much more to say than I originally allowed so I won't be falsifying or adding "fluff". However, I am surprised that (especially in this day) short stories/novellas aren't hot sellers. Many people complain that they do not have enough time in their daily lives for extras, so one would think that shorter books/stories would be in greater demand than the longer variety of novels?

    I hope this made sense. I've had a bit of a rough day and am about half in and half out at the moment. Also, thanks again for your input and concerns.


  7. #7
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    It shouldn't be all that hard to understand why short stories and novellas are hard sells these days.

    The market for short stories was mainly print magazines before the Internet came long. Most print magazines went out of business years ago, and there's a lot less money to be made--and passed on from Internet journals.

    There are set costs to making and marketing a print book, no matter how many pages the book has. Readers won't pay the same thing for a 120-page novella that they will for a 300-page novel, though--so there's a lot less money to be made off a novella than a novel and the break-even point is quite high. Again the best venue for publishing a novella is on the Internet and (again) there is less money to be made from an Internetted work than a print one (with some exceptions--like porn).

  8. #8
    A.J. Fisk

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel

    I guess I am just pining for a lost way of life (readily available short stories in magazines, etc.). I'll post an actual response tomorrow. For now, I need sleep!

  9. #9
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Short Story vs. Novella vs. Novel


    There are plenty of markets for short stories, but most of them don't pay well. Some pay nothing or send you a subscription to the magazine.

    The novella market is more limited. If the novella fits a genre (such as SF or horror), you may find some small presses or anthology markets that would consider it.

    Try this site to search for short fiction and novella markets:


    And this blog post has an excellent break down of word counts for novels, short stories, and novellas, as well as the industry standard for various genres:


    Hope that helps.


  10. #10
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    short fiction

    All lengths have their power. I feel that everyone should work in all forms from 10-book series down to flash fiction, because even a half-arsed completion in any will teach you something important.

    I've got an extended rant on the "death" of short fiction, but here's the two main nuggets:

    Gordy Dickson told a bunch of us that it takes him about the same time to write a novel as 8 short stories. The latter might get him a dime a word, while the former got him at least a $50,000 advance: "So, which should I be writing?"

    The huge advantage of short work is that it's MUCH easier to crit & refine -- plus, you can turn out a few dozen complete pieces before deciding to give up. Compare this to spending years of your life on a trilogy that nobody wants, & you can't even get your crit group to browse.

    Nowadays, if you're a reasonably skilled beginner, you stand to make a nickel a word... which is what they were paying in the 1950s... & apparently in the 1920s. Consider short fiction to be part of your apprenticeship, & a way of building platform, & you'll be less likely to drive yourself mad.

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