Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Pros and Cons of Writing a Novella Series


It seems that many authors are dabbling in writing a series these days. This may have something to do with the changes in publishing which make it easier to get the first book in the series out there while the others are still being written. For authors the benefits are clear, but I've read some mixed comments about this from readers who it seems are getting a bit tired of the number of series on the market.

I've dabbled in writing a series with my paranormal romance Eternal Hunger which consists of five novellas ranging from 15,000 - 20,000 words. At the time it seemed like a great idea to write this story like this, but in hindsight I'm not sure I'd do it again. I actually enjoyed the process but the main reason I'm ambivalent about is that readers just aren't that into novellas. Despite predictions that attention spans are waning and ereadrers are better for reading shorter fiction, this hasn't been borne out by sales. Readers are still buying longer books, and it seems the longer the better. One constant criticism I've had of my own novellas and  which I've read in reviews for other authors is that they are too short.

Novellas and series are two separate subjects, but it seems many authors have had the same idea as me and decided to write a single novel in novella length installments, and that's what has prompted me to write this post. I'm surprised to see that some are even selling what basically amounts to a few chapters at the same price as a full-length novel. Not surprisingly many of the reviewers have commented that they feel cheated by this. I've tried to avoid this trap with my own series by pricing each novella at 99 cents and making the whole series in one volume just $2.99, meaning it's cheaper to buy it all in one hit. I've had much greater success with the single volume and I'm seriously considering taking the separate novellas off Amazon.

Anyway without further ado here are the pros and cons I discovered through my own experience of writing a novella series:

Pros

1.  Authors can begin making money as soon as the first novella is completed (if they choose to self-publish).

2. Selling the series in separate installments means there are more oppportunities for promotion. The first book can be given away for free, encouraging people to buy the rest of the series.

3. Each novella can have its own themes and ideas while still relating to the bigger story.

4.  It is challenging and fun to create a novella length story inside a larger story which could stand on its own (I don't think I quite succeeded with this but I tried!)

5. You can experiment with different covers and blurbs to see which ones work the best.

Cons

1. If you want to get published traditionally it's much harder to get publishers and agents to take a chance on a series.

2. Readers get really annoyed when they are just starting to get into a book and it ends, meaning they have to buy the next book.

3. If the first novella doesn't grab a reader they will not buy the next, but they probably would have continued reading a novel and given it more of a chance.

4. Many readers will be turned off by the fact that the book is part of a series and they will not buy it for this reason alone.

5. The first book in the series can be given away for free to promote the series, but it seems pointless to give any of the other books away for free if you want people to read them in the right order.

6. It can become very repetitive having to fill in the backstory for each novella.

Have you written a series and if so what was your experience like?

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