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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trend Alert: Novellas are Hot!

I feel like this is the week of trends. Earlier this week over on the horror blog, I posted about the surge in production of horror audio books, and today I NEED to tell you all about the importance of adding novellas to your library collections because not only are they becoming one of the hottest trends in publishing today, but they are also featuring some of the best stories.

Let's start with a tiny bit of background. Novellas have been a vibrant and popular form of story telling especially in the speculative genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. for a good while However, even though these 150ish page volumes were popular with readers, libraries rarely bought them for their collections. The argument always was that we don't have enough money to buy every novella, no matter how good, so let's not buy any. Plus, the argument went, those authors who were the best at the form, normally moved into novels, so we would be able to add these authors to our collections when their novels came out. I will not lie, I often came to these conclusions over my 15 years of buying fiction at a public library, even when it came to horror, and there I knew better because I had read some amazing stuff.

My point is, we all did it.

But, in 2013 Neil Gaiman released the fantastic novella, The Ocean at the End of the Lane [link goes to my review] and you would have been hard pressed to find any American library that did NOT order this. It was a huge hit. And it was 100% a novella.

And don't think publishers and authors weren't paying attention to that moment. Case in point- James Patterson's widely popular BookShots with the tag line: "Life moves fast--books should too. Pulse-pounding thrillers under $5 and 150 pages or less."

At first, libraries were debating whether or not they should buy and carry these novellas. Patterson is one of the top circulating authors for all libraries, and demand proved to be too much not to stock them. You can now find many Patterson novellas at your local public library. So no more saying we don't buy novellas in general for libraries. We have all violated this with either the Gaiman or Patterson titles. Every single one of us.

Now proof number three that novellas are not only worth our collection dollars because they are popular, but also, because they are really good. Yesterday, the 2017 Hugo Finalists were announced and I was surprised that I had not only read three of the titles in the novella category, but I had LOVED them all. And I read them on my own, not because I "had" to.  Below is the list with links to my reviews where appropriate:
Best Novella 
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
  • Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing)
  • This Census-Taker, by China Mieville (Del Rey / Picador)
Every Heart a Doorway also made my year end, overall list of the best books I read and I included The Ballad of Black Tom in my April 2016 column in Library Journal and this recorded book talk. These were books I really enjoyed even when put up against full novels. [Side note/bonus proof, the next book in the McGuire Series is coming out in June; Entertainment Weekly thinks it will be popular enough that they are running an excerpt; order it now.]

I think the reason novellas are trending has a lot to do with the eBook revolution. It has been widely shown that increased readership of eBooks has led people to read more just in general, in any format. People don't care how long something is anymore. Now that they are back into the reading for fun habit, people are looking for good stories, and more of them. Novellas are long enough to give readers the detail and character development they crave without sacrificing a swift pace.

The problem is with us--libraries. We are behind in this trend. We need to get over the blanket "no novellas policy," and stop only making concessions for the biggest name authors. We are missing out on some amazing stories, and the trend will keep building.

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to write a review for Booklist of the next huge novella hit, Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. It will become further proof of all I said here as I will be giving it a whole hearted star review. It is up there with the Gaiman and McGuire stories as an excellent dark fantasy tale regardless of length.

Don't miss out on this trend. Not only do readers want more novellas, but authors are giving us excellent options to choose from. Why not try one to see for yourself?


Melwyk said...

I completely agree with you. And so many European novels follow this length format as well, which is considered pretty normal.

Donna Ioppolo said...

Thanks for this post. My husband leads a book group for new ESL graduates and they are always asking for shorter books. This will give me some ideas for better recommendations.

Donna Ioppolo said...

Thanks for this post. My husband leads a book group for new ESL graduates and they are always asking for shorter books. This will give me some ideas for better recommendations.