Selling Novellas

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 06 2011

I read the blog about Sally MacKenzie and her novella. My question is: What is the word count for a novella? I [redacted] wrote my novella about an FBI agent, [redacted] (first in series). The first one is 40,000 words and about a heart surgeon living in San Francisco. I didn’t know what to do with a novella and stuck it in the drawer. Can you tell me how to “get it out there?”

Contracted word counts for novellas are typically between 25,000 and 35,000 words. Usually novellas are part of an anthology, and how long they are will depend on how many people the publisher is asking to participate in the anthology. Typically they are looking for a final total word count of about 100,000 words.

It’s hard to get a novella into New York publishers without an agent. It’s not something publishers typically take on submission, but usually something they ask for, asking an author specifically to participate. In the new self-epublishing market there are opportunities to publish novellas yourself. Otherwise you can always expand your novella into a novel or hold on to it until you get published with a novel and see if your publisher is interested in your novella at that time.

Another option would be to create a collection yourself–two or three of your own novellas into a collection that you could submit to agents.


10 responses to “Selling Novellas”

  1. Avatar Hart Johnson says:

    I have a friend who has 3 novellas coming out this fall (August, October and December)–all unagented, genre romance. The were all written in response to specific calls for submission though–two at Samhain, one with Carina at Harlequin. (two part of anthologies and one stand-alone)Just FYI.

  2. Avatar Shakespeare says:

    I've personally enjoyed several books that are collections of novellas. Robin McKinley's A DOOR IN THE HEDGE comes to mind.

  3. Avatar Danielle says:

    I've heard about some self-epublishing authors getting together to create anthologies and then publishing them to amazon. In a query, do these count as "published works" to put down for yourself?

  4. Avatar girlseeksplace says:

    Jessica's advice about writing a few novellas that go together is a great idea. You have more room than a short story, but aren't quite at novel length, which would force them to stand alone. Good luck!

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Here's a slightly different take, from my own personal experience.

    E-publishers do publish novellas all the time now, agented and unagented. It isn't self-publishing. They work just like "NY" publishers. You have to query them, submit something to them, and wait for a response. I have one historical being released end of this month. I've been contracted to do others in the past. And I was just contracted to do one with another author this week.

    Word counts vary from publisher to publisher. It seems everyone has a different definition these days. But it is safe to say they range between 25,000 and 35,000 words in a broad sense. I've seen shorter. I've seen them longer.

    And they are very, very popular with readers…people who read digital books.

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I'd like to add the reason why this comment above is anonymous is because I don't like to promote my books and my publshers on somone else's blog. It's cheesy 🙂

  7. Avatar tyles says:

    I second what Anonymous says: small e-only publishers will look at unagented novellas, especially in the very-commercial romance genre, and it's not self-publishing.

  8. I have a couple written, and I've chosen to explore the self-publishing route with them. I'm taking my time, doing it right, with editor, cover artist and the works.

    I think in addition to great anthology fodder, they are the perfect thing to experiment with publishing in the e-revolution.

  9. it is a great post! i like it and thank you for sharing your experience!