Optional No More?
All the novellas! What is up with ALL THE NOVELLAS? I completely understand that it’s a way to keep up with the series so you don’t forget the characters or your connection to them, or even to get to know those little side characters who are often the protagonists of these novellas. I’ve even enjoyed a few of these myself. However, on the other hand I’m not sure I like how the trend is turning them into must-read novellas. Which means that if you don’t read one, you find yourself a little out of place when the next book comes out with information thrown at you seemingly out of nowhere–even if this information is superfluous to the main plot, it irritates me that it’s assumed I know of it.
For example, when Jenni read the 3rd Unearthly book she had to ask me about the novella I had read after being caught off guard by referrals to events and a key character that she had no idea about. I also have been reading some reviews as of late that mention how reading a certain novella is strongly recommended to be able to understand this and that from the next book. Not being the biggest fan of novellas (most of the time they’re too short for me to want to bother), I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t like to be forced to read them, especially now that they’re becoming trendy in every single series it seems. I like books, I like series, can’t we just leave it at that? Plus, having to hunt down the 287342763 novellas that came out is not my idea of a good time–and they’re not always readily available if you don’t have a Kindle.
But then… if I may be the devil’s advocate for a moment, this has another side to it as well. Like I said, I’m not big on novellas, and the reason is they’re usually too short and with content that is nothing more than fluff. This leads me to understand the need for more important substance if you’re going to write one–which creates a fine line between writing a strong novella, and writing an optional side story. I think there are definitely ways to achieve this and the perfect example would be prequel novellas. These show you the events that happened beforehand which are not (usually) required to fully enjoy the series, but they can be very interesting with an endless supply of plot ideas since the author is less limited. They also often run longer for the same reason.
My final verdict remains, though–I think novellas should be exactly what they used to be: a short glance at some extra happenings or from a new POV, but not necessary to be able to grasp the entirety or the plot if you only read the full length installments. Those who truly enjoy novellas might feel different, but I’m betting those who don’t rather not read them at all, than read short “significant” additional stories.
How important to you think novellas should be?
What are some of your favorites?
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I dislike novellas that belong to a series – a novella that has a self-contained story is fine. I just want a FULL book to immerse myself into the world I love so much. Even novellas that are for free and of a series I have read I will pass by usually, because novellas are usually a lot less polished than the novels and I don’t want to stain my view of the characters with that. Very interesting post, Giselle.
Haha I’m the opposite, I won’t usually read a novella that is not part of a series. I kind them too short for me to connect to the story or characters. One that is part of a series has that already establishes–but I still want them to be optional to the series. Good point about them not being as polished though!
Oh I agree so much with everything you said. I haven’t read any novellas myself. Why… well I just can’t seem to pull myself away from all the other books. I do want to read them though. Especially to the series I have finished and just want more of. I do like the idea of side stories or stories of other characters, I don’t like the idea of the in between that leads into the story. If I don’t read them, I don’t want to be lost. I really do need to get my butt in gear and read them though! great topic!
There are some really good novellas out there and the fun part is you can read them in 1 sitting so it’s good for like, if you’re just waiting around somewhere and you have 20 mins to kill. )
Mary @ BookSwarm
I’ve enjoyed SOME of the novellas, especially those that fill in some blanks. BUT…SO MANY NOVELLAS!! It’s totally the new trend. I think some authors write them because prologues have been practically banned from books these days and a “prequel” is one way to get a prologue out there. Still, they do tide me over until the next story and refresh those characters in my mind.
Prologues have been banned? That’s the first I hear of this! I wonder why? I love a good tone-setting prologue!!
I’m with you here! I don’t have time to track down every single novella that comes out. But I’ve read some good ones that are just side stories. Sylvia Day have some great ones. I really don’t care for them but if I come across one with good reviews then I’ll read it. Maybe. 🙂
Reviews help me decide which ones are worth it too I like the ones that are on the longer side so I wait until others tell me it’s a go or not lol
Great post babe!! I babbled away on a vlog this week, but I totally agree. I have a love/hate relationship with them. We basically say the same thing about them. I like getting extra stuff about a story or the characters, but I don’t like the ones you really have to read to fully understand the next real book in the series.
Yay I love your babbling vlogs! Does Ken make an appearance? Bahaha
I often know which novella is worth it based on your reviews, by the way 😉
Haha!! Nope, no naked boy barbies this time!! That was freaking epic and so appropriate for the topic too.
I’m glad that my novella reviews are helpful. I try to be sure to mention if I feel it’s a waste, or if it seems almost necessary to the series.
I don’t really mind picking up a novella every now and then, but I don’t want to feel that I have to so that I am not lost when the next comes out. I like that are short, but I do agree that they should be maybe about a characters past that maybe wasn’t really touched on, or something along those lines. But it does seem that more and more that they are becoming that they have to be read before picking up the next book. Still have mixed feeling about that. 😀
Prequels are often my favorite type of novellas! I find they’re usually longer which makes it more worth it to devote time and money into it. those 30 pagers, not so much.
It depends on the series for me. Either that or if it’s necessary to be read to the series, i.e. Vengeance from the Transcend Time Saga. You really couldn’t skip it. I mean, you could, but you would be a bit lost during the beginning of Timeless. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but maybe just give me a bit more of an option. Chances are, if I love your series, I’m going to read your novella anyway.
~Andrea @ Beauty but a Funny Girl
Michelle told me Vengeance was actually meant to be book 2 in the series and not a novella so that is kind of different. But yes if I love the series I’ll often read the novellas but I like to read them AFTER I’m done with the series so if they’re meant to be followed along it would annoy me.
As I writer, I feel it’s unfair for novellas to contain information vital to the continuation or conclusion of a series. The novella I wrote can standalone apart from the series it’s attached to. I once gave up on a series because I couldn’t figure out what was going on in the latest book. I felt like I had missed out on a lot of vital information somehow even though I had read the series from the beginning. Later, I found out a SHORT STORY in an anthology had all the information I was lacking.
Ugh that’s very unfair I haven’t had the problem yet but I’ve also not finished a lot of series that started to have a lot of novellas lately. I also should have include yours up there! You know I loved them! But I kind of put them in a different category since it’s more like an anthology book of side stories–so much better than a novella! 😛
I feel novellas and short story collections should be supplemental material. It should support the primary series, but only be there for people who want additional information.
My novella PRETTY WHEN THEY COLLIDE can actually stand on its own apart from the series it’s attached to and reads like a novel.
Honestly, I really don’t like it when I’m reading a series and I’m missing pieces because that vital info is in a short story collection or novella I didn’t even know about. It’s been a peeve lately. LOL. 🙂
Love this discussion. I just have to say that Pretty When They Collide is a perfect example of a novella that is awesome. It is long enough that it reads like a full novel and I has it’s own story, but includes character that we know, so it can be a fun extra to readers of the series, but a non series reader could read it too and not be lost.
My thoughts exactly. It shouldn’t be mandatory to read one in order to understand the sequel etc + lately more often than not they’re quite expensive for a short story. I do agree that novellas that peek into other point of views are fun to read and to get that other side of the story + that way you won’t have to write a spin-off series. Ilike how Andread said that if I love the series, I’ll read it. I’m not a fan of novellas in particular, but I will read a novella that belongs in my favorite series.
Yeah most of the ones I’ve looked up are 4$ which is a lot for a 1/4 book IMO.
I agree I think it’s a ploy to make us spend more money and time on a series and that unnerves me. I usually won’t read novellas if I don’t have to. Although, as a goal-oriented-to-obsession person, it’s a shallow thing to say that I love how a novella adds a checkmark to that accomplishment on my reading list. I read a novella, I count that as a book. Nice how that works out 🙂 Even though it’s kind of cheating. One novella I absolutely LOVED and I felt offered a HUGE dimension to a series was the 1.5 book to Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi. Destroy Me is the 1.5 to Shatter Me and offers a perspective from the villains POV. And WOW I’ve never read anything like that. Amazing.
Haha I count them as books on my reading challenge too. Who says they have to be a certain # of pages to count eh? 😉 I also heard great things about the Shatter Me novella and I hear it runs on the long side too which make me more likely to read it 🙂
I agree that it’s beginning to feel gimmick-y and I wouldn’t want authors to begin to feel the ‘need’ to whip up a novella just to hop on board. On the other hand, I have enjoyed most of the novellas I’ve read – I’m always up for getting that little extra bit of information or insight, especially with a series I can’t get enough of! But yeah, they should be written as just that: a little extra info, not something that if you can’t get the novella for wtv reason you’re confused in the next full book o.O And they should be made available in print all the time too, and reasonably priced at that!! but hey,if the authors offer them up free on their blog or whatever,then bring them on 🙂
If they offer them free it’s more likely I will read it for sure. But paying 4$ for a 40 page book… meh!!
I don’t read a lot of series, but when I do, I don’t want to read 1.5 and 2.5 I just want to read 1,2,3, etc. (Unless I’m obsessed, then maybe I will, but I don’t want to be forced). What I don’t get is stand alone novellas. I read this description of a book and I was all into it, then I found out it was an 80 page novella… why not just write the book? I don’t want to read 80 pages. How is there time for anything good to happen?
Lol I’m totally the same way! I don’t think I’ve ever read a novella that is not part of a series bc what’s the point? They’re much too short for me to give a crap about anything or any characters in it. I need time to bond with the story I guess. *shrugs*
Kelley (Another Novel Read)
I feel like I’m in the minority here because I actually *really like* the novellas! I like them because they’re extra little chunks from a series I love. I get to spend just a little more time with my favorite characters, or get to know another character better. I DO think that there are novellas which are done much better than others. The ones that are freely available online are great because they’re free and they know their purpose. Extra, but not required. I have bought several of the $3 e-novellas and I have to say that some of those can be disappointing (especially the Delirium ones), but some of them are also great (like the Girl of Fire and Thorns ones). So, I guess what I’m saying is that if they’re done right, they’re worth my time and money — and I’m usually tempted.
I like them and I’m glad they’re out there for the series you just can’t get enough of, I just like them to stay optional and not have important plot happening that if you don’t read them you’re a bit lost. I hear the novellas in the Newsflesh series are fantastic if you’re a fan. And Shatter Me’s has gotten great reviews, too.
I’m not a fan of novellas at all. I think it’s unfair when novellas are part of a series. The only time I actually bother reading them is when they feature some other character from a series of when they are not part of a series at all.
Also, I think they should be free.
I hate it when a novella is required to understand parts in a book, but I do like them when they are a complete stand-alone. It is sometimes so much fun to get more details about a certain character 🙂 I only wish that they released them for free, because I actually don’t want to pay money for such a short story.. I only buy them when I loved the series for a 100%. And I also appreciate it when the novellas are bundled and released as a paperback 🙂
I agree with you Mel… I like how they published the novellas for the Delirium series in a paperback. That way they are all accessible and you don’t end up buying 3 full books and 3 tiny little pamphlet sized books just to having the whole series (if they even publish the novellas, which for the majority, they do not).
My thoughts are: if an author is writing a novella for the cash, NO. Not necessary and that would make me NOT want to read it. A novella should be something like Destroy Me, where we got a glimpse into Warner’s POV, and saw some things, but you could skip it and go straight to UM from SM – a bridge, perhaps, or a short glimpse into a POV we otherwise wouldn’t see, but don’t use it to introduce brand new characters, and DON’T make it so that if you don’t read said novella, you’re lost when it comes time for the next book in a series. UGH.
Molli | Once Upon a Prologue
Totally agree with you, Molli!
Yes, I agree. Novellas should be asides and not ‘must reads’ in a series. I love the number system too – 1.5 or 2.5. Having decimal points in a novella title is pretty funny.
As much as I like how Harper Teen Impulse comes out with new novellas every first Tuesday of every month that give us a little more from the worlds of series we love, I feel like they are taking advantage of us for the money that they know we’ll pay.
Some of the novellas (or maybe all of them…but the ones I’ve bought) are only about 30-60 pages long and they cost 1-3 dollars. You can get a whole eBook for that price, and we’re only getting a fraction of the story for that cost. As you said, if the quality of the novella is worth it, then the price doesn’t matter (unless it’s 3+ dollars, then I have to put my foot down). I’ve paid 99 cents for an eBook that I thought could be selling for 17.99 with amazing quality and a fantastic story-line, and I’ve also read a $10 eBook that was hyped up for it’s quality, and it fell flat for me on all aspects of the story.
I know each eBook will be different for every person that reads it, but I also believe the publishers shouldn’t be putting something out just because the author has other best selling books. To assume a novella is going to be as fantastic as a full length novel is kind of a slap in the face to the readers. I applaud authors who are able to show their vision in novel and novella length, but for the publishing house to capitalize on it is a downer.
I also don’t think novellas should be mandatory for a 3 book series. I believe the author should have a choice in saying no when asked to write a novella if they don’t think it would benefit the overall story or if it is just a nice extra something like Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi.
And my last comment about novellas is how they can publish a novella that should be a novel. Maybe the author didn’t feel that way at the time, but I have felt cut off at the end of novellas because they can sometimes end abruptly with little or no conclusion or they don’t have enough time to flesh out their characters or plot. Scott Westerfeld’s short story, Stupid Perfect World is my example. I loved the idea and the characters, but as 55 pages, it was such a tease.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Giselle!
Henrietta @ Leisure Reads
I usually enjoy reading novellas but I think if something substantial is mentioned in a novella, that novella needs to be included as part of the sale of the installment following it. Also, it doesn’t seem to be the most considerate way to sell novels when readers who have spent money buying hard copies for the entire series can’t own a printed novella just because the publisher is releasing the copy in digital format only. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. Thanks for the topic of discussion, Giselle!
Michelle @ In Libris Veritas
I’m back and forth on series novellas as well…I think it should add to the world and story but it should not be a necessary brick to the story. If I read a book and I’m completely lost about something all because I didn’t purchase a 20 page story I’m not going to be happy…
Great post. I don’t mind novellas, but I prefer the full length book. You are right, I know of one series that if you don’t read one of the novellas, you will be lost as to what happened between books.
My main gripe with the novellas is that pubs charge 1.99 to 2.99 for them, which is the same price indies charge for an entire book. And while I can often get the novels at the library, I usually have to buy the novellas. I understand that pubs have a lot of costs to cover, but the novellas do seem like a way to rake in as much extra dough as possible… I also wonder if there’s pressure from the publishers for authors to write these novellas. I wouldn’t want to be forced into that extra workload…but then I am a stress-bucket and the world’s slowest writer!
I enjoy the novellas for what they are – extras. I don’t mind paying for a 100+ page novella like Tahereh Mafi’s Destroy Me because it was well-placed in the series, it was substantial in length, and I will certainly read it again. I WISH it wasn’t $2.99 but I justified it by the length and the content. HOWEVER when the same price is attached to a 50-ish page novella, that kind of irks me.
Fortunately for me, my library system has begun to purchase many of the novellas that are being released these days – not all, but many. For example, I haven’t had to buy any of the Delirium novellas because in my opinion, they aren’t worth the pricing as individual novellas. It’s been wonderful to check those out of my library as well as some others like Radiant, Neverfall, etc.
BEST of all is then they are free – unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often! Tor/Macmillan is AWESOME about making their stuff available both inexpensive to purchase OR online free individually OR if you can wait, they release free anthologies of the Fierce Reads short stories/novellas from authors like Leigh Bardugo, Anna Banks, etc.
I’m not opposed to the novella trend, I just with they were worth the money or cheaper! Or free. 🙂 Great topic!
I like Novellas but I don’t believe every series needs them. I also want them to be near or more than 100 pages. If you’re gonna offer the content it better be worth it.
I completely agree with you! I like novellas at times but I don’t want to feel like I have to read them to understand that next book. It shouldn’t be that significant. Like Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi or Elixir by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Both of them are necessary to read to continue the next book in line. I love them but I don’t want to feel pressured.
This novella trend bothers me SO MUCH. Not only is it generally exclusive to ebook readers as you mentioned, but I’m of the opinion that any information essential to the series should be published in the novel. I’m sure not all authors feel this way when writing them, but I do think that some novellas are almost cheap tricks to force readers to spent extra time and money for some information that could be easily added into the original books. Although I will admit I haven’t read many yet, so my opinion could change slightly.
I’m not a big fan of novellas in series either. I’d rather they just put everything into the regular books. I don’t mind prequels or side stories, but nothing should be in the plot of a book in the series that was in a novella, but not a actually book. They should be optional.
Oh, I SO agree with your thoughts here, Giselle! Admittedly, I haven’t read a novella before (just never really felt the need to), and based on some reviews and discussion posts such as this, I don’t think I’m about to break that habit. And yet again, I think I know enough about novellas overall to comment on this post without sounding like an idiot, hahaha. Yes, there’s definitely a difference between strong novellas and optional side stories, like you said. Authors shouldn’t put anything too drastic to the plot in there, because IMO not many people are actually willing to pay like $3 for a fifty-page book. But that doesn’t mean that authors should write it for the sake of writing, because everyone else is doing it, or because of the money. It should have the same qualities as the book – or about as same as you can get without turning it into a real book! Mostly, though, I think novellas are here to develop more on a minor character, sometimes a major character of whom no one really knows about (Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi). They’re fine, and should stick around, because I’m sure some of them are really good! (Based on reviews, lol.)
Wonderful discussion topic!
I’m not a huge fan of novellas, especially not the in between books kind. They annoy me and I usually avoid them, unless its for a series I just can’t get enough of. If some of my favorite characters are in a short story, oh yes, I will read them. But most of the time, their just too short for me to care about.
Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction
I’m not a fan of novellas usually, I’ve read some that I enjoyed, but they’re just so short! I know that’s the whole point, but seriously, I invest some part of myself into a story and then it’s over in 80-100 pages! And I kinda hate that it’s not a trend that you HAVE to read the novellas in a series otherwise the next book won’t make sense. I feel that it should be some extra information, but nothing vital to understand the happenings in the actual books.
Carissa St. Amand
I’m not a fan of novellas being crucial to a series’ overall plot/character development. It essentially forces you to read them in order to understand what’s going to happen next. Which can be problematic if you don’t have access to the internet to read them! At the same time, novellas that don’t move the plot or character development on feel kind of like a rip-off, and an attempt by the publisher to make more money off of you.
The more disturbing trend I’m seeing is the use of novellas as endings or more complete endings. I haven’t personally read the series myself, but I’ve been hearing that there are going to be a few novellas coming out for Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series-especially for the ending, which apparently no one liked. (Still, these are rumors). I just think if you’re going to write a book, write one, don’t break up so you can sell it for more money, and essentially ruin the story for those that are going to read it, not know about the novellas that ‘complete’ the story, and hate it.
Some of the worst novellas I’ve found are: the novella in the Walker Papers series (it’s an older one) that’s an anthology (YES A PRINTED ANTHOLOGY, so that means if, like my friend Emily, you don’t have said anthology, the first bit of the second book MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL!), the short stories between the 4th and 5th Percy Jackson books (that just ticked me off), and the DREAM DARK novella in the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series (though that’s mostly because I paid 2$ for like maybe 60 pages).
Sara @ Forever 17 Books
I don’t usually read novellas. Honestly, I just don’t feel like I have the time when 345598 come out and I have all of these books to read. And a must read novella? No way. It’s not fair to those who don’t have access to a kindle or nook and I just don’t feel like it’s something I should have to buy in addition. I do like the concept of prequel novellas, like you said. And of course, there are a few that if I like the series enough, I need to check it out. The A Need So Beautiful books have a novella coming out in the summer that actually takes place after the series ends because for some reason the publisher decided on only 2 books. It’s not the 3rd book I hoped for, but I’ll take it because I wanted more! 🙂
I have this love/hate relationship with novellas. Sometimes I like them cause they give me what I need to hold me till the next book but other times, I just get so impatient it makes me want more. LOL
We definitely share an opinion when it comes to novellas! While I have enjoyed reading my fair share (Destroy Me, the Throne of Glass prequel novellas), I also don’t want to be obligated to read novellas if I don’t feel like it. I’d prefer them to be more of extras to the stories/novellas!