Author Topic: Should I make my series a novella series (shorter books) or a novel series?  (Read 749 times)  

Offline Max N.

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I have a bit of a dilemma. I haven't decided what to do yet so I was hoping to get some input. If someone has any experience with this, let me know how it worked out for you.

So I have this series planned out, ten books. It's a paranormal story, a bit light on the romance, about werewolves being the bad guy and one hero and two heroines being the good guys who try to stop them. All the werewolves live in different areas, so after the first book, they'll be going around to other cities to hunt them. One of the women is a witch.

I had the idea to write them as 20k-30k word novellas. I am currently super busy with ghostwriting, also working on book 3 of a separate 5 part series. The plot for those books is already over 100k words so those stories will be novel length (60-90k), and for the moment I'm just arranging the chapters and scenes so book 1 and 2 aren't complete either, I'll be going back to fill them in. It will take a while before I'm completely happy with those stories (I actually got the idea for the series around November last year and they're still very far off), so I wanted to work on the 10 book series as well.

The question I had is, if I wrote the books at novella length, are they going to be hard to sell? At that word count, I could do 1 a month along with my ghostwriting if I really got serious. I had the idea to have book one at 0.99 (or permafree if I could manage it) as a prequel and put the other 9 books in 3 volumes, and maybe have three different romance arcs that are resolved in each volume. The covers might be an issue, but I'm waiting until I'm at book 5 before I start worrying about that. The books would go out one every two or three weeks once I'm at book 8, which should give me enough of a cussion to edit and finish the series. And once I had them all out, I was thinking of a boxset with all ten books.

Conversely, I could try to make them longer books (I can make the plot work for this, I've been going through to make sure there aren't any holes and brainstorming how I could add more scenes to the books. It might change the direction for later books, though, so I might need to adjust the plots the further I get in the story, but it's doable.) It would take 2 months, while ghostwriting, to do a novel 45k-60k words, so I'd be looking at at least a year and a half before I complete the series. Or, I could shrink the series to 5 books around 60k words each and finish in about a year. Another thing to consider is pricing.

Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 09:51:36 am by Max N. »

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    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    Many authors recommend novels (see earlier posts on the subject) but I'm having fun with a novella series.  Actually, I call it a fairytale novelette series.  They're 99c each and fun to write!  However, I'm not doing it because they're more profitable. I'm doing it because it's all I feel like writing at the moment.

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    Online Vidya

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    person after person in thread after thread has said that novellas sell less well than novels. I don't think anyones ever said their novellas sell better than or even as well as novels.

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    person after person in thread after thread has said that novellas sell less well than novels. I don't think anyones ever said their novellas sell better than or even as well as novels.

    Right now, my novelettes are selling better than anything but one other series.  I think readers are drawn to the low price and the quick read.  Some want to lose themselves for hours/days in a good book/series.  Others have so much going on, they seem to prefer an hour or two of escape.

    Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
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    Offline Corvid

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    If your goal is profitability: write novels, in-series, minimum 70k words each.


    Offline Max N.

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    person after person in thread after thread has said that novellas sell less well than novels. I don't think anyones ever said their novellas sell better than or even as well as novels.

    The issue I have is that I'm starting a new pen name, so I have no backlist. A series would be easier to market than standalone books, and I have this ten part series I've been outlining. As I've said, I have another 5 part series, and that one will be full novels. But those take a lot longer to write, edit, plan for, etc. Since I don't have much of a budget for advertising, I want to release the books in the series in short intervals, so most of the series will be done before I start, to see if it can give some boost in sales before I focus on advertising at the end of the series. This will take longer if the books are also longer, but I don't want to put out books that won't sell at all because they're considered too short.

    I have checked out several other threads and seen many different thoughts, and I still haven't come to a conclusion. My real issue is if I should do novellas and have them start coming out as early as Januray 2021, or make a longer novel series that I'll probably start publishing about a year from now. My biggest issue is the no backlist, I do standalone novels as well, but I want a good backlist before I add more to my advertising budget. If I do short novellas, I can have 5 done at the end of the year (if I'm serious about the project.) But if it's novels, it might take 2-3 months to write and edit one book. I might release one every two months once I'm on book 5.  So 10 novellas, 1 prequel story and 3 volumes of work, along with 1 box set, or 5 long novels and a box set. (I could always make them ten novels as well, but this would take me close to two years for this series.) I plan to do ghostwriting projects (which I do full time) and standalone novels as well and it will be easier and faster if I'm doing it with shorter books. So short story series and slightly faster/more releases, or long books and slightly longer/less releases.

    Basically, I can build my backlist quickly or slowly. I can focus more on advertising and profitability once I have a good number of books out. My other pen has 10 books, all standalone, short stories, novellas, and 3 novels. I'm hesitant to do advertising on those because I'm worried about how profitable ads would be on such a tiny backlist and only 3 40-45k novels. (I have books in the works for that pen as well, but those are mostly done and I'll be putting one out in a few months.)

    Offline Max N.

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    If your goal is profitability: write novels, in-series, minimum 70k words each.

    So would it be better in the long run if I wrote full novels from the beginning, instead of the novella series (10 books) with the occasional standalone novel and longer novels later? Because I can start publishing a novella series in January and a novel series (60-90k words a book, 5 books) around August next year.

    I'm mostly weighing on growing my backlist and advertising vs putting out novels since they sell better (even if they take longer to write.)

    Offline Max N.

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    Many authors recommend novels (see earlier posts on the subject) but I'm having fun with a novella series.  Actually, I call it a fairytale novelette series.  They're 99c each and fun to write!  However, I'm not doing it because they're more profitable. I'm doing it because it's all I feel like writing at the moment.

    This, I was working on the series and considered making the books short episodes, because it would be faster, and I thought it would be fun to work on. I tend to run out of steam in the middle of a novel and have to push through to the end, so they take me much longer to finish. They can be fun as well, but they're also overwhelming. (My 5 part series with the 100k plus plot outline started as an idea and just blew up. it's been 9 months and I have yet to complete the first book, but I'm still brainstorming more scenes to fit into the story.)

    I don't need them to be super profitable, but I want to build a backlist, maybe do promotions on the novella series to build an email list for when I start putting out my longer novels/series books. There are a lot of possibilities. I'm just not sure if a novella series would be a good prop for a backlist or not.

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    My novella series did as well as my novels out of the gate. The former books are about half the length of the latter. I'm putting novellas at the center of a rapid release strategy for the rest of this year.  Book three in that sequence will be published on August 18th. I will have at least one book (and sometimes two) in new release every day until Christmas and probably for a couple months after. 

    Online Gareth K Pengelly

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    My main series started off with short books, growing progressively longer. 50k, then 60k, and so on. This tenth book I've just about finished is 120k. Will probably be 130k by time it's done.

    Not so much out of any real decision to make them longer. More, the more I wrote about the characters, the more I could naturally flesh them out, the more I could add subplots and little character-building tidbits, more fleshed-out, realistic conversations, and so on and so forth.

    « Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 02:16:47 am by Gareth K Pengelly »

    Offline TaraCrescent

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    person after person in thread after thread has said that novellas sell less well than novels. I don't think anyones ever said their novellas sell better than or even as well as novels.

    I have one novella series does about as well as my novels. But this is never a straightforward revenue question. All other things being equal, a novel will net you more money than a novella, but all things are never equal. A novel takes longer to produce, which means you won't be able to release as often. You sink more time into a novel, which means you have more to lose if it fails. You just have to write what you're able to, and not let perfect be the enemy of progress.


    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Tara brings up a good point. In one of my books, the protagonist gets into a discussion over space naval warfare tactics with an analyst. He brings up the "battleship vs. three destroyers" paradox to describe a tactical dilemma often faced by capital ship skippers and their battlegroups: which is better from a strategic standpoint: one battleship or three destroyers? 

    A battleship has tougher armor, more firepower and in some cases, equal speed. But it is only one ship. The destroyers are more maneuverable and can attack more often and from three directions at once. Is it a toss-up, or does one side have an advantage? 

    As Captain Hunter put it "the big ship vs. three little ships can rapidly become big ship with a fat lip vs. two outgunned little ships after one well-aimed shot. Which side would you want to be on then?"  It's the kind of question Hunter would ask, given he's the captain of a five-million-ton warship. But that's just one captain's opinion. 

    At the risk of disagreeing with my characters, I'm going with the three destroyers side until the end of the year. Multiple titles gives me a lot of flexibility in my marketing and they keep me in front of my subscribers. If it doesn't work, I'll re-evaluate next February. In the meantime, I'm going to add one hell of a lot of books to my backlist. 
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 02:47:05 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Offline Max N.

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    I have one novella series does about as well as my novels. But this is never a straightforward revenue question. All other things being equal, a novel will net you more money than a novella, but all things are never equal. A novel takes longer to produce, which means you won't be able to release as often. You sink more time into a novel, which means you have more to lose if it fails. You just have to write what you're able to, and not let perfect be the enemy of progress.

    This was actually one of my issues and I was scared to bring it up, so I'm glad someone else said it. If I turn the series into a ten part novel series, it will take me two years to complete, and the series might fail anyway. If it's a 5 part novel series, it's slightly better than 10, but it will still take longer to release them. If I time everything right, by this time next year, I could have my 10 part novella series completed with most of them out with other stories out at the same time, but if I wrote full novels, working on other books at the same time means more time spent getting through the series.

    I do have full novels I'm writing, as I've said, both standalone and series. But I need a backlist before I'm comfortable increasing my promo budget, and building that on novels alone will take a while. I have several novel series planned, not just the one, but they will take a lot of time. The novellas don't need to be my best sellers, as long as they're useful in my backlist. Will they or won't they is my current struggle.

    Offline Amanda M. Lee

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    I've done 30K novellas and 95K books in the same series. We're talking series that debut new books in the top 20 of the store on release day at full price with no advertising. The novels vastly outsell the novellas, by as much as 10K a title just on release month. Then the novellas fall in rank much faster. The novels stay evergreen longer. How much more does a novel make than a novella in a year? I would have to do the math but at least 50K a title in essence. The novellas also can't be advertised very easily.

    So, my vote is for novels.
    « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 04:57:25 am by Amanda M. Lee »

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    Offline Corvid

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    So would it be better in the long run if I wrote full novels from the beginning, instead of the novella series (10 books) with the occasional standalone novel and longer novels later? Because I can start publishing a novella series in January and a novel series (60-90k words a book, 5 books) around August next year.

    I'm mostly weighing on growing my backlist and advertising vs putting out novels since they sell better (even if they take longer to write.)

    Yes, IMO, you'd be better off in the long run - in terms of maximizing profitability - producing one series of 70k+ word novels instead of a series of novellas.

    Forget focusing too much on time horizon in the here and now, i.e. when you can get novellas out to market vs. novels.

    Focus instead on:

    - producing long books in-series
    - writing in a hot genre
    - meeting reader expectations
    - releasing at least 4 or 5 books in your series per year, with competitive covers and blurbs

    Do all of that, and you're in business.


    Offline Max N.

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    My novella series did as well as my novels out of the gate. The former books are about half the length of the latter. I'm putting novellas at the center of a rapid release strategy for the rest of this year.  Book three in that sequence will be published on August 18th. I will have at least one book (and sometimes two) in new release every day until Christmas and probably for a couple months after.

    Hi Shane, I come back to kboards often to seek advice and check out current threads and I did come across your thread. I read about your rapid release novella strategy. I have it bookmarked so I can follow it  ;D

    I'm more worried about building a backlist, maybe building an email list, so I have some cushion with my longer releases. Two or three of these novellas would be comparable to one of my novels, and I had rapid release in mind as well. By the time I'm done publishing all the books in this series, I could have another series ready and edited to go right afterwards.

    Offline Max N.

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    Thank you to everyone who's participated in this thread. I've been thinking, after going through the plots I currently have ready to start work on, that I'll do the novella series anyway. Growing a backlist for this penname is my number one headache, but I'm also worried about long term profitability, and I have a 4 part series (shifter, werewolf romance) that I think is perfect for a novel series (60k-70k a book.)

    I'll work on them both together (along with my 5 part romance series that is trudging along, I might release it after these two.) I'll try rapid release for the novella series, and right on the tail of it, I'll do the same for the novel series since they should be ready to go after I'm through with publishing all the novellas (3 weeks for the novellas and a month apart for the novels so I have more time to work with). I'll work on promo depending on how well these do, but I have some standalones that I occasionally work on and might publish around the same time, since I recently splurged on a bunch of covers and they've been sitting in my computer, waiting for me to use them. If for nothing else, I can at least use the novellas for promotion and see how well it works out.

    It might take a miracle to pull this off, but I think it'll work for my current needs. It means more work for me, but my long term plan is to slow down my ghostwriting at some point next year so I can get back to publishing my own books. I was having issues with slower typing and aching fingers so I couldn't do both, and I recently found my laptop's keyboard could be the problem as I got my hands on an external keyboard that got me back to 10k-15k words a day. If I can do that consistently, it can give me a nice boost so I'll have several books ready or close to it once I start publishing.

    If I remember to, I might come back here and let you guys know the results of my little experiment. Cheers, guys! I'm off to write some books.  ;D

    Offline Jena H

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    I'm not going to give any opinion or advice on the "novel vs novella" thing; that's totally your decision.  All I came to say is that sometimes the story dictates how long it should be.  Write the story as you envision it-- no longer or shorter.  I've read "padded" books, and did not enjoy them, and it certainly influenced whether I read any other books by that author.
    Jena

    Offline SaltObelisk

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    To be honest, I say both.

    The pros of a novel: More page reads, more advertising opportunities, the chance for a Bookbub, you can price it higher

    The cons of a novel: Longer to write, and if it doesn't sell well (or gets bad reviews), you've wasted more time.

    The pros of a novella: Faster to write, can price cheaply (and hopefully attract more readers)

    The cons of a novella: Fewer page reads, fewer ad opportunities.

    I go back and forth between both, and I wouldn't say one is better than the other.

    Offline Undercover Writer

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    One idea that I've always followed in the 12 years that I've been writing:

    Write until the story is told. No more, no less.

    Don't pad the story with things that you aren't going to use (although it may be in a later story), and don't cut anything that helps the story.

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    It's important to know what's optimal in general (longer books and frequent releases) but equally important to factor in your typical writing speed and your other work commitments. That way you'll know where you can best balance on the length/release frequency scale.

    Personally, keeping in mind that you want to build traction on the pen name, I'd write at whatever length will keep you releasing at least once every other month. Splitting the difference between novel and novella with a shortish novel of around 50k would be my preferred option. It has the speed advantage of a novella but comes in at a more widely appealing length (150+ print pages) and brings more page reads. It's still not long enough to be ideal but...again with the balance thing. You gotta do what you can do, and at least at 50k words, you won't face the challenge of marketing something under 100 pages.

    Edited to add: I see I'm weighing in late and the decision has already been made. Good luck to you.
    « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 10:29:38 pm by Carol (was Dara) »

    Offline Max N.

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    Edited to add: I see I'm weighing in late and the decision has already been made. Good luck to you.

    I still appreciate the input, so thanks everyone.

    I do tend to have this problem where I start on a story and it ends up a lot bigger than planned, but I'll try to keep the novellas under 40k for the sake of time and go wild with everything else.  ;D

    My standalones will be around 40-50k words so I can have those publishing in between series. I don't know how long I'll be able to keep up the fast pace once I start publishing, but I'll work on it.

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