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When In Doubt, Read The Directions

by Maxine Davis

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library


I think I like writing novellas.  I’ve “somewhat” written three.  By somewhat, I mean they all need serious editing.  Two novellas were written a few years ago, and at the time, I referred to them as my short books. I put them away because I felt they were, 1) a finished story, 2) I did not want to add “filler,” and 3) at the time, I thought I would look into publishing … later.


It is now much later, and I have definitely looked into being published. And do you know what?  Short books are okay.  I remember that I found short books were called novellettes and novellas, depending on the word count.  How did I find that information?  I looked it up on the computer.


I know we have all looked up the details and prerequisites of being able to call a book, a book, or to be more specific, what guidelines publishers use to call a book, a book, or novella and other labels.


Every once in a while, I will revisit the data even though I have it written down, and even can recall some of it on occasion.  It does not hurt to recheck current information.


Two places I looked were:


Just in case you are wondering, the Daring Novelist posted the following information.


Short Story – 1,000 to 7,500 words

Novellette – 7,500 – 20,000 words

Novella – 20,000 – 50,000 words

Novel – 50,000 – 110,000 words

Epics and Sequels – over 110,000


Of course, this is general information.  Before approaching a publisher, check their specific guidelines.








Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - July 15, 2014 - 4:11 am

Short books are definitely okay, thank goodness!

Those word counts mean nothing to the average reader, which is frustrating. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve seen where the reader slams the story because it was short, though it’s clearly marked a short story or novella. I don’t see novelette used much.

Guidelines on these things seem to be fluid, depending on which publisher’s info you’re looking at, or even which genre.

Kudos to you for not adding “filler.”

Piper - July 15, 2014 - 7:38 am

There was a big discussion on one of the FB groups that I am in about how writers are starting to “chop up” their novels and make novellas out of them, forcing people to buy several novellas (totaling a higher price) than a novel. I couldn’t imagine why someone would do that, but there you are. It takes all kind to make a world. Thanks for the great column Maxine!

Marilyn Baron - July 15, 2014 - 8:21 am

I’m with Carol, I’m glad short books are popular. I enjoy writing short stories and my short story publisher lists these guidelines for short stories: Short Story A:4,000-7500 Short Story B: 7500-11,000; Short Story C: 11,000-14,500; Short Story D 14,500-20,000 and Short Story E: 20,000-30,000. The company that publishes my novels starts their word count at 7,500 and go through 100,000+. I’ve written books of all lengths but it’s nice to know there are options for the writer and the reader.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 8:39 am

Carol, I have had friends that received such comments on short stories, but I always thought it was a complete story. Thank you for your comments.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 8:41 am

Piper, That’s awful that some would chop up their books over money. I thoroughly enjoyed your post the other day about your novella. I already had my blog written so I hoped you’d not mind if I talked about, it too. I appreciate you commenting.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 8:42 am

Marilyn, Thanks for the word counts! That is interesting. Yes, it is good to know there is a market for all word counts. Thank you for commenting.

Connie Gillam - July 15, 2014 - 10:03 am

I’ve never written a short story and don’t know if I can, but I’m about to find out.

Thanks, Maxine.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 10:23 am

Connie, Go get ‘em! You can do it! Thanks for commenting.

Debbie Kaufman - July 15, 2014 - 12:09 pm

Short books are popular, but I do want to be warned if the story isn’t really complete. Those “chopped up” books that Piper referred to make me crazy!

Susan Carlisle - July 15, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Not only are short books good but short stories are becoming the thing. Keep up the good work and get them out to the world.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Debbie, I know what you mean. I didn’t know people actually chopped up their books just to sell more. I’d be afraid they’d get mad and never read anothre one. Thanks, Debbie.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 4:00 pm

Susan, I’m glad to hear that. I’ve got to get mine publish-worthy and put them out there. I’ve got my work cut out for me, I guess! Thank you for commenting.

Walt Mussell - July 15, 2014 - 4:28 pm

Alright, I now have to start calling my published “novella” a “novellette.” I’ve never heard that term.

Sandy Elzie - July 15, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Hi Maxine,
I don’t write short…haven’t since the 4th grade and I guess you guys that know me can understand why…I just have too many words rolling around in my head (and coming out of my mouth).

Congrats for finishing a story…even short…nothing wrong with short. I Love to read them, I just haven’t been able to cut my 60-70,000 words down to 20 – 40,000.

Can’t wait to read them when you get them published.

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 10:19 pm

Hi Walt, If you want to call it a Novella, I say call it a Novella – who is going to count words! Just proud you wrote it!

Maxine Davis - July 15, 2014 - 10:20 pm

Hi Sandy, I nearly laughed out loud when I read your first line. No, and absolutley no offense, I cannot see you writing short, but you say “some really good stuff, so keep it up!

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