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Why aren't short novels front and center?

Why aren't short novels front and center?

Short novels often fly under the radar. They're often "under-marketed." They can be hard to find. Even ones by major authors.

Why is that? Why do short novels often get the short shrift?

Some of the blame lies with publishers. For some publishers, there's more profit to be made on longer books. They're more expensive to print and ship, but they can also be sold at a higher price.

(By the way, have you noticed anything about the price of books lately? They're not going down. The cost of everything has gone up, and prices on books are reflecting that. In fact, some industry experts suggest books prices need to keep going higher...)

With books of conventional length, there's also more potential for buzz. It's what reviewers have come to expect, a sort of standardized experience by which many judge books. And each of you should be the judge of that...

But we've also been trained us to think bigger is better. Big books are serious. The best reading requires long, intense commitment. As readers, our expectations are part of the mix, a market driver that pushes up page count.

We could also point to academic standards, genres expectations, and other markets looking to adapt original material. Long books offer more to mine.

And then there's authors. Many are following a couple centuries of tradition, producing novels that match historical conventions. That's a complex expectation to break.

Also hard to break: the expectation of a bigger advance. Authors are often told more pages can mean more money. Or simply that it's important to deliver what the market wants, which is a novel of conventional length.  

To be clear, these are not arguments for the supreme superiority of short novels. Just a few reasons why they're not always front and center.

Ready to read more about short novels?

The Shortish Project is an evolving database of new and classic short novels from publishers big and small. Find the latest. Discover hidden gems. Search by author, book title or ISBN here.