When I posted about my annoyance on Twitter, I got some thought provoking responses. Several readers agreed with my sentiments; one even posted her own standard of what she is willing to pay per word count. Then, there were several responses from authors that made me realize that maybe there is much more to the matter than I realized.
I can see that I have developed my notion of novella worth based upon my experience with those written and published in print anthologies. Since those anthologies are priced at $6.99 or $7.99 for three to four novellas, I expect to pay no more than one third or one fourth for individual novellas ($6.99/3=$2.33; $6.99/4=$1.75; $7.99/3=$2.66; $7.99/4=$2.00). My calculations, in a unscientific and non-rigorous manner, lead me to the belief that novellas should be priced between $1.99 and $2.99.
Now, some of the author responses made me realize that just because a novella is say 1/3 the length of a full novel, a reader cannot just assume that said novella is 1/3 the work for the author. This realization really blew my mind, because I was absolutely making this assumption. An editor even commented on my tweet reminding me that novellas still need to be edited and marketed. The author and editor responses definitely made me stop and think, and absolutely convinced me that my standard for judging novellas was rather flawed.
While I acknowledge that I wasn’t seeing the full picture, I can only come to the conclusion that novella’s priced over $3.00 are going to be a hard sell. Personally, I can’t justify spending that much anymore – except for works by authors whose work impresses me mightily – when I would get more if I buy print novellas sold in bundles. Part of me wants to try and stay away from novellas entirely (except in certain situations). I had always used novellas in print books as a good way to introduce myself to new authors. I can no longer say the same when it comes to individual novellas in electronic format. I won’t take a chance on new authors any longer if the price point isn't incredibly attractive ($1.99 or less).
I’m rather conflicted about my conclusions. I do not want to undervalue the work of authors. I have the utmost respect for writers who successfully craft stories regardless of their lengths. However, there are so many books out there that I want to read, and I have to draw the line somewhere. I don’t hesitate to buy romances of any length at $0.99 or $1.99. When something is priced at $2.99, I want to know its page and/or word count – and I’m looking for something that is close to 25,000 or 100 pages. For me to pay $3.99, I want over 100 pages. I will pay more for stories regardless of length for trusted authors. But, this list of trusted authors has decreased dramatically since I started buying most of my books in e-format.
Ultimately, I can only wonder about the value of novellas in the book market. There are so many ebooks out there – of all lengths. At online retailers, it isn’t always easy to figure out book length. I have learned to pay more attention, and I do not buy something if I can’t figure out its length. At this point, I will only buy a novella if it is written by one of my favorite authors, is highly recommended by people in the romance community or is under $3.00.