You know what I miss? Novellas. Or, what we now think of as novellas. I used to own stacks of books than ran 150-200 pages long. They were serials, like the Travis McGee novels I still have locked away in my storage unit, or classics like The Scarlet Pimpernel and it’s many sequels.
Recently, only a very few writers are permitted the novella form. I think the last one I saw as a standalone was Patricia McKillip’s “The Changeling Sea” back in the late 80′s.
They still exist, but usually in that odd flip-flop format, you know where they print one novella by a famous name author in the front half of the book, then you flip the book OVER and rotate it and voila! There is a completely different novella on the back.
But now, with the ebook coming to the fore, I’m wondering if page-count will be less important. I mean, open a half a dozen books in your average Barnes and Noble and you will find different typesetting, different formatting, a different number of words per page, just so that the book can hit a satisfying weight and feel in the hand. Sometimes you run across a book (looking at YOU, “Monuments Men” where the type is small and crowded, or you run into a book (A few recent Patterson novels have this) where the font is large and the kerning stretched as far as you can take it before the words start to fall apart.
But without the page count, without the need to make a reader feel like they are getting $8 work of paper and ink, what counts is a satisfying story. What counts is that, at the end of the work, the reader feels they paid just the right amount (or maybe even that they got a bargain).
A couple of publishers are starting to take advantage of this new opportunity. Tor, for example, publishes exclusive shorts from it’s bestselling authors. Some are short stories, some are novellas, all are works too short to fit into the trade paperback format, but all are works equally worthy of sale.