Novel vs Novella: Exploring the Differences and Maximizing Potential

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a novel and a novella? In the past, novellas were often overlooked in the book market. But times have changed, and novellas have become a viable option for both traditionally published and indie-published authors. So, what exactly sets these two forms of fiction apart, and does it matter which one you choose to write? In this article, we’ll delve into the definitions, word counts, and selling strategies for both novels and novellas. Let’s dive in!

What’s the Difference Between a Novel and a Novella?

The key difference between a novel and a novella lies in their word counts. While the specific definitions may vary slightly depending on who you ask, there are generally recognized word-count ranges for each category.

A novel is typically a work of prose fiction with a word count of 40,000 words or more. On the other hand, a novella falls within the range of 17,500 to 40,000 words.

It’s worth exploring a few other common fiction lengths to get a clearer picture. Short stories usually range from 1,000 to 10,000 words, while flash fiction is typically under 1,000 words. Between the short story and the novella, you’ll find the novelette, which generally falls between 7,500 and 20,000 words.

Novella Length Affects Storytelling Factors

Although you might think of a novella as simply a shorter novel, there are other significant differences to consider. Due to its shorter length, a novella often narrows its focus to one or two points of view, while novels can feature a dozen or more. Novellas also tend to revolve around a primary conflict, with limited or no subplots.

In terms of characters, novellas usually have a smaller cast, although this can vary depending on the story and writing style. Additionally, novellas typically maintain a faster pace compared to novels, which often incorporate rising and falling action. With limited space for development, character growth in novellas predominantly centers around the protagonist, while secondary characters receive less attention.

To summarize:

  • Novels are 40,000 words or longer.
  • Novellas range from 17,500 to 40,000 words.
  • Novellas often feature fewer characters, points of view, and subplots.
  • Novellas tend to have a faster pace.
  • Character development in novellas generally focuses on the protagonist.

Genre Considerations for Word Count

It’s important to note that the word count guidelines mentioned above are just that: guidelines. When writing a novel, it’s generally wise to adhere somewhat closely to length conventions within your genre.

For instance, science fiction and fantasy novels often exceed 100,000 words, while romance novels typically fall between 80,000 and 90,000 words. Understanding the expectations for word count within your genre can help ensure your story resonates with readers.

Want to learn more about novel length by genre? Check out our in-depth article on!

Should You Write a Novel or a Novella?

Deciding whether your idea is better suited for a full-length novel or a novella can be challenging, especially if you’re not a meticulous planner. While novels are undoubtedly the most popular fiction format on platforms like Amazon, there’s plenty of potential for novellas too. Let’s explore the factors that can help you make an informed choice.

Whether you’re a meticulous plotter or a more spontaneous “pantser,” it’s essential to consider the intricacies of your plot. If your story involves a large cast of central characters and a complex plot, a novel may be the ideal format. On the other hand, if your plot is more straightforward, focusing on one or two major characters driving the narrative, a novella might be the perfect fit.

In reality, you won’t know for sure until you start writing. So, if you’re unsure, why not aim for a novella first and reassess as you go along? Often, it’s during the writing process that you gain a better understanding of your story’s direction and the number of characters required to bring it to life.

If you’re determined to write a novel and need a push, consider participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), held annually throughout November. The challenge? Write 50,000 words in one month. Check out our article on NaNoWriMo, available on!

Let Your Story Dictate the Length

One crucial piece of advice: Avoid padding your story just to meet a specific word count. A compelling story doesn’t need to be a specific length. Some of the most revered works of literature are short and concise.

Edgar Allan Poe, for example, only wrote one novel throughout his career. The majority of his work consisted of short stories and poems. Ernest Hemingway published six short story collections alongside his novels, with “The Old Man and the Sea” being one of his most famous novellas. Shirley Jackson produced over 200 short stories during her lifetime.

Many seasoned writers recommend starting with shorter works like novellas or short stories to refine your understanding of story structure and prose. By mastering these elements, you can then transition to longer works with more complex plots and multiple characters. Once you have a solid grasp of storytelling mechanics, story length becomes a secondary concern.

The Importance of Word Count Goals

One factor that sets professional writers apart from aspiring ones is their commitment to word count goals. Whether you aspire to write a short story, novella, or novel, establishing a writing routine is crucial. This involves setting aside dedicated time for writing and setting attainable goals for each session, even if it’s just a modest 250 words.

At, we understand the significance of maintaining writing habits. That’s why we’ve incorporated word count goal tools into Atticus, our writing platform. You can customize these tools to match your schedule and specific goals, giving you a positive boost every time you meet your target!

Using Novellas to Further Your Author Career

When it comes to book marketing, much of the information available focuses on novels and nonfiction books. However, don’t underestimate the potential of novellas to help you succeed as an indie author. Here are some tips to maximize the impact of your short fiction:

  1. Sell your novellas on Amazon and other online retailers, emphasizing that they are novellas with a lower price point compared to novels.
  2. Utilize novellas as “reader magnets” to gather email addresses. Readers who enjoy your novellas may be inclined to explore your other works, both novellas and novels.
  3. Create a series of novellas featuring the same protagonist(s) to encourage readers to stay engaged and read through the entire series.
  4. Consider posting your novellas in installments on Kindle Vella or your Patreon Creator account to build anticipation and interact with your readers.
  5. Combine related novellas into a box set and make it available on various ebook retailers to attract readers who prefer longer reading experiences.
  6. Reward your email subscribers by offering a free short story or novella as a bonus. Your readers will appreciate the gesture and become even more invested in your writing.

Remember, to ensure the best reader experience, it’s essential to have your novellas professionally formatted. Learn the ins and outs of formatting your novels or novellas by visiting!

Successful Novellas to Explore

If you’re interested in exploring novellas and want to see how they’re done, there are numerous excellent examples you can dive into. Each genre has its own set of tropes and conventions, so reading extensively in your chosen genre is always a wise move.

Here are some outstanding novellas to get you started:

  • “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  • “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
  • “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
  • “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
  • “The Mist” by Stephen King
  • “Last Light” by Dean Koontz
  • “Hearts in Darkness” by Laura Kaye
  • “The God Engines” by John Scalzi
  • “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

For a broader selection of short stories and novellas, explore the “Short Reads” category on Amazon.

Novel vs Novella: The Verdict

Whether your preferred genre is historical fiction, horror, romance, or literary fiction, there is a market for both novels and novellas. While novels dominate the publishing landscape, there are readers who appreciate shorter stories to cleanse their reading palate between longer books. So, whether you choose to write a novel or a novella, remember that there are numerous strategies you can employ to attract readers and get your story noticed.

To recap, a book that exceeds 40,000 words is generally considered a novel, while a novella falls within the 17,500 to 40,000-word range. It’s crucial to understand that quality storytelling isn’t solely dictated by length. There are exceptional short works just as there are novels that could benefit from a more concise approach. Focus on crafting a story you’d love to read, and let the length naturally align with your narrative.

Ready to embrace the world of novels or novellas? Start writing, explore your creativity, and let your words captivate readers. And remember, is here to support your writing journey. Happy writing!