(It is just old novellas smell funny)
So how do novella sales compare with other ebook formats? Look at this graph I picked up from Data Guy on AuthorsEarnings.com. Like all of the Data Guys information, it is immaculate. Everything on his site is worth a read. (Frankly I’m in awe). There is no reason to doubt the graph below at all. But, I do not think it tells the whole story.
First let us look at it and agree what I think we are all seeing. Especially with regard to novella sales.
What it shows is that while there is a huge quantity of ebooks under 100 pages in length, they are not getting a proportionately similar quantity of downloads.
So from an quick look at this chart the novella author is presented with a number of less than savory options.
1. Live with the increased competition from their peers and fight harder in a crowded arena.
2. Pad out your novella to novel size proportions without destroying the plot. Then compete with the likes of Danielle Steele.
Either choice offers a daunting prospect for the new author.
But is this the whole story?
Novella sales – the decline with age
Let us look at how ebook sales depend on their year of release using Amazons 2017 sales. These are ALL ebooks novellas, novels, weighty (electronic) tomes of psychiatric data. Everything.
Notice this is not a nice exponential declining curve, let alone a straight line.
In the first year of aging, sales virtually fall off a cliff. There is a noticeable kink at one year. While the rate of decline decreases, it is still painfully rapid. The we start a long tail of decline until we find 10 year old ebooks contribute a tiny fraction of Amazons revenue.
But it is much worse than this!
The fate of ebooks (and print books for that matter) is highly Darwinian. They die and (sales wise) they often become extinct.
I would suspect that the sales of 10 year old ebooks will be almost entirely taken up by a handful of ever-green titles. Most ebooks released 10 years ago will have no sales at all (or at best very few).
Using the Darwinian paradigm again, the rapid fall in year one is nothing short of a mass extinction.
Novellas, Lemmings and mass extinctions
So does this apply to Novellas?
I would expect that Novellas are in essence the Lemmings of the publishing world. They lead that charge over the cliff edge. I would suspect that a huge proportion of Novellas are (sales-wise) extinct within 12 months to 2 years.
While there millions of Novellas on Amazon, I woulds suspect that very few other than the latest releases, get downloaded.
The net result of this is that while a new Novella ebook release may appear to have a huge mountain of competitors, a significant number (almost all?) will in fact be (sales-wise) derelict and so will not form any competition.
So maybe writing and selling Novellas isn’t such an uphill task after all!
Just don’t expect to make money out of them over the long term.
Which brings me to my next question:
How long is a Novella or short story’s brief but starry life? And what should you do when the sales drop to zero?
I have some anecdotal data and (more) opinion in the next post here: “The Lifespan of a Short Story eBook.”