I am really loving this trend of authors writing novellas to supplement a series. With the exception of authors I’ve been reading for years, I typically don’t buy books unless I’ve already read them. Plus, let’s be honest, it would get very expensive to buy every book I want to read. So, I check them out from the library, and if it’s something I know I’ll want to read again, I buy it.
The same doesn’t hold true for novellas. If I enjoy a book/series and there’s a novella available for my ereader for $1.99, I’ll buy it to get more of the story, even if I don’t buy the series itself. Maybe that will change if libraries jump on board with buying these shorter works, but so far they haven’t. And $1.99 is under my threshold for thinking too hard about spending the money. So it’s a win for the author and me.
Let’s take a look at how authors are using novellas.
This seems to be the most common use of the novella to date, and it makes sense because it answers the all-important question: What happens next?
I’ve read a few in particular that I really enjoyed for this purpose. Romance novelist Julia Quinn was one of the first authors to jump on this wagon with the 2nd Epilogues for her Bridgerton series. The books already had epilogues, but she decided to go even further into the future for each couple. I would have been fine with the endings as they were, but if I can follow around characters I love for fifty more pages, why wouldn’t I?
On the opposite end, every character has a story before the one you’re reading, right? But you’re not supposed to include that backstory in your novel, so a prequel offers an opportunity to show what happened in the past to lead the character to this point. Sometimes it’s not even the main character who needs a story. For example, romance novelist Victoria Alexander wrote a novella about a side character who had an interesting past and wouldn’t leave her alone. And after that, he ended up getting his own novel, too.
Another Point of View
In young adult, the novella often is used to show another point of view. Two authors in particular who come to mind are Susan Dennard and Tahereh Mafi. Both ladies’ series are from the heroine’s point of view, while the novellas put the reader inside the guy’s head. One is a prequel (Dennard), while the other happens at the same time as the series (Mafi). What I like about these is that they both gave me completely different perspectives on these guys. I thought I knew them based on how the heroines saw them, but there was a lot more going on than was evident on the outside. In the case of Mafi’s DESTROY ME, it turned the character from a villain to a hero in my mind and creates some real tension for the release of the final book in the series this fall.
So far I’ve really only seen this done in romance and young adult. I don’t know if this format would work well for middle grade. I guess it would depend on the story. There might be some that would benefit from it, and ereaders are certainly becoming more common with younger readers. I expect my kids will be reading a lot on them.
What do you think about companion novellas? Have you seen any other uses for them than I’ve listed above?