Stop Writing Novellas – The People Want Novels

I stumbled upon the most amazing study. Actually, there are a lot of studies on this site, but this most recent one is so huge and comprehensive, you’ll probably be too exhausted after reading it to bother looking at the rest: May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings

It’s daunting, so I’ll give you a quick sketch of what they did: They took a one-day snapshot of everything happening in the book business on Everything. And from that, they extrapolated to make a lot of really interesting conclusions. These are serious data scientists, and they have plenty of evidence that extrapolating from a single day is a legit approach.

Here are some of the things I found most interesting:

  • There are only about 1000 authors making a professional salary writing books.
    The odds of making into the NFL are almost twice as good as your odds of being able to make a professional salary as a book author.
  • Almost all book authors who make a professional salary are independent.
    Your chances of making a professional salary as an independent are really bad, but your chances writing for the traditional or small presses are basically nil.
  • There are only about 2500 authors making enough writing books that their spouse might not insist they get a second job.
  • Big 5 publishers make 40% of the revenue, vs 24% going to indies; but
    Big 5 authors make 22% of the royalties, vs 47% going to indies.
    You already knew that the traditional publishing industry screws the authors, but now you have proof.

I asked the authors of the study a few questions in the comments section, and they got right back to me. Check out this chart they produced:


Source: (reproduced here by permission)

You may recall that I mentioned Kindle “15 Minute Reads” in the piece about my short story. There are a lot of really short books with inflated prices, and I was wondering if they might skew the numbers. He gave me this chart to prove that it doesn’t matter, because nobody is buying those or borrowing them.

For those of you who aren’t so good with charts, let me explain this one to you. It says that 60% of the books people buy (including reading on KU) are novels (200+ pages). But 75% of the books people write are novellas and short stories (less than 200 pages). People have no interest in your lazy-ass novellas, people. They want novels.

Makes me glad I happen to write novels. Another fortunate turn of events for me is that I write romance novels. It turns out that romance accounts for about a third of all royalties earned. Other genres account for about 10% each.

There is a lot more stuff in that study. I encourage you to read it, including the comments section. Fascinating stuff.

5 thoughts on “Stop Writing Novellas – The People Want Novels

  1. wow… great catch. I have always wondered if something was wrong with me. I always see these great books that started out as short stories but every time I thought I had a great idea for a short story I gave up on it after 100 pages when I realized i wasn’t half into it. I should have just been writing novels the whole time.

  2. I’m going to write a 201 word filthy book. Mark my words. I will make a so much money it will make you puke. That is, if 75 dollars makes you puke, which is what I assume is what I’ll make.

  3. Interesting stuff. Like you I am in awe of Data Guy at But maybe it is not as bad as it first appears for Novellas and other shorts.

    If you look at the recency of sales (i.e. plot the quantity sold against the ebook release date) then generally, for all ebooks the more recent the release the higher the sales. The fall off as the ebooks age over that first year is astonishing. I bet that Novellas are among the very first to feel the ageing affect and I that the vast majority of novellas (or smaller) sell very few (if any) after a year.

    So maybe the good news is is that when you release a novella that huge mountain of similar length ebook competitors is in fact a mountain of corpses. The bad news of course is that in all likelihood your little ebook will be joining the graveyard very quickly.

    I have expanded on this in a post at
    In the next few days I am doing some analysis on a couple of shorts I published way back in 2012/3 and are now essentially dead. I hope folk publishing in the novella/shorts market might find their history from start to finish interesting.

    Anyway, thanks for the informative post. It is what set me off!

    Kind regards

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