How Novella Collections are Formed

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

A Match Made in TexasThis month, my client Regina Jennings has a novella releasing in A Match Made in Texas with Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox and Mary Connealy. I’ve only read Regina’s story so far, but I’m excited to read the entire book! It’s bound to be amazing with such stellar writers involved.

Novella collections can be formed in different ways. A Match Made in Texas was put together through the publisher because Karen Witemeyer mentioned to her editor that she would be interested in doing something like this. Bethany House found three other Bethany authors who could write a historical book set in the right time and place and the collection was born.

Other collections, like A Log Cabin Christmas (Barbour), are formed through a call for submissions. The publisher sends out an email to agents asking for authors to submit a brief summary of a story that could work for the theme of the collection. The editor in charge then reads all of the submissions and picks the best for the collection. The publishing house is always looking for at least one “big name” author to contribute to these types of collections and will occasionally accept one or two debut authors to participate as well.

Another collection that I’ve been involved with recently is a WWII Christmas book, Where Treetops Glisten, that will be releasing from Waterbrook at the end of 2014. Authors Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin are contributing stories to this collection and the three of them got together and formed a proposal that I sent out to many publishing houses. It was enthusiastically picked up by Waterbrook and we are all looking forward to the upcoming release.

Have you participated in a novella collection? How did the project form? 

Would you be interested in being a part of a collection like this? Why or why not?

 

 

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52 Comments

  • I have no experience with this.

    I’ve only been a part of writing a Bible study with two other women. And once, I wrote an article on four different women combined into one article. But I was the only writer. That was great!

    I’d give it a go, depending on the subject.

    What is the usual word count on each separate story? The one on Texas … do their stories link or are they total different stories based in Texas? Just curious.

    • Shelli,

      I hope Rachel doesn’t mind me jumping in here and trying to answer your questions. :)

      In our case the word count was around 25,000 but we only had 4 novellas. I’ve seen collections with many more, so those stories might be shorter. The premise for “A Match Made in Texas” is that there’s a matchmaker in Dry Gulch, Texas, who is trying to help some of her lonely friends. Not until the final novella do we find out who’s behind the mysterious letters, advertisements, etc., and then the town gets together to give the matchmaker a taste of her own medicine. So in this collection we did have a common location and some shared characters.

      Thanks for commenting!

      -Regina

      • What a fun idea! I like the idea that it’s not just a location that binds the stories together but that you actually have a beginning, middle, and ending to your whole collection. I would be much more likely to read a collection that had an over riding story arc than one that just contained similar stories. Way to think outside the box.

      • Regina, thank you! That sounds wonderful. Being a Texan, I’m very intrigued. And I love that all four of your parts go together. I was thinking there would be four different short stories. Love that idea! Makes me think of a game we’ve always played with our girls … one starts the story … and everyone has a section … and it’s fun to see where the story ends!

        Can I ask … did you know the ending yourself, ahead of time? Or did you have to wait to read the others’ parts? (If I’m understanding it correctly)

        Thanks again! A blessing to hear from you!

      • Shelli,

        Each story can stand on its own. Since the characters in the first three didn’t know who was putting them together, it didn’t have to be closely plotted. As long as we had the details of the town and the key characters descriptions, then it wasn’t too hard. Carol and Mary had the hardest time because their stories came last so they had to know what had happened in our stories. Also a few of the stories left the little town, so there wasn’t a lot of overlap.

      • I’ll chime in here, Shelli . . .

        Before we ever started writing the individual stories, the four of us got together in an online chat room in order to brainstorm. All of us seemed to have at least a basic idea of the type of story we wanted to write, be we didn’t solidify anything until we knew how they would be linked together. Once we had the matchmaker idea, we ran with it, tweaking our ideas until everything fit. We corresponded off and on during the writing process to make sure we kept the town layout the same in each story and the character names and descriptions consistent.

        Each of the stories goes off in a different direction, so we didn’t have to worry about too many overlapping details, but we all had a basic understanding of how it would end up.

      • Thanks so much Regina and Karen. Didn’t know you were a Texas girl, too, Karen! But I figured one of you might be.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      The length depends on how many books are in the collection. A printed collection will be around 100,000 words, so if you have three stories the stories will be around 33,000 words. Four stories will be 25,000ish.

  • It’s an excellent concept. Personally, I’d love to be a part of one.

    Short fiction has really been overlooked recently – I grew up reading the collected stories of Arthur C. Clarke, and as a teenager with what would now be considered ADHD the stories were just the right length to keep my attention and interest. The important thing is that they were written for an adult audience, and I felt ‘included’ in the larger literary world, rather than having stories that catered to my age.

    I had thought that those collections were just ‘legacy editions’ now – it’s good to see this approach returning.

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Congratulations to Regina and the other authors! I enjoy reading novellas, and I would love to be part of a novella collection. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a thick saga, and sometimes I just want a short and sweet read. :)

  • For my first published fiction, I collaborated with Bookies Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby and Eileen Key to write A Door County Christmas (Barbour 2010). What an excellent experience! They taught me, a newbie, so much. And though we did not know each other well initially, we had loads of fun when we all met in Door County, Wisconsin, to compare notes. I can see, though, that with a less cooperative group, a collaboration could become quite a, um, challenge.

    • I have tried multiple times to plan a trip to Door County, and it just has never worked out. Now I can visit through your book. I’m looking it up on Amazon as soon as I leave here. Thanks for mentioning it!

  • I love novella collections! I think it goes back to my school days and reading authors like Ray Bradbury whose books were just collections of short stories. Of course, now we have so much better collections, full of faith and inspiration. I’m anxious to read the collection Rachael mentioned. I love Cynthia Ruchti already, and I met Becky Melby at ACFW when I ferried an envelope to Mary for her. Isn’t it funny how we meet new people? Well, I digress….

    I would definitely like to collaborate on a collection some day. Brainstorming together, learning from each other (or at least I’m sure I would learn from my co-horts), forging friendships, encouraging each other to better our craft.

  • Wow, this was a surprise! I didn’t expect to see our cover when I visited this morning! Thanks, Rachel, for the mention. I enjoyed hearing the other ways the novellas come together.

    Blessings!

    • Regina, any particular reason for the Texas theme?

      There were bad accidents on the interstate near where I live today … any time we get a little rain, that happens. I stopped to get fuel and a man cautioned me about the accidents … bad traffic … and ended it with “God bless.” Made me so happy to live here.

      • Shelli –

        The collection started because I wanted to write a story for my last Archer brother. (After Short-Straw Bride and Stealing the Preacher.) The Archers were a Texas family and part of my brand is to use Texas settings for my historicals, so we all agreed to set the stories in a fictional town up in the panhandle called Dry Gulch. Anyone who’s been to west Texas knows that “Dry” is the key descriptor for just about any gulch. Ha!

      • As Rachel said, Karen came up with the idea and she’s a Texas girl. Mary and I write Texas books even though I live in Oklahoma and Mary in Nebraska. Carol also writes western settings. It’s a good place to put a story. ;)

      • That is awesome! Yes, West Texas is so dry. I’ve lived in many Texas regions: Rockwall (Dallas) area now, Wichita Falls, San Angelo. San Angelo was the driest (more west) … Mesquite trees and goat-head stickers that will make riding lawn mower tires want to run for the border! And a challenge for any poor dog to walk out to potty! That is a whole story in itself!

        Well, y’all have blessed my day. Thanks so much for sharing all this. I look forward to reading this.

      • San Angelo? I’m just down the road in Abilene. My husband has family there so we visit occasionally. It’s fun to meet someone who can share in the West Texas experience.

      • Oh, Karen, we love Abilene! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve entered your zoo, the park by the zoo, your mall (Chuck E Cheese!), Russell Stover outlet. We have so many pictures of feeding the giraffes on the bridge. That is a huge memory to our girls. Our dearest friends still live in San Angelo … so we meet up in Abilene occasionally. We went to Glen Meadows Baptist Church when we lived in San Angelo … just in case you have any family that goes there, too! We lived out toward the dried up lake! Upside … no one came to fish there, so we had the whole park to walk ourselves! Grin! Abilene is a nice city!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Thanks for stopping by and answering questions! :)

  • Shauna says:

    Is there a market for a series of novellas by a single author, or are publishers mainly looking for multiple contributors? I’ve read that novellas are a tough sell to publishers and have wondered if a series would be more saleable. After reading your post, I wonder if publishers are capitalizing on multiple readerships/platforms to make publishing novellas feasible.

    • Hi, Shauna.

      Novella collections are a very hard sell these days. Especially for an author who is not established. I was thrilled when Bethany House agreed to try this collection. It’s actually the first one they’ve done. Part of the marketing appeal of multiple authors, is that we all bring a slightly different readership to the table. So Regina’s fans will get exposure to my work and my fans will get exposure to Carol’s work, etc.

      Novellas have also been used to help launch a new author by being given away for free as a teaser for the author’s debut novel. Both Jen Turano and Melissa Jagears did this. However, publishers for the most part are looking for full-length novels not novellas from new authors.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Hi Shauna,
      Single author collections still happen too. Mona Hodgson has one that just released–The Quilted Bride Collection.

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    How fun to see this! First, I just finished “A Match Made in Texas” and loved it! Fun stories and nicely linked to each other.

    Second, it’s fun to see my project mentioned! This was the first time I’d written a novella and the first time I’d collaborated with other writers, and it was a blast! Cara, Tricia, and I have different strengths and areas of interest, and enjoyed feeding off each other’s energy! I had the bonus joy of spending a few days at Cara’s house in Lafayette, Indiana (where our novella collection is set) and getting a guided tour!

  • What an exciting idea. I know these types of collections exist. I own a few that I haven’t had time to read yet. I didn’t realize publishers would sometimes place a call for submissions.

    While I don’t have any experience writing for a novella collection, I was asked to contribute to a collection featuring writers sharing their stories of having unsupportive spouses and providing ideas to inspire those writers in the same situation. It’s with the agent now, so we’ll see what happens.

    Hope everyone has a blessed weekend.

  • r,e,joyce says:

    I would be very interested in being part of an Military Thriller compendium.

    “ENOUGH” is the story of a retired spec ops soldier who abandons his soldier’s creed in order to exact revenge on the drug lord who slaughtered his family.

    25000 word novella currently being made into a movie script.

  • Sherry Kyle says:

    I would love to be a contributing author to a novella collection. Everything about writing and marketing the book would be more intense and exciting. I think a special bond would form between the authors, and I’d love to be a part of that.

  • Sarah Thomas says:

    I’m one novella away from finishing A Match Made in Texas and am really enjoying it!

    I didn’t consider myself a fan of novellas until Bethany asked me to, gulp, write one as a freebie to introduce my debut novel. I’ve been reading all I can get my hands on since and they can be all kinds of fun!

    What I love about the collection is that it feels more like a novel because of the overlap and shared characters. There’s no feeling that it was all over too soon. And yet, you can read it in manageable chunks.

    I think it’s a fantastic idea and hope the book sells like lemonade on a dry day in Texas!

  • I always wondered about that! Both project you mentioned sound fantastic. And it’s all because of the quality I’ve come to expect from the collaborating authors. :-)

  • A Patchwork Christmas was born many many years ago when I read a true account of a train that was snowbound on the prairie in the sod house era. It was unforgettable. In about 2011, I was brainstorming catchy phrases for quilt stories and thought of “Piece on Earth.” That didn’t fly of course, but combined with the sod house story and a patchwork theme for each novella, it did come together as an anthology with Judith Miller and Nancy Moser. We are very grateful that Barbour liked the idea, too. The book they designed is gorgeous and I’ll always feel grateful to be part of A Patchwork Christmas.
    Because there were only three of us, we were allowed 35,000 words for each novella. Nancy had trouble staying within that, and I think I ended up giving her some of my words. She owes me. Ha.

  • HI Rachel, Where Treetops Glisten sounds really cool! I would like to participate in a novella collection one day. I’ll keep an eye out for possibilities…..

  • In a novella format, is the editing done by the publisher, or do the authors work with their own editors?
    It makes sense to combine authors who write for the same publisher, but does it also help if the authors are with the same agent? Would an agent consider asking three or four of their own clients to consider collaberation if the agent knows of an interested publisher?
    I love the idea of merging authors at different stages in their writing career. This would be a wonderful opportunity for growth, and the establishment of lifelong friendships.

    • Sarah Sundin says:

      I can’t answer for everyone else, but “Where Treetops Glisten” has one editor at WaterBrook. She’s going through the entire collection. In addition, Cara & Tricia & I shared our novellas with each other for mutual content editing. Our heroes/heroines are siblings, so comments like, “Pete wouldn’t say that. This is what he’d say…” or “This is what Abigail would be wearing…” were really helpful.

      The three of us have written for an assortment of publishers (only Tricia has written for WaterBrook), and we have different agents – although two of us are with Books & Such. In cases like this, one agent serves as a lead (Rachel for us). And it all worked fine!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      A group of authors from the same agent is a possibility as well. It always helps to have a big name or two in the group and those authors usually have a pretty established publishing home. It just depends on the situation.

  • Elaine Faber says:

    From the responses above, I’d say you have plenty of interested writers who could pool their resources and talents to create any number of novellas or anthologies. thanks for adding my name to the list.

  • I’ve often enjoyed these collections and have found new favorites after having been lured in by the names of old favorites. I know one of my blogs has enjoyed a larger readership due to the pooling of talent from a variety of authors–my crit partners. This spring we are releasing a string of novellas based on modern-day retellings of fairytales with the hopes of sharing a readership for our novels as well. It seems a good business idea for publishers/author as well as an opportunity for readers to grow their favorites list.

  • Karey White says:

    I’ve been writing all day and totally missed this post until now. I’m working on a novella (30,000 to 35,000 words) that will be a series, not all in the same book. It’s called The Ripple Effect Romance Series and there are six of us involved, Julie N. Ford, Kaylee Baldwin, Rachael Anderson, me, Donna Weaver and Jennifer Griffith. It’s been a really fun collaboration.

    Each story introduces the main character in the next story and it shows how intertwined our lives are and how small things done by one person can make a big difference in another person’s life. They’re all clean romances and could stand alone or be read as a set.

    I’d absolutely do this again. Plus, it’s a good way to cross-promote for each other.

  • Novella: A lite-novel with 40% less literary calories (words) than a regular novel.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Although I need to hone my craft a bit more before considering being in a novella collection (I mostly do nonfiction), I have been in some anthologies. Being a part of a community of mu fellow anthology authors is exciting. Plus, us all marketing the book, takes the pressure off doing it all yourself. I suspect the same would be true with a novella collection.

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