24 Apr 2014
NovellaT is a neat new publisher of literary fiction. Their model is to serialize novellas (defined broadly) in weekly emails. I think this is a wonderful thing, and am rooting for it to succeed. Here are what I see as the advantages of NovellaT ...
First is the simplicity of the delivery: no app to install, no wrestling with PDFs, no password to remember. Just simple text in an email. You've already got email, right? Great, you're all set. You can read NovellaT stories anywhere you have access to your email.
Second, NovellaT has targeted an underserved niche: literary stories that are longer than about 10,000 words (the range is given as 13,000 to 40,000 words on their website, but the first story they published is just about 8,000 words). Most digital outlets for literary fiction prefer stories under 5,000 words because of the limited time and attention span of web readers. By going after longer stories, NovellaT should be able to get very high quality work because they have less competition.
But, you say, people don't have the time to sit and read 30,000 word stories. That's where serialization comes in. NovellaT serializes the work, so subscribers get an email every Monday with a 2,000 to 5,000 word installment of the story, the length favored by most outlets as fitting within our time/attention spans.
Plus NovellaT keeps it simple: one installment of one story each week. Online literary magazines generally focus on short pieces, but often feature a bunch of them. Not to pick on them, but look at how busy the homepage of the (rightly well-regarded) Narrative magazine is. Even if the individual pieces are "bite-sized," the overall impact is still pretty overwhelming. NovellaT doesn't ask for much of your bandwidth.
Finally, NovellaT has what seems to be a reasonable financial model. You can subscribe ($25 per year), or buy individual stories ($1 per installment, so most of them cost under $5). The money that comes in for a story is split 50/50 between NovellaT and the author.
While I'm clearly a fan of NovellaT, it's important to keep in mind that they are just getting started. As with any startup endeavor, there are bound to be some hiccups, and their long-term success is far from certain. So there are definitely some improvements that could be made, both in terms of the mechanics (e.g., a better way for annual subscribers to access "back issues") and design (e.g., having a simple graphic for each novella would be nice, ala Little Fiction, also a cool site). These are the kinds of things that get upgraded over time, though, and NovellaT is off to a solid start.
The only digital outlet I know of that tries to do something similar to NovellaT is Five Chapters, but they have a web interface rather than email, publish a story in five installments in a single week, and are free. Also, the homepage is the current installment of the current story, so you may have to surf around to get to the right starting point. Still, Five Chapters has very good stories and I enjoy reading them, so I'd put them on the "to read" list as well.
Among paper publications, OneStory has a similar model, mailing out a single short story (3,000 to 8,000 words) each month. They attract some top authors, and by doing just a single story each month, shine quite a spotlight on them. They currently charge $21 for 15 issues, which is a pretty good deal.
Disclaimer: This review was unsolicited and I paid for my own annual subscription. I have no prior relationship with NovellaT or its editors. I have no financial stake in NovellaT, and receive no compensation of any kind for anything on my website. I just found the NovellaT site, liked it, and wanted to share my thoughts about it.