Novel or Novella? by Adrian P. Conway

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Adrian P Conway

Adrian P. Conway

Answer: novel. Wow, that was much easier than imagined. That is, if you’re writing to get published. Why so? I hear you ask. Well, I’m a fiction writer not a business analyst but there’s this thing called the internet and it will give you the answer quicker than you can say googolplex. Just as most new businesses fail, as in, only twenty-five per cent make it to fifteen years or more, so the mantra goes that most novels don’t make a profit. On the same internet, you’ll discover this other thing called the Pareto principle. Long story short: only a small percentage of published books make all the money and enough of it to bankroll the other losses.

Ok, but you’ve still got to be in it to win it, as they say. Yes, but apparently the only chance you have of being in the golden glow of profit, is with a novel. Why so? I hear you still asking. Well, there’s yet another thing called margins. And the matter is as black and white as ink on a page. If book production costs are largely fixed and book pricing is largely variable, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you can charge more for a bigger book and therefore make more profit.

Moreover, he sayeth, there’s this other thing, also mostly a cyber reality nowadays, called the customer. This being is very susceptible to marketing. This means the most marketed books are, more often than not, also the most bought books. It’s much easier to sell a book by a known author. Better still a celebrity. The work is mostly already done. Line of least resistance. Bottom line, publishing is a business and businesses are there to make a profit. End of.

Except, also, total balls to all that. I don’t write because a marketer tells me what will sell. I don’t write because I’m second guessing what the reader will buy. And I definitely don’t write along lines of least resistance. Good luck to you if that’s your shtick. Especially with smarter AI on the horizon! Not for me, though. I write gritty, contemporary and spiritual literary fiction. Nowadays, that’s basically a one man unpopularity contest. I just won the Loser Prize for Literature, but only due to lack of competition. The indiscriminate, ironclad law of the book market fell on me as expected from dizzying heights. So, I’m broke, yes, but I ain’t broke.

Pelican CrossingBecause, I knew in advance all that stuff about publishing and still sought publication. And there isn’t a genuine writer on this planet who isn’t seeking publication. Even Kafka was playing games. Well, if you care deeply enough not to care, then there’s only two things that matter: write what the hell you like, and, write it for public consumption.

That’s actually two crafts. You have to learn to become the very best writer you can be and you do this by reading the very best writers there are, and then reflecting on why you love their writing so. This never ends, but as you pick up the pen day after day, you steadily improve and, if you are meant to write, you find a form of expression that suits. At the same time, though, you also have to learn how your inner voice finds a form of expression that connects with others, not just you. You can easily test this with peer review, friendly book clubs, writing circles, manuscript assessment etc.

Then, if like me you like to mix metaphors, you’ll just double-down on sticking it all the way up. And write a novella. And you’ll do it for the wild ride of it all, and because it’s absolutely the right form for what you wrote. And you’ll know it. You’ll know it wasn’t that you ran out of words, or that you should keep writing to increase the word count, or graft another story onto it to make for a longer more sellable novel. You’ll know in every fibre of your being what Mark Twain meant by, ‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.’ You’ll know you’ve just crafted the equivalent of Usain Bolt: a mesmerising thing of boiled down efficiency and swift beauty.

And here’s the kicker. When you have in your hands the story you were always meant to write and it’s produced as perfectly as you might ever have hoped. And your people – Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway – are gathered to raise a toast to you and what really matters, the fiercest glow in your heart will come from the knowledge that you did it anyway.

(c) Adrian P. Conway

My debut literary novella, The Pelican Crossing, (Troubador) about the struggles of two teens to be together across London gang divides, is available in all good bookstores throughout the civilised world.

You can find my other writing and connect with me here: https://adrianconway.substack.com, where there’s also a vibrant and supportive indie writing community.

About The Pelican Crossing:

Pelican CrossingLove conquers all, they say. The streets disagree.

Two teenagers connect across the divides of London’s gangs. Meteor, a WMD, and Jaycee, from a different postcode. Yet their deepening relationship feels matched at every turn by the hostility of the world around them.

To escape its grasp they’ll need all their smarts, and faith in one another.

To survive what’s coming, they’ll need something far greater.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Adrian P Conway, author of novella, The Pelican Crossing, lives in a house near St Albans with other Conways but no dog. He writes gritty, soulful, literary fiction including micro and short stories many of which can be found on his imaginatively named Adrian’s Fiction Substack (https://adrianconway.substack.com). He is currently busy writing his first novel out of the story world of The Pelican Crossing. When not writing, he can be found in the kitchen and also in the kitchen at parties.

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