Tenth Anniversary Novella Contest

The novella is an unduly neglected form. Death in Venice, Heart of Darkness, Miss Lonelyhearts—would any of these find its way into print today, if it came from any but a well-known author? For traditional publishers, the fixed costs of making a book are too great an obstacle—to justify this outlay, a book has to sell for a price higher than most buyers are willing to pay, for a text that may come in at "only," say, fifty pages. As to journals, even One Story won’t take anything longer than 8,000 words.

So what of the new Billy Budd or Seize the Day? Will it sit forever, unread but by one, on its author’s hard drive, or in his Moleskine?

No! We’ve opined before about epublishing’s unique ability to give new life—bring new readers, in loads—to fiction in all its forms. Now we’d like to do our bit to revivify this great, if lately unloved form.

How can we afford to publish a novella, when our print peers can’t? Because for us, the economics are different. It costs little more to code up a 15,000-word work than a 500-worder, and the storage and distribution costs are identical. As to your, the reader’s, cost—how much time you’ll need to spend, to read a novella online... If it’s good enough, that’ll be time well-spent. And if we’re right that the lack of outlets has kept too many good novellas from being published, and others from being written, we shouldn’t have much problem turning one up.

Entry deadline

May 15, 2010

Prize announcement

July 15, 2010

Prize amount

$500

Entry fee

There is none.

Entries per person

One.

Length and form

8,000 words and up, and suitable for serial publication.

How long can a novella be?

That’s a tough one, and begs the question, “What the heck is a novella, anyway?” Length is obviously the main criterion, i.e. the thing should be longer than a short story, and not so long as a novel. But these are conventions, rather than anything inherent to the fiction object itself. So, wanting to go further, one could argue—as have certain critics, whose names we wish we remembered—that a novella, in order not to be a novel, should focus on one story and one set of characters, not spending appreciable time on others, of either. In order not to be a “mere” short story, it should go into more depth, about both. Is that a satisfying definition, combined with the traditional one, i.e. taking length into account? Hope so. It’ll do for us.

How to

Send only the first 5,000 words of your novella to “novella AT failbetter DOT com.” Paste the lot into the body of the email, or attach it in an .rtf or .txt file. All attached files of any other format will be automatically deleted by our server.

We’ll let you know if we’d like to read the rest.

Note that we won’t considered anything that’s been published, either in print or on the Web.

Publication date

We’ll run the winning novella as a serial, starting around about our tenth anniversary, in September 2010.

Will all entries be considered for publication?

Great idea! So they shall.