I already know the answer to this, but a few days ago when I reviewed a book and then saw some reviews on another book that I hadn’t read, it surprised me that some people think it’s okay to have a novelette or novella that is not a full and complete story.
The one book I did read was complete, as far as I was concerned. There was an initial conflict, tension build up, and resolution, and I could read all of this without having read any of the other books in the series by that particular author. Other reviewers didn’t agree with me and thought the characters fell flat, to which supporters of the book jumped the comment bandwagon and told the reviewers that they had to read the whole series to fully appreciate the novella. Now, I gave that book a two star review, but it wasn’t because it was incomplete. It was for other reasons, so I’m not necessarily sticking up for the book. I’m just saying the argument that the book was incomplete wasn’t true.
Then I read reviews on another book that’s supposed to take place after a novel. Based on the detailed reviews of that book, it sounds like this author attached a chapter to the end of her previous novel, and the chapter didn’t have a sufficient beginning, middle, or ending that was independent of the novel.
I think the purpose of a short story, novelette, and a novella are to give readers a complete story. A story doesn’t have to be long to be complete. What I’ve noticed is that people (myself included) will buy the shorter stories from other authors first when they’re trying to decide if they like that particular author’s style or not.
When all of my stuff was free, the highest downloads were the novellas. I think the beauty of shorter works is that they don’t take much time to read. So when someone is looking for a new author and have many to choose from, they check out one of the shorter works first.
I am now putting a price tag on my books, and I’m asking $0.99 for the shorter works I’m charging for if it’s in the 10,000 to 25,000 word range, which is where my shorter works tend to be. They still sell better, but I think that’s because you can price shorter works lower without feeling like you’re being ripped off. (At least, right now I don’t feel I’m being ripped off at $0.99. I know other authors who’ll disagree with me, but I price my books at what I would like to pay as a reader, and that is what I want to pay for that length of book, unless it’s an author I already like a like; then I’ll happily pay more.)
Anyway, that all being said, I think even though it’s not a full-length novel, it should still have the components of a full-length novel: beginning, middle, and end. I shouldn’t have to read another book in order to understand what is happening in the shorter story. The story should be able to stand alone as its own entity. Otherwise, how are you going to convince someone new to your work that you got what it takes to pull off a full-length novel if you can’t even get the shorter one right? I think an author not making the shorter work complete is lazy.
Whatever the conflict, it should be fully resolved so the reader is satisfied. I’m not saying the other novellas or novels in the series can’t enhance the overall world that this shorter work takes place in, but the reader should read something that comes off as a solitary scene from a full-length book. You know what I’m saying?
No one wants to go to the movies and come in at the middle of it and then leave before it’s finished. They want the whole thing. And if you have children you’re taking with you, watching a full-length movie might be darn near impossible. 😛 I know because I have four children ages 4-8 and the younger ones won’t let me sit through an entire movie at home. I refuse to take them to the movies because of this. I’d just end up frustrated, just as I would if I read a book that felt incomplete.