Monday, March 13, 2017

The Novella Renaissance: Guest Post by Nathan Walpow

Nathan Walpow’s The Logan Triad, out this month from Down & Out Books, includes three novellas about urban vigilante Logan and his crew of young apprentices. His recent collection Push Comes to Shove takes its name from a story selected for the Best American Mystery Stories series, and includes the novella-length expansion “Push.” His website is at 

Nathan Walpow:
The Novella Renaissance

Libby Fischer Hellman’s post about novellas last month resonated with me, because I too have been exploring this long-neglected intermediate story length. I’ve written four of them over the last few years, and I find 25,000-ish words a very sweet spot to write in. And it’s not just me.

In 2013 a couple of dozen mystery writers signed up to write for Stark Raving Press, a new imprint that promised to put crime novellas on the map. We would write them, they would format them, upload them to all the e-book outlets, sell them for $2.99 each, and promote the hell out of them. Mine was one of the first published, a tale about Logan, a vigilante of sorts who chases down people who do bad things to women and children.

There was lots of excitement, there was a big meeting of a whole bunch of authors … and the whole thing fell apart just as it was getting started. But at that meeting I ran into Paul Bishop, who was running another e-novella press. Mostly boxing stories, but starting to branch out into other martial arts. I had a pro wrestling story called “Push Comes to Shove” which I was rather fond of, and I offered to expand it to novella length. Which I did. The result was called Push, and I had a grand old time learning more about my unnamed wrestler’s life and travails. (You can read a bit about the process here.)

I found I enjoyed working at this in-between length. Once I got cooking, I could kick out the first draft of a novella in two weeks or less. Rather than facing many tens of thousands of words to be written, I had a goal that I could keep in sight even as I began. I decided to write another Logan, self-publish it, see what happened.

Which wasn’t much. You have to price an e-book at $2.99 or more to get a decent return. But everyone and his sister has been putting out full-length novels at that price (many of them utter bilge, but that’s another post), and no one wanted to pay that price for 25,000 words.

Then I found out that my friend Gary Phillips (another veteran of Stark Raving) had a collection of three novellas coming out from Down & Out Books. And Charles Salzberg (also an SRG vet) had a novella in another D&O volume, along with similar-length stories from two other authors.

So I sent a query, and shortly thereafter I had a contract for a book of three Logan novellas. I wrote the third, and The Logan Triad comes out this month in trade paper and e-book formats. My return to traditional publishing after several years of e-book purgatory. And I am so much more comfortable there. (That, too, is a story for another post.)

Next year Down & Out will publish the long-awaited (by me, at least) fifth Joe Portugal novel. The year after, a Logan novel. But with these two long-form works on the horizon, I want to be careful not to forget my newfound fondness for the novella. Libby’s book, as well as the ones Down & Out is publishing, show that there’s a place for mid-length work in today’s market. I’ll be watching for opportunities to help fill that place, and I know several other authors who’ll be doing the same.

1 comment:

Charles Salzberg said...

Thanks for the shout out, Nathan. And thanks for the great edit you did on my novella, Twist of Fate, which is being nominated for an Anthony Award at this year's Bouchercon, by a few people. If by some stroke of luck I make it to the finals I'll owe a lot to you.