It’s funny how things sometimes work out.
Just yesterday Kayla of The Bibliographic Nerds sent out a tweet asking whether or not we ever buy novellas. I went on record as stating that I’m not a fan for a few reasons, which I’ll touch upon in a moment.
Skip forward to today.
Net Galley sends out an e-mail advertising they have 1000 copies of Dangerous Dreams available for grabs. Between the fact that I enjoyed the Beautiful Creatures series for what it was and the timing of it all, I immediately hit read now to pick it up.
How was it?
It a short story (a bit less than 40 pages in my estimation) set in the world of Beautiful Creatures. We get a chapter from Ethan that more or less only exists to help make a transition to Link and Ridley’s story – we learn nothing new about Ethan or Lena or their plans. They may as well not be in this book. Link gets a chapter where he says the three little words to Ridley which leads to her actions setting up the plot for the spin-off series Dangerous Dreams. Ridley is Ridley and it’s obvious that she’s in way over her head even if she herself doesn’t see it, because apparently she hasn’t really learned much of anything. In others words, it’s fine, and it’s probably forgettable. If you quizzed me in a week, I’d probably stare at you blankly. And honestly, it wouldn’t matter. It may billed as “Dangerous Dreams 0.5” but they know that most readers won’t pick up this novella and so the information contained here will have to be repeated there especially because it’s the first in the new series. There will be some kind of recap. Fans should like it for what it is, but is it worth the $2.99 price tag?
And that’s really the problem I have with novella spin offs of YA titles in general. I don’t feel that they’re worth the money that publishers charge for them.
Don’t get me wrong: I value a writer’s time, I genuinely do, but do I think this is the best use of their time?
No. I don’t. I rather see the authors devote this time to their books. Generally speaking, none of the books that have gotten novellas (i.e. The Selection, Divergent, the Beautiful Creatures series) are really known for particularly deep characterizations or plot. They just aren’t. Why not work on enhancing the main book, or starting another full project instead? Then again, this can be knocked out in a couple of days if the writer is on a roll, so perhaps it’s a semi-easy source of income for them, which admittedly most authors can use and perhaps is the real reason why we get them.
I’m not opposed to the writers making money, but at the same point in time, I feel like more and more young adult readers are getting the shaft from publishers. Although (to their credit) the books mentioned above aren’t guilty of it, there are plenty of YA titles where readers get half-finished or unfinished stories in the names of getting them to buy sequels. Or worse still, trilogies have almost become demanded of writers often leading to books with stretched-out plots because the plot wasn’t meant to last that duration.
And then there is price creep.
It’s no secret that there’s been a price-creep lately. Paperbacks are pushing $9-$10 and hardbacks are on sale at Amazon for $19-$20 with list prices in the $25-$35 range. Even Kindle editions can easily run $10-$15 dollars lately. It’s expensive to be a reader, it really. So now readers are being asked to fork over another $3 for something that often doesn’t even add that much color to the world the characters inhabit. I literally cannot tell you what happened in the The Prince novella for the Selection, as I said what you see in this novella will probably get rehashed in some form in the final text and while Four is probably the best of the lot, if it was really that important to know about Four’s history with his father that Roth would have found a way to get it into the books proper.
I could see making an argument for buying these if they were say, $0.99. $3 is just too much for what you do get. I mean, that 40 pages (38 to be exact) I mentioned that was the length of this novella? That only accounted for 83% of the book. You aren’t getting almost 20% of what you paid for. Sure, you get a tiny taste of Dangerous Creatures, but wait until April 22nd and you can download an 8-chapter sampler of that book for free.
What makes the value proposition even worse is that eventually this will likely either be bundled into some kind of collection, or more likely, wind up in a “special edition” of the next book (be it a special Barnes & Noble version or maybe the first paperback version) as a “bonus” to entice you to buy the new version.
When will it end?
The cynic in me can’t help but feel that novellas are little more than cynical cash grabs by publishers and I have yet to be convinced they’re worth buying separately.
Die hard fans of the books may enjoy them, but more casual fans may finish them and go, “I spent $3 for that?”
Resist the temptation. You probably aren’t missing out on much anyway.