Wednesday, May 22, 2013

E-novellas: the New DLC?

I'm still trying to learn the ins and outs of my Kindle, but one thing I do really dig is the plethora of e-novellas offered for some of my favorite book series. More Blud novels and more Iron Druid? Yes please! I've started to notice a troubling trend, though...

A few weeks ago, fellow S4 author Kathy pinged me on Twitter and asked if I had downloaded the latest (and free!) e-novella called Tarnished Knight by Bec McMaster. We both LOVE the foggy, dangerous steampunk world that McMaster created so I was extremely grateful for the tip, since I hadn't heard a peep about it. I happily downloaded it. I was deep into another book at the time, so I put it aside.

McMaster's latest paperback in her steampunk series, Heart of Iron, arrived a few days after the e-novella and I was eager to get into it. I considered starting it first, since e-novellas are mostly side-stories (which doesn't make them any less awesome!). I consulted Kathy again (she's so wonderful) and she told me to read the e-novella first. It was a quick read, she said. Well, who am I to argue with our Kathy? I grabbed my Kindle and began to read it.

Tarnished Knight was a wonderful story, nestled perfectly between the first book in the series and the one that had just arrived. A little TOO perfectly. I suddenly became aware why I had to read the e-novella first. The e-novella contained a file at the back that I thought was just a "sneak peek" into the next book, usually the first few chapters of the newest novel. Boy was I wrong! When I cracked open the paperback, those parts were gone. If you started to read this book without the e-novella, you'd have NO idea what was going on. It was like the paperback was starting on Chapter Five instead of Chapter One and it was just bewildering. How many fans of the book knew about the e-novella? How many saw the latest paperback in Barnes & Noble and were confused as all get out when they started to read it? Don't get me wrong, I was still head over heels for the book and how great it was, but I was surprised how the e-novella stole it's thunder.

While I deeply loved the e-novella and the latest novel from McMaster, I honestly don't think you could read Heart of Iron without reading the e-novella first.
Bioshock: Infinte season pass is an additional $20

I'm seeing more and more e-novellas contain info about the next full book in the series and it's concerning me. It reminds me a little of DLC (downloaded content) on video games. Buy a game for $60, and then shell out another $10 or $20 down the road for content that wasn't released with the game but that you need to get the whole story/experience. Bioshock: Infinite, one of my favorite games of the century, announced a DLC season pass for $20. Add that to the $60 spent on the actual game and it adds up! DLC always bugged me and I don't want to see e-books go down that same path.

So I pose the question to you, loyal readers. What do you think of e-novellas that contain important plot info? Would you be upset that you had to shell out an extra few bucks to get the WHOLE story or understand what is going on? Let me know what your feelings are, because I am really confused!
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  1. Thanks for the warning! I love Bec McM's series too, now I know to read the novella before I crack open her next installment. Is this a growing trend? A head's up would be nice, otherwise it could affect your reading enjoyment.

  2. I have read some of the books without the novellas. (The one that comes to mind is Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega). Didn't bother me, nor did I feel anything was missing. Then I went back and read the novella. It was an awesome part of the story and I really enjoyed it a lot. I normally wouldn't go back and read like that, but someone gifted it to me. I'm glad they did, but it hasn't changed my behavior. I still rarely go back to novellas like that.

    I don't know how I feel about the trend. I'm not sure the industry has figured out how they want to use novellas either. Are they marketing tools? A way for readers to keep in touch with a series? A tool so readers don't "forget" about a series--a kind of reminder? A one-off the writer did that is useful?

    Some novellas come across as ploys (teasers without full stories.) Others fill in important scenes and info.

    As a writer, I usually write novellas that have nothing to do with any other story. Maybe I'm exploring characters or ideas. I don't even really HAVE a specific reason when I start writing them. (There's a free short story at my blog right now--I'm testing the new "send to Kindle" button that Amazon has provided. Y'all are welcome to download it. Be aware it is ZANY and has no paranormal elements.)

  3. I thought the same thing, Meghan. I was so glad I read the novella first. In some of the reviews I've noticed readers not liking the heroine as much. I think without the novella you miss some of her motivation. It made her a lot more relatable (for me at least).

    I love novellas, but I have to admit I think they are best when they add to world, but aren't necessary to enjoy the series.

    1. And also, thank you for the compliments. :) I love talking books with you.