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Policies & Practices > What exactly is the pages or word count for a novella?

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Jo * Smut-Dickted * (josmut-dickted) | 8 comments I see the policy on series and other references to "novellas and short stories" but I can find nowhere the exact definition of a novella or short story according to Goodreads.

I've searched lots of threads and the manual - tons of references to "it's a novella so it gets a decimal" but nowhere (even when asked) can I find the actual page count number or number of words that moves a work from short > novella > novel or whatnot.

Can someone point me to the definition in the Goodreads manual? I'm probably missing it - but I truly cannot find it. Thanks.


message 2: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Page count is unreliable, as it varies depending on font, spacing, etc. Page count relative to other books in a series is more reliable. For example, if most books in a series are 200-300 pages and one is 100, it is pretty clearly a novella.

That said, in most cases a page count of 120 pages or less is likely to be a novella (or shorter). With larger fonts/spacing, it can be as high as 150 pages.


Jo * Smut-Dickted * (josmut-dickted) | 8 comments rivka wrote: "Page count is unreliable, as it varies depending on font, spacing, etc. Page count relative to other books in a series is more reliable. For example, if most books in a series are 200-300 pages and..."

Thank you! That is helpful.

So a mixed series with some books at 150 and some at 300 - the default would be to consider every one of the shorter books a novella? That's what it appears to me - from all the posts I'm reading through.


message 4: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
It would depend on other factors as well. Shorter books in a series are often actually labelled as novellas (on the cover, and/or on sales sites like Amazon).


message 5: by Shanna (new)

Shanna (snowie) | 5 comments Should we use an author's numbering or the Goodreads guidelines for page count? Especially given that page count is arbitrary based upon various factors.


message 6: by Dan (new)

Dan | 27 comments Long, long ago (in the 1960s, I think) in a land nearby, the Science Fiction Writers of America ran into the same definitional issue. They solved it by considering only word count, which is how writers in magazines got paid in any event. From number five at this website: https://nebulas.sfwa.org/about-the-ne... we have:

Nebula Awards will be made in the following categories:
Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 words or more.
At the author’s request, a novella-length work published individually, rather than as a part of a collection, anthology, or other collective work, shall appear in the novel category.

Goodreads is free to re-invent the wheel if it chooses to, of course.


message 7: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Shanna wrote: "Should we use an author's numbering or the Goodreads guidelines for page count?"

Goodreads guidelines.


message 8: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Dan wrote: "Long, long ago (in the 1960s, I think) in a land nearby, the Science Fiction Writers of America ran into the same definitional issue."

I am aware. However, other genres use different guidelines. More importantly, any conversion from word count to page count makes assumptions about words-per-page. Which, as I mentioned above, is highly variable.


message 9: by Iryna (new)

Iryna Tymchenko (rinatim) | 1 comments I found this page useful to learn about word counts for various genres: https://jerryjenkins.com/book-word-co...


message 10: by Dan (last edited Jun 11, 2018 12:28AM) (new)

Dan | 27 comments rivka wrote: "I am aware. However, other genres use different guidelines. More importantly, any conversion from word count to page count makes assumptions about words-per-page. Which, as I mentioned above, is highly variable."

1) Why attach genre to form classification? Some defined length has to be used. What's wrong with using this one?

2) Since making conversions from word count to page count is so problematic for all the reasons stated, why do so? What is wrong with using word count? It's simple, completely objective, and unarguable, all three, highly sought after attributes when classifying for GoodReads' purposes.

In any event, I still don't see a clear answer to the question asked in message 1. Am I missing something?


message 11: by Johanne (new)

Johanne *the biblionaut* | 27 comments Isn´t it possible to look at Library of Congress´ and British Library´s guidelines used for cataloguing? I know there are guidelines used by DBC who catalogues for Danish libraries, but we don´t use novella in the same sense, and it would be in Danish, so not very useful. In any case guidelines like page or word count seem insufficient, because other factors are also important in different genres and formats, like graphic novels and picture books.


message 12: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (last edited Jun 11, 2018 10:55AM) (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Word counts are often unavailable (or unreliable) for published books.


message 13: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 196 comments Dan, if you look at the publishing industry, novella is comparative to book length and book length is comparative to genre. There is no standardized answer and if one is applied to all genres, all but one would be incorrect.

A few months ago I read a novella that was 220 pages because the author writes sweeping historicals of 400-500 pages. It's a no-win in the current publishing scene.


message 14: by Scott (new)

Scott | 25084 comments Stephen King typically writes gigantic novels; does that make his shorter works novellas? No, that doesn't make any sense. As Dan said, there should be a global definition, not relative to the author's other works or depending on genre. (A 200-page book, unless the print is quite large, would be a novel.)


message 15: by Hannah (last edited Jun 11, 2018 11:37AM) (new)

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 196 comments Should be, but that's not how the books are being marketed by the publishers or paid for to the authors.

This is all publisher and Amazon info on this record. Christmas at Carnton We still count it here as a .5 book because it's "a prequel to a trilogy" so this record is correct according to GR policy.

We generally have a habit of going along with the .5 for a prequel even if it's a longer book. It doesn't have to be novella length. This one: Danger in the Shadows is a full-length novel that became a .5 prequel because it was published after the others, and we don't change the series order to make it different from the published numbers of the other novels 1-6 of the series. It was published as a .5 instead of #7 because the publisher decided on that to indicate that it is a prequel.

Prequels and novellas will never have an "easy" or "canned" definition here. Even if someone defined it solidly at some point, it wouldn't work in retrograde for already published works because it would involve losing prior info, and thus the catalogue here is doomed in that respect.

There isn't a tidy answer, like it or not.


message 16: by Scott (new)

Scott | 25084 comments I don't see how marketing or the author's paycheck is relevant here.


message 17: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Hannah wrote: "We still count it here as a .5 book because it's "a prequel to a trilogy" so this record is correct according to GR policy."

No, a novel-length prequel should be numbered 0, not 0.5. It would still be a non-primary series element, though.


message 18: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 82 comments The original question isn't trying to make some definition of "novella" for all cases. They're just asking about how to assign numbers during a "series".

So if an author has 10 books in a series that are all about 300 pages each, but in between book 3 and 4 they published a book of 120 pages in the same universe, you would number it 3.5 in the series. You don't actually have to apply the word "novella" to it. You are just identifying that this is somehow part of the series though also somehow different from the main books in the series.

There probably is no perfect way to decide that will apply to all cases.


message 19: by Scott (new)

Scott | 25084 comments All I can say is that Christmas book must have enormous print to be considered a novella at 250 pages. Go back a few decades, when much smaller print was typically used, and most novels (apart from "sweeping epics") were around 250 pages and many were between 150-200. No one would call them novellas.


message 20: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Ed wrote: "The original question isn't trying to make some definition of "novella" for all cases. They're just asking about how to assign numbers during a "series".

So if an author has 10 books in a series that are all about 300 pages each, but in between book 3 and 4 they published a book of 120 pages in the same universe, you would number it 3.5 in the series. You don't actually have to apply the word "novella" to it. You are just identifying that this is somehow part of the series though also somehow different from the main books in the series.

There probably is no perfect way to decide that will apply to all cases. "


Well said.


message 21: by Dan (last edited Jun 11, 2018 06:15PM) (new)

Dan | 27 comments Ed wrote: "The original question isn't trying to make some definition of "novella" for all cases. They're just asking about how to assign numbers during a "series."

Really? May I suggest you reread?

Jo * Smut-Dickted * wrote: "I see the policy on series and other references to "novellas and short stories" but I can find nowhere the exact definition of a novella or short story according to Goodreads."

After this discussion, we still have none.

rivka wrote: "Well said."

If you say so.

Given that no definitive answer has come forth, I personally plan to just wing it, as we have been all along.


message 22: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 82 comments Dan wrote: "Ed wrote: "The original question isn't trying to make some definition of "novella" for all cases. They're just asking about how to assign numbers during a "series."

Really? May I suggest you reread..."


Yeah, I'm pretty sure she was asking about when to put a decimal in the number when creating or editing a series. If I misunderstood her, she should speak up.

The librarian manual doesn't include the words "novella" or "novelette" and I can find nowhere on this site that requires or even asks for a book to be assigned such a category. You can specify "hardback" or "paperback" or "audiobook" but you aren't asked for a categorization as "novella" vs "novel", or even "novel" vs "thesaurus".

Users can add their own tags and those tags can be anything the user chooses.


message 23: by Dan (new)

Dan | 27 comments You have a good point here. Since many (not all) short stories get their own GoodReads entry, what does it matter what the length of any entry is, or what it's called (novel, short story, or novella) for GoodReads purposes? Thanks for pointing that out, and I now retire from the topic.


message 24: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
Ed wrote: "The librarian manual doesn't include the words "novella" or "novelette""

It does, actually. But in the section specific to series numbering: https://www.goodreads.com/help/show/4...


message 25: by lethe (new)

lethe | 14878 comments Dan wrote: "many (not all) short stories get their own GoodReads entry"

Only if they were published separately. If not, they should not be added to the database.


message 26: by Jo * Smut-Dickted * (last edited Jun 12, 2018 04:38AM) (new)

Jo * Smut-Dickted * (josmut-dickted) | 8 comments This is me. Speaking up as the OP.

So the original question came about as a question on a series. I had just started it and spent about 1/2 an hour trying to figure out what the heck was going on because what was on amazon and the authors own numbering were causing me to believe I was missing books. Because GR had a completely different series numbering listed.

Here are the page lengths:

210
142
141
245
209

No labeling whatsoever of the 141,142 page books as novella's on any site I can find. To the author - these are all novels and sequential in series.

The author has #1-5, Amazon has #1-5, Goodreads titles in the book as far as series has #1-5 but the series is labeled
1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 3

To say I was uber confused is an understatement. So I went about searching to make sure I had not forgotten to purchase 1.3 and 1.6 - even though I was sure #2 and #3 were these books as the titles, descriptions, matched.

Then I went to the GR Librarian and saw the series thing - but no definition of what would force these 141/142 page books to be classified in decimals by defining what a novel, novella, short story, etc actually was

Then I came to this forum and searched and searched and found a LOT of references to "it's a novella so it gets a decimal" but I couldn't find novella or any such word that created the definition for use of what a novella was. Or a novel for that matter.

That made me look at my other series - and I have some series that are all about 150 pages (give or take) and they didn't have that decimal issue and seemed to be #1-5 w/o a problem.

I don't think I have ever noticed this particular policy in practice. The new series page (I have the new beta version which makes it very tough to actually "see" the entire series as the covers are huge) makes this stand out like a beacon - because I only get 2-3 books per series on a page when I look up a series so that 1.3 and 1.6 were like shining lights right in my face.

I actually work at a university and so I checked with our library and got the same "it depends" but we seem to have a bit more clarity and tend to go more for the way the author labels to make it easier on students to find books. It's more about user experience.

Then I realized I was doing my day job (policy and practice) in my fun "me" time here on Goodreads and stopped. Because I deal with policy creation, implementation, and interpretation all. day. long. No thank you for the off the time clock "me". Came here to ask the question because I take my librarian role seriously - I'm not any sort of power user but I follow policy.

I'm not judging (though I don't like this way to classify because as a reader I found it very confusing and I wasted 1/2 hour trying to find phantom books that were not real) - but if this is the policy, I ask the question because I want to know better definitions - everyone can label what they like which is not consistent to me. As someone who works with institutional, system, state, and federal policy daily this one would be tough to interpret and enforce because there are no parameters around it. My preference is to go with a definition and just enforce it - arbitrary or not it's the transparency and clarity I am after. That is just my opinion and, as such, has no bearing on GR of course.


message 27: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 82 comments Jo * Smut-Dickted * wrote: "Then I realized I was doing my day job (policy and practice) in my fun "me" time here on Goodreads and stopped...."

Good for you! It is easy to get sucked into the mode of "something on the internet is wrong and I must fix it!" It is important to remind myself that this will always be a work in progress and that is OK!

By the way, I also have the new Beta version of the series pages with the big book covers. I'm not a fan of it but don't care much really. The improvement I would want is for all book titles to be listed in my preferred language when versions in multiple languages exist. [I suppose I could suggest that in a more appropriate place.]


message 28: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 82 comments Jo * Smut-Dickted * wrote: "The author has #1-5, Amazon has #1-5, Goodreads titles in the book as far as series has #1-5 but the series is labeled 1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 3..."

If they author and publisher consider all the books to be part of the same series, I go by that. But I also hope I'd just leave it be if someone else has created the list already, because I should have more interesting things to do with my time.


Jo * Smut-Dickted * (josmut-dickted) | 8 comments Ed wrote: "Jo * Smut-Dickted * wrote: "The author has #1-5, Amazon has #1-5, Goodreads titles in the book as far as series has #1-5 but the series is labeled 1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 3..."

If they author and publishe..."


Yep Ed. That's what I did. I'm not any super librarian or such - so the one's I have that don't have this series notation I just left. and I left the series that originated the question with a reminder before freaking out a fraction/decimal book to make sure I know the order from another site. Long as I know this is how GR does it I can figure out how to assure I'm not looking for books that don't exist! Life's too short!


message 30: by Shanna (new)

Shanna (snowie) | 5 comments The thing is I saw several of the series pages now listing books that were book 1, 2, 3 etc as now 1.2, 1.3 etc and it's super confusing. I know that there is some sort of GR policy but it really seems very nebulous and arbitrary. I think at the very least we should use the numbering per the author. Word count would be the next best thing because page count is changeable depending upon medium.


message 31: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 45495 comments Mod
rivka wrote: "Word counts are often unavailable (or unreliable) for published books."


message 32: by Angela (new)

Angela Goodrich (asgoodrich) | 10 comments This has been a very illuminating thread. I've always used an unofficial cutoff of 150 pages for novella to novel in our reader's group. So it's boggled my mind how a book that is nearly 200 pages gets classified as a novella. However, when the rest of the books in the series are 400 pages or more, I can now see why a book half the length of the others in the same series is getting classified as a novella.

With that said, I can completely understand Jo * Smut-Dickted *'s confusion as to why the two books under 150 pages are deemed novellas when they're 2/3 the length of the others as opposed to half the length of the others. Personally, as they're under 150 pages, I would have considered them novellas as well, but I can see where it appears rather arbitrary at times.

Because Goodreads is a database, I don't change anything unless I'm sure of it - which is why I was looking for a thread like this to begin with. Now to apply this new knowledge on the series I was looking at.


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