When books were shorter and excellent

A few years back I approached my publisher with a proposed new fantasy series that would tie in with the previous one I wrote for them. They turned it down. Not because it wasn’t the type of story that they liked but because the manuscript did not exceed their minimum word-count requirement. That book was Neverqueen and I subsequently released that title through my own company. The word-count guidelines are something that I totally understand publishers need to have guidelines on, but what I find interesting is that seventy years ago shorter books rocked the publishing world.

short excellent books

Two prime examples of short works of fiction are a couple of my absolute favorite titles: The Time Machine and The Wizard of Oz. Other examples would be several of the Chronicles of Narnia titles. There’s an old saying that bears bringing back to life: “Short but sweet.”

I would like to make the argument that shorter works are needed. In fact, there is a nearly untapped market of readers out there who love to read but have very little time for pleasure reading. High school and college students are immersed in homework and textbooks. And fathers and mothers of young kids are swamped with work, life, and all that it entails. Picking up a four hundred page novel is not practical for them. But if they could find some shorter reads that were nevertheless just as fascinating as the longer works, I bet they would pick them up.

Neverqueen was my first test of this theory and it has proven to be accurate. Readers are snapping that book up and their responses have been overwhelmingly positive.

Years ago when I established Flaming Pen Press I intended to release an entire line of fantasy and science fiction novellas, mostly from new authors. But unfortunately we suffered a major financial setback and everything had to be scrapped. But I have not lost that vision. In fact, I have been plotting bringing back Flaming Pen Press with a line of new titles. There are details still to work out, but what I’d like to do is release the next line of short books that will capture the imagination just as The Time Machine and The Wizard of Oz did for me. Currently I know of only one publisher that is successfully doing this (TOR) and I am pleased to see the result is positive for them as well.

Q: What do you think of novellas?


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The most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. Great stories are truly my passion and have been for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always striving to learn. I am a husband and a father to five children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “When books were shorter and excellent

  1. Yeah I know what you mean . But I also enjoy long books . But when I’m older with the job I think the Lord is leading me too I won’t be able to read much . So thank you for short and sweet .

  2. Hello Mr. Appleton!
    I have not replied to your posts before, but I look forward to reading your posts every Monday.
    I agree, being a student, that it is difficult to find pleasure reading time. Often I find myself up late at night reading, promising myself to read just one more chapter, most recently with The Key of Living Fire and The Phantom’s Blade.
    I have not read many novellas, but two of my favorites are The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and The Prisoner of Zenda, both filled with action and excitement. I look forward to increasing my list of novellas with Neverqueen(2), and delving deeper into your mysterious and fantastic world!

    • Hello Grace!
      Well, I am glad you chose to reply to this one :) and I am pleased you enjoy the weekly posts.
      I’ll get to work on finishing Neverqueen2 so you can delve deeper.