Every genre of writing comes with some built-in expectations about length. Rules are always meant to be broken, of course, but it’s good to understand what readers might expect in order to let them clearly know what they’re getting.
For example, a children’s picture book is usually large format, square, and has perhaps 30-40 pages in it. It’s usually full color. If someone ordered a children’s picture book for their grandchild and received a massive 800-page tome with complicated words and tiny text, they might be annoyed.
So, similarly, just what do most people expect when they hear something is a romantic suspense novella?
Let’s start with the word “novella”.
The general categories of book length go from:
These are not set in stone. If you look at the guidelines for ten different short story magazines you’ll get ten different word count ranges. Note you can’t judge any of these by page count. It is incredibly easy to make books thicker or thinner just by changing the spacing between lines and making the font larger or smaller. What matters is the word count.
So to give just general ranges as a starting point, you can generally say:
flash fiction – 1 to 1,000 words
short story – 1,000 to 5,000 words
novelette – 5,000 to 15,000 words
novella – 15,000 to 40,000 words (Lion Witch Wardrobe was 38,421 words)
novel – 40,000 and up (Harry Potter Phoenix was 257,045 words)
Most romantic suspense books fall in the novella range. They tend to be about half to a third of the length of a typical novel. In many cases, the novella is part of a series, so this section presents an arc in the characters’ journey, and then the next book comes along to take them through the next section.
Especially with romantic suspense often involving chases, escapes, and other death-defying activities, that provides great fodder for ending a scene somewhere exciting so that readers want to know what happened next.
If you were to present a short flash fiction romantic suspense story, you certainly could! Just make sure you are CRYSTAL CLEAR on the cover and in the description that this is flash fiction. If someone downloads your book to settle back on the couch with a glass of wine for the evening, and they finish it in ten minutes flat, they’re going to be grumpy even if they enjoyed it.
It’s important to properly set expectations.
Similarly, if you write a long novel of 100,000 words or more, well, first I would suggest chopping it into chunks, so you can pace your readers more easily. But if you really can’t do that for some reason, make sure you’re clear on the cover and description that this is a full length experience. Again, it’s about readers knowing what they are getting so they can plan their time accordingly.
In a bookstore, readers can look at a book and see the type size to know what they’re in for. When they buy online, they can’t tell by looking at the physical size of the book. They need the cover and description to provide those details.
I do realize Amazon provides a ‘page count’ but that is often deceptive. I’ve seen authors use incredibly large fonts, giant spacing between lines, and thick white margins to boost their page count up five-fold from what it should have been. That can also lead to unhappy readers who think they’re getting a 300-page book that will last them all week, only to find that it can be read in half a day.
So, to summarize, understand where your book falls in the length categories and then market it clearly. That way you get happy reviews and build a joyful fan base!
Ask with any questions!