If you regularly submit short stories to genre markets, you’ve no doubt learned the longer your story the fewer publishers who will accept it. This post isn’t meant be a condemnation of longer stories, but it is beneficial to understand where many genre markets stand on novelettes and novellas.
I’m going to take a close look at the market for three popular genres—horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, i.e., the ones I know best—and see how many accept stories of the most popular lengths. All of my stats will be drawn from Duotrope, which is a pretty robust database of potential markets, but it is not a database of all markets. So my numbers are naturally skewed and will not include publishers that aren’t part of Duotrope’s database. Also, the data here is a snapshot, and counts only those markets that are currently accepting submissions. In other words, this is not a scientific study by any means; it’s a quick summation of the data I have easily at hand and should be viewed as such.
Okay, some definitions first.
In each of the three genres I named above, I’m going to see how many markets accept stories in the following four lengths: short story, flash fiction, novelette, and novella. Duotrope defines those lengths thusly:
- Short Story: 1,000 to 7,500 words
- Flash Fiction: Less than 1,000 words
- Novelette: 7,500 to 15,000 words
- Novella: 15,000 to 40,000 words
It’s important to note that while Duotrope’s definition of a short story is a piece up to 7,500 words, many publishers do not publish fiction at that length. In my experience, 3,000 to 5,000 words is more common for short stories, and of those publishers that do publish up to 7,500 words, some don’t do it very often and will often state that in the guidelines.
I’m also breaking the markets down into three payment tiers: token, semi-pro, and professional. (I’m keeping non-paying markets out of this simply to keep the numbers manageable.) Dutrope defines those payment theirs like this:
- Token: under 1 cent per word (often a flat rate)
- Semi-Pro: 1 cent to 5 cents per word (most of these markets tend to be on the low end of this scale)
- Professional: 6 cents per word and up
Okay, let’s look at our first genre—horror.
As you can see, most of these markets accept short stories and a fair number of them also take flash fiction. (The ones that don’t take shorts often specialize in flash.) The numbers drop off dramatically the longer the story gets, hitting single digits when you get into novella length. In fact, if you want to submit a novella-length horror story to a professional market, it’s currently Clarkesworld Magazine or Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show or nothin’ (according to Duotrope). It should be noted that Clarkesworld cuts off novellas at 16,000 words and Intergalactic Medicine Show at 17,500 words. So if you’ve got a 20,000-word horror novella, there currently isn’t a pro market to send it to in Duotrope’s database.
Okay, now fantasy.
Fantasy is a bigger market than horror, but the numbers are similar. Lots of places that accept shorts and flash and far less that accept novelettes and novellas. You’ve got more options with longer works in this genre but not by much. Again, like with horror, most of the pro markets definitions of a novella falls well below 40,000 or even 30,000 words. Only one of the seven pro markets above accepts novellas up to 40,000 words; the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below (most are below 20,000).
And, lastly, science-fiction.
Again, similar ratios as the other two genres, but since sci-fi is the largest of the three, you do have a few more options for longer story lengths. Like with horror and fantasy, novella writers will need to keep their works on the low end of the spectrum. Only two markets here accept novellas up to 40,000 words, the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below.
That’s a whole bunch of numbers for you, but the conclusion is simple: there just aren’t many markets in these three genres that accept longer stories (I’d guess it’s similar with mystery and romance, but I could be wrong). It’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing. If you’re targeting semi-pro and pro publishers, then you may have a more difficult time selling a novelette or novella simply from lack of potential markets. Again, I’m not saying don’t write to these lengths–a story needs to be as long as it needs to be–just be aware it’s a tougher road.
It’s not all bad news. Some of the big book publishers are actually open to and even looking for submissions of novella-length manuscripts. Here’s a couple I found with just a quick internet search (there are likely more):
- Tor is looking for fantasy novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words that are not modeled on a European culture through January 12th, 2017. Check out the full guidelines here: Tor.com novella submissions.
- Hydra, a digital-only imprint of Penguin-Random House, is looking for horror, fantasy, and sci-fi works of 40,000 words and up. Technically, I think they’re looking for novel-length submissions, but 40,000 words is the upper limit of what most people consider a novella. They’re looking for queries first, and there’s a online form you can fill out right here: Hydra submission guidelines.
If you have additional info about potential markets for novelettes and novellas or if you have experience with a genre outside of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, please tell me about it in the comments.