Is Your Book A Short Story, A Novelette, A Novella Or A Novel? 

If you are a first time writer, book publishing is understandably an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. After all, you’ve probably spent many a night mulling over every sentence and word, and perfecting the entire thing: payoff in the form of your very own physical/e-book, therefore, is a joy that cannot be described.

Although the words “book” and “novel” are often used interchangeably, they aren’t quite the same. Apart from novels, three other categories of books exist: short stories, novelettes, and novellas. Each type of book serves its own purpose and is identifiable by its set of unique characteristics. So which of these categories does your book fall into? 

What Is A Short Story?

Book Word Count: 3,500 – 7,500 words

A short story can be told from any perspective: first person, third person, or any other way. 

A short story has a very sharp focus: it speaks of a single episode, a single event, or a single tale of a particular character. Although brief, short stories absolutely have the potential to pack punches and leave lasting impressions.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado is one of the most popular short stories of all time.

What Is A Novelette?

Book Word Count: 7,500 – 17,000 words

Novelettes can be defined as short yet complete works of fiction. The narrative of a novelette is usually highly focused, somewhat similar to a short story. They are often whimsical, and usually revolves around the themes of romance and sentimentality (or sometimes both). 

However, compared to short stories, novelettes usually require a writer to expand on a story’s plot more (e.g. give more details), and always have definite/complete endings.

One prominent example of a novelette is Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds, which tells the story of a community that is attacked mercilessly by birds.

What Is A Novella?

Book Word Count: 17,000 – 40,000 words

Novellas tend to feature a number of sub-plots and twists; due to the greater word limit, they have more room for character and plot development compared to novelettes. 

The New Yorker likens reading a novella to “watching a play or a longish movie”. Sitting comfortably between novelette and novel, the novella appeals to readers who want an impressionable read, minus the long reading time that usually comes with it.

Novellas are typically published in series as anthologies, rather than as standalones. This is due to their ambiguous length (and low-profit margin).

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and John Steinback’s Of Mice and Men can be classified as novellas.  

What Is A Novel?

Book Word Count: >40,000 words

Novels are arguably the most well-known of all four categories: think Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Twilight and many more books out there.

A novel is, in short, a lengthy piece of literary work. With a generous word allowance, novels are expected to inform, entertain, and leave a strong impression on the readers even before they finish reading the very last page.

Some elements a novel should contain are: chapters, characters, dialogue, setting, and plot. 

While fulfilling, writing a book can be a long and tedious process. For example, it took author Anne Channock nearly a year to write her novel Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind… and that’s excluding all the research time involved. Gulps.

In Conclusion

So now you know how to differentiate between short story, novelette, novella and novel! Book word count is the main distinguishing factor; however, other aspects such as the area(s) of focus and style must be taken into account, too. Putting the book word count aside, each of the four types of books has its own appeal.

Use our handy word counter tool to check the word count for your book.