All About Story Lengths and Packaging

Short Stories to Long Novels, and
Anthologies, Collections, and Bundles

 

There’s no official consensus on what word count defines the difference between a short story and a novella, or a novella and a novel. General consensus varies somewhat between genres. A short story in sci-fi, for example, might be a novella in historical romance. Or vice versa.

Across my site and in the marketing of my books, I use set definitions based on a very general consensus in the romance community. Other writers and publishers may have different breakpoints.

  • Novel: Word count exceeds 40K. “Short” novel is under 50K, “Long” novel is over 90K.
  • Novella: Word count between 12K and 40K. “Short” novella is under 12K-25K. “Long” novella is 25K-40K.
  • Short Story: Word count under 12K. “Micro” story is under 1K.

Packages

In addition, anthologies, collections, and bundles are terms that describe specific gatherings of work that can impact how long a specific paperback or ebook is. I’m including these definitions as they are often used interchangeably but they don’t quite mean the same thing.

  • Anthologies are packages of usually shorter works by many writers. Sometimes the specific work of an anthology concept editor draws disparate writers and stories under a themed umbrella of their own design, and also does the sometimes messy work of getting permissions from dozens of copyright holders to reprint existing work or issue contracts to dozens of writers for new work.
  • Collections are packages of usually shorter works by a single or small group of writers. (Yes, there’s a little wiggle room here.) I consider the co-authored In Deep Waters books with Radclyffe to be “collections” as we worked collaboratively on the theme and with the publishers, and there was no anthology concept editor necessary.
  • Bundles are packages of any story length, by one or many authors. They sometimes represent a discount over the same material bought separately. They’re often in digital formats only, so a collection of short stories might be 100K, but one of long novels could run into 400K words or more. Publishers (including independent ones) can decide to package almost anything into bundles.

You can use this grid to see which of my works – of whatever length and whatever packaging – fall into which categories. I don’t track anthologies on my site because, while they include my work, the package is the labor of someone else.