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Why Novellas? Tor.com‘s Stellar New Fantasy & SF Releases

Friday, October 16th, 2015 | Posted by Mordicai Knode

The-Sorcerer-of-the-Wildeeps-Tor Witches-of-Lychford-Tor Sunset-Mantle-Tor

Here’s the thing about Tor.com Publishing: I’m a total fan. Complete fanboy.  I know, I know, they pay me to tell people how wonderful the books are, but between you & me? I’d do it for free, because I’m a total sucker for the books we’re putting out. (Probably not full-time, though, so if you’re reading this, boss, keep the paychecks coming!)

In all seriousness, it really is a “dream job,” precisely what I’d hoped to be doing when I got into publishing: having opinions about books with wizards & spaceships, & making those opinions matter. I’ve picked up a bit of jack-of-all-trades over the years, & being part of a new experiment flexes those skills in ways I am still gleefully scrambling to figure out. Tor.com Publishing is proof that publishers are doing new things & evolving.

Tor.com logoTor.com does things that are important to me, on the publishing front. The fact that our novellas are $2.99 ebooks is amazing, & having a print & an audio version for everything simultaneously is just how I think things should be done. As a reader, I’m the guy who wants a physical copy of my favorites; being able to get a paperback version of any of our ebooks matters to me because that is what I would want. I’m a multi-format reader, & I want the stories we publish to be available to everyone, like Journey says, any way you want it. “The play’s the thing,” so to speak.

It’s an ethos that carries over across the board: one of the answers to “why novellas?” is because we want stories at their right length; make it as long or as short as it needs to be to make it right.

I said “answers” because there are a lot of reasons for “why novellas?” It’s a medium that thrived in past ages of science-fiction & fantasy, that I think we’re now on the cusp of seeing the widespread resurgence of. It’s a good length for audio books, & it’s a length where we’re able to keep the prices low. It’s a medium that allows us to get fun projects out of authors, either because it’s not the sort of thing they usually publish or because it’s an idea they’ve been kicking around for years & never had the right venue for. Authors can keep up a pace to serialize them every few months, for those worlds you just can’t get enough of. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, the only real answer to “why novellas?” is “why not novellas?”

Binti-Nnedi-Okorafor-Tor The-Last-Witness-Tor Of-Sorrow-and-Such-Tor

One of the great things about being a small imprint is that we’re a close-knit team. There are obvious social reasons why that’s great — coming to work with people you like & making friends is a big win — but there are a lot of professional kickbacks, as well. Our art director has all the covers up on a cork-board wall so that we can see the collective covers of the art design as a group, our co-publisher is Tor’s creative director & we get to be her playground; a bunch of us play D&D together after work, & there are rumors of a Pathfinder game starting soon; my counterpart & I can merrily shout back & forth in the office… we’re a happy little family, rolling out books we believe in.

Normally, books get blurbed, but our author Matt Wallace blurbed us as “the most innovative crew of book weirdos I’ve encountered in all my travels.” Aw.

On a personal level, it’s really interesting, because none of the group really come from the same background. I don’t just mean in terms of professional experience, but in terms of taste & favorites, as well. Because of the way the genre works, that means we get to play in the fertile ground of overlapping Venn diagrams. We all have our own areas of interest, & we cover a pretty diverse kind of narrative, from grimdark to military to comedy to a little bit post-modern; from covens of witches to post-humans with blue afros to wisecracking assassin stoats & beyond. Every book has a champion in-house, & we champion all the books in house. Not just because it’s our job, but because it’s our passion, if you’ll excuse me being a little corny again.

Envy of Angels-Tor The Builders-Tor Domnall and the Borrowed Child-Tor

All of that aside, to go back to paraphrasing Shakespeare, the play remains the thing. It’s the Tor.com stories that are the real genius of the line. That’s where it all starts & that’s what it all comes back to. They are so good it’s almost embarrassing; I feel like I’m bragging based on reflected glory.

The editors pick out rock star writing & our art team gives it a glorious package; all I have to do is tell people how great they are, which is easy, because…well, they are. My work day conversations include discussions on using real world languages to evoke fictional worlds, that angel tastes like chicken nuggets, & wondering if there is a name for the subgenre of stories deconstructing Lovecraft. I’m gloriously lucky. If you pick up our books, I think you’ll see what I mean.


Mordicai Knode started off working in bookstores, got a job working in the Sales, moved over to the side of Sales that dealt with Tor books, started writing for Tor.com on the side & is now Marketing & Publicity Manager for Tor.com Publishing.

3 Comments »

  1. […] Blackgate, Tor.com’s Mordicai Knode explains, “Why novellas?” This confirms a lot of my own feelings about the current sort of renaissance in short fiction and […]

    Pingback by Weekend Links: October 17, 2015 | SF Bluestocking - October 17, 2015 8:43 am

  2. As someone who writes more novellas than novels, this is very good news to me. I’m also a fan of short novels, and I loved the old Ace Doubles, too. I’ll have to look into this. Great article. Thanks for posting!

    Comment by Joe Bonadonna - October 17, 2015 10:02 am

  3. The novella’s one of my favorite forms. Long enough for an ensemble cast, if they’re quick to get their business done.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - October 17, 2015 10:56 pm


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