A novel approach to publishing

Celebrated Australian author and UQ PhD student Nick Earls is exploring a novel approach to publishing for those with a short attention span. Today he releases Gotham, his first in a series of novellas that will be distributed in print, e-book and audio.

1976: four TV channels if you lived in the right spot, radio, records and cassettes, books, movies a year after America, bands sometimes, theatre, a landline phone for use only if lives depended on it and then for five minutes max, letters, pinball machines, Pong, make your own fun, study, work, family, jobs around the house.


2016: 35 free-to-air TV channels (25 that aren't home shopping), Foxtel, the last gasp of DVD box sets, Netflix, Stan, Presto, VOD, YouTube, news sites, gossip sites, those #$@^ing Kardashians, advice sites, wikipedia, blogs, lolcats, memes of all kinds, weather radar, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, WhatsApp, MySpace (okay, maybe not MySpace), iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, podcasts, blockbuster movie franchises, bands, theatre, every device plays music, every device has a clock to let you know you're short of time, every device is a camera, your phone tells you what to do and you can and will be called all the time, email, text messages, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, Tetris (still), Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto working its way up the Roman numerals, Candy Crush Saga, and, oh, yeah, study, work that never completely stops, family who still get sick and have birthdays and need feeding and your quality time, jobs around the house that still need doing because this isn't yet the Jetsons, books.

Is it any surprise some of us aren't reading as many books as we once did, or no longer finding the long long tracts of uninterrupted time to devote to the books we do read? For a lot of us, books are now a holiday pursuit. Big books anyway. I just read Jonathan Franzen's Purity. Great writing. Started it on holiday, but failed to finish it then and got myself over the line two months later, with the thread lost more often than I'd like.


That's one reason I'm trying a series of novellas. There are others though.

A few years ago, I realised that the five best ideas I had were each destined to find themselves around the 20,000-word mark if I let them be what they needed to be (didn't lop them brutally into short stories or fake them into novels). Despite that being a length that makes most of the publishing industry uneasy, I couldn’t resist the urge to write them anyway.

The more I thought about it, though, the more it started to make something dangerously close to sense.

Technology isn’t just crowding in on our lives and crimping our reading time – it’s potentially a game-changer for the novella. The ebook is a perfect fit with the novella. The audiobook has evolved to be a perfect fit too - fiction for the podcasting crowd, played on devices we all own (not a big box of cassette tapes).

I decided that, if I was in, I was in boots and all. I studied novella craft, I researched the industry in a way I never had before, and I wrote.

Nick is completing a PhD at UQ.

And my 2016 plan developed: the best writing I can manage, a series of novellas, one per month for five months. Simultaneously worldwide as ebooks and audiobooks, and in Australia and New Zealand pocket-sized paper editions too. Each book the length of an evening, a domestic plane flight, a day's commuting. Each its own thing, but with links to others to add something for anyone who reads them all.

In 2012, Jonathan Franzen expressed his dislike of Twitter, triggering a tweetstorm around the hashtag #JonathanFranzenHates. One widely quoted tweet read '#jonathanfranzenhates Emoticons, because it takes 600 pages to accurately convey emotion'. In Purity, he manages it in 563. I think it's possible to do it in far less.

Keen to know more? Nick Earls will be talking about his novella project on 12pm, Thursday 9 June at the UQ Library. Copies of his first two novellas, Gotham and Venice will be available to purchase. Register online at http://bit.ly/nickearls.

Last updated:
27 June 2016