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I am thinking of writing a novella, but I am not sure whether it is marketable. I have a story in mind, but I'm trying to determine how best to publish a novella, whether it's worth publishing, and if published whether it's worth selling or should be given out as a type of "sample work". Thoughts?

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Novellas and short stories don't sell well. Even short story collections with big names don't sell well. That is why publishing houses don't look out for novellas and short stories.

But:

  1. this novella might be a good exercise and might help you grow as a writer
  2. it might be a perfect marketing instrument. As you said: a sample work.
  3. there might be another outlet. Maybe a genre magazine that also publishes novellas.
  4. there is always self-publishing.
  5. consider it as a free giveaway to 'get your name out there'.
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A novella may do better as a self-pub or a e-book than a trade paperback. Or you could write a few novellas and combine them into one larger format, like Stephen King did with Different Seasons. No way to tell until it's written and edited and you start shopping it around to agents, who will give you more market-relevant feedback.

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    Four past Midnight is another collection of novellas by King and, while they may not have been wildly successful on their own, five of the eight novellas were adapted for TV or film. – Air Jan 15 '16 at 0:05

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