18 July 2018

Nick Earls has always been a man of letters, and now he has almost a complete sentence after his name.

The author and University of Queensland alumnus is graduating as a Doctor of Philosophy.

He has previously earned a Bachelor of Medicine (1986), and a Bachelor of Surgery (Honours), making him Dr Earls twice over.

His PhD research focused on the novella, and whether technology-driven changes in publishing, author-reader relationships and readers’ lives have made the novella a viable proposition.

“From my craft research, I wrote five novellas, and then I applied what I’d learned in my publishing research to publish them,” Dr Earls said.

“Guided by my research, I went with the model of publishing the novellas individually at monthly intervals, and each novella was published simultaneously as a pocket-sized paperback, ebook and audiobook.

“Bearing in mind the time-poverty a lot of people feel in their lives (with more ‘inputs’ in life than ever), I developed messaging around the place the novella might have in people’s lives – a movie-length read; a reading experience that takes you deep but lasts an evening or a domestic plane flight.”

The author said his previous studies in medicine also influenced his approach.

“I love an evidence base, and I think that’s where this has come from,” he said.

“I think my medical degrees really gave me a keen eye for evidence and made me, with these novellas, want to search around and see what people had done and see what had been tested, what worked and what didn’t.

“And it was good to be able to bring that critical thinking from my medical degree and apply it to this different set of problems.”

Dr Earls said he was pleased with the success of his novellas, which have generated significant attention and are still selling – something he hopes the industry will pay attention to.

“The experiment demonstrates that, at a price of $15 per novella, the model can make a profit if around 2,000 of each can be sold,” he said.

“That should make it viable for quite a few authors, and I hope publishers will take that on board.”

Dr Earls has gone on to apply his research to a non-fiction project of a similar length and plans to pass his learning on.

“I’ve used my research to develop a novella masterclass I’ve so far taught in four states, and I have plans to do more writing myself, using what I’ve learned.”

Media: Nick Earls, nickearlsauthor@gmail.com​; UQ Communications Kristen Johnston, k.johnston@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 1633.