A common reason for a bad review is the criticism that a short story or novella is "Too short." Whenever I hear authors complain about this type of review, they also are grinding their teeth because they mention in the product description and/or the cover that the book is a novella or short story. Thus the readers didn't read (or notice) that a book is a novella or short story, or they forgot by the time they got around to reading the story on their ereader.
When I self-published my first collection of short stories, Montana Sky Christmas, I worried about receiving these kinds of negative reviews. To prevent these type of reviews as much as possible, I took four proactive steps to avoid reader confusion.
1. I made "short stories" part of the title. The whole title is, Montana Sky Christmas: A Short Story Collection.
2. I made sure the subtitle was on the cover and as visible as the main title. I did this by changing the font and making the color "pop."
3. I put "Short Stories" in all caps in the product description: In Montana Sky Christmas, USA Today bestselling author Debra Holland offers seven SHORT STORIES set in the small town of Sweetwater Springs, Montana in 1894.
4. In my email blast to my fans, I made sure to communicate the book was short stories.
In a lucky stroke that I didn't anticipates, when the reviews started coming in, the reviewers often mentioned that the book was composed of short stories. Some even mentioned which stories they liked the best.
To date, a little over four and a half months after publication and with 55 reviews, I don't have any reviews dinging me because Montana Sky Christmas was short stories, instead of one long story. I do have one or two who wistfully mention that they wish there were more.
For my novella, Painted Montana Sky, I did the same thing. I put in the subtitle that the story was a novella--Painted Montana Sky: A Montana Sky Series Novella. The subtitle also identified the novella as part of the series.
The only difficulty I encountered before publication was people asking me what a "novella" was. So when I sent out the fan email announcement, I used novella/novelette as a descriptor.
The first line of the product description reads: In Painted Montana Sky, a NOVELLA from the acclaimed Montana Sky Series, USA Today bestselling author Debra Holland brings together two people who have turned their backs on love and relationships.
I self-published Painted Montana Sky on December 22, and in slightly over a month it has acquired 21 reviews, none of which complain about the length.
So while I might not have forewarned every potential reader about the type and length of these stories, I did everything I think is possible to give them the knowledge, thus preventing future disappointment.