A Novel

I absolutely do not write this in criticism, I am purely curious, and to be honest, a bit confused.

I have been seeing more and more book covers include the text “A Novel”. Why? What is it for? What is its purpose?

Is this an artistic flair that’s catching on? Is it because the cover art is ambiguous as a work of fiction, so it is labelled with “A Novel” for clarity? Is it the counter-point to a novel in a collective including the book-series name (the So-and-So Trilogy, or the Whatsit Chronicles, and so on)?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the act, though from a personal standpoint, it’s a superfluous line of text on a cover, and I prefer the least amount of text necessary to be on a front cover. But that’s me. The traditional industry likes to include blurbs (as in, a snippet of a quote from someone influential) on the front, or identifying information: “Award winning author of This Other Book”, or “International Best Seller”.

Frankly, I have never cared if an author is an international best seller, or has won awards (except in conversation when I’m trying to drive home the point that an author is kind of a big deal, even though the person I’m talking to has never heard of the writer before). To put that kind of text on a cover just irritates me; it’s wasting space, and often ruins an otherwise well-balanced layout. But that’s kind of off the subject.

I can’t see a reason to have “A Novel” placed right up there on the front. Why did the designer make this obvious statement? The description will indicate that it’s a fictitious narrative. I’ve never bought a novel without reading the description/back cover, so it’s not as though I will misunderstand the book is an invented (or exaggerated) story by the time I’m considering reading it. Also, I’m sure it’s happened, but I don’t recall seeing any which say “A Novella”, or “A Novelette”.

If I write something that’s 300,000 words, can I use “A Hypernovel” on the cover? (The answer to that is no, because if Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke manages to have just “A Novel”, nothing can lay claims to a larger novel classification.)

If anyone has insights, I’d love to know. I may never view “A Novel” as something entirely valid to include, and I probably won’t pass any particular judgement on the book if the label is present, but I certainly notice it. Every time. Thus, I am curious.

~A

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