No, really?

Amazon — discerning my interest in historical fiction — offered me a list of recent and upcoming titles it thought I might want to take a look at. Notice a pattern?

The Women: A Novel
Drood: A Novel
Agincourt: A Novel
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel
The Help
The Fall of the Templars
The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel
Roanoke: A Novel of Elizabethan Intrigue

Dear Publishers: for the love of all that’s holy, PLEASE STOP IT WITH THE “A NOVEL” THING. Seriously, what is up with that? It isn’t just a historical fiction practice, where you can try (and fail) to justify it by saying you don’t want readers to confuse it with nonfiction on the same subject; it’s like this is supposed to flag books as being somehow more highbrow than their non-novel-labeled brethren on the shelf. Guess what? It doesn’t work. It just annoys me.

I am moderately willing to let it pass if you make use of the preposition “of,” in which case “novel” is simply the anchor for an actual descriptive phrase. But when five of Amazon’s eight recommendations feel they must notify me that they are Novels (and nothing more), any value the word might have had — scant to begin with — is long since gone.

0 Responses to “No, really?”

  1. calico_reaction

    Oh, I hate that little trend with a burning passion. I was bitching about it just the other day (I picked up a mystery, Laura Benedict’s Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts: A Novel), and for some reason, I thought the practice started when novels weren’t all that common, so “A Novel” was added to those books so they wouldn’t be confused with say, a book of short stories.

    Wherever it started, it’s annoying as hell and needs to stop. Novels are quite common today, and if you find said book anywhere in a fiction section, then you know it’s a novel. Stupid publishers.

    Though I do wonder: is this something PUBLISHERS tack on to a title or do authors add it on themselves, or both?

    • Marie Brennan

      Almost certainly the publishers. Now, I can’t be sure, because it’s something much more common in litfic than specfic — but it strikes me as a decision made by the marketing department.

  2. sartorias

    Signals “Pretentious” to me.

  3. kathleenfoucart

    Ugh, I can’t stand that trend! Drives me nuts…

  4. airycat

    I’m also one who hates this. I am forever having to correct my LibraryThing listing to get rid of this element which is not part of the title. The possible exception may be something like (from your example) Roanoke: A Novel of Elizabethan Intrigue. But even then it may not be part of the title. I don’t think it is in this case. Usually it’s clear on the cover or title page. But yeah, a very annoying practice.

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