Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

Why do books have “A Novel” hidden on the cover?

I was looking through the lineup of Booksparks’ Summer Reading Camp selection when a familiar question hit me again in force: why do books have “a novel” on their cover?

So many fiction works will have the title, the author, maybe a tagline, all the usual fare for a book cover. But then many will also shove the words “a novel” onto the cover. Some are bold and obvious about it, almost as if it’s a secondary part of the title:

Only slightly smaller than the title itself, with a design drawing attention to it

Others will still have it on there, but make it seem like a fun game of hide-and-seek. You might not even notice it; you get a free game of i-Spy with your novel!

check the hat
A sign on the car!

And yet others will modestly slip the words below everything else, or off to the side, or in a style designed to make it hardly noticeable — but still there.

Honestly, this wouldn’t matter at all if it weren’t for this next issue. Some books are fiction like the others above and yet don’t have that little appendix of “a novel.” I have no idea why. As far as I can tell, there’s no difference in their presented format or content.

Novels without “a novel”

My questions

My primary reaction to this little addition is “duh.” Why does it even exist? I don’t walk around with a label that says “a human” on me. We’re not in Westworld yet. A book is usually pretty clearly a book. SO why bother? Why waste the cover space?

Every time I see it I mentally roll my eyes a bit. If I really think about it, I feel like I also tend to judge those books as being a touch pretentious or condescending. It’s pretty clear you’re a novel; you really don’t have to spell it out.

Additionally, some books will have a special designation, like when they are a memoir or biography. I don’t think we see this on nonfiction very often, though.

A mystery of the publishing world?

I know, I know, maybe this is just a small thing that doesn’t matter at all, and is just preference. There is, however, also the chance that this is some really particular precise delineation of status from the publishing world that is shady and hidden from our view, with the only clue the appended “a novel.”

I hope it’s that second one. Seriously. So if any of you know why these differ, or know any publishing people who might know why these differ, please send them my way!! I am so curious!

PS – all the books in this post are in Booksparks’ #SRC2020. Check out their full lineup and if you see any books you’d like to read and chat about with others, sign on up! 🙂


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

6 thoughts on “Why do books have “A Novel” hidden on the cover?

    1. Right?? This is one of those things that bothers me in a tiny quiet place in my mind but I never fully considered why it existed until I saw it over and over in a line of books haha 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is such a great post, and I actually had to hunt for some of the “NOVEL”s hiding in plain sight. I always wondered the same, and when I just googled it, this is what I found

    <a href="URL“>article

    Apparently it is being used to distinguish some works of fiction from their peers.


    1. Oh thank you, that’s fascinating! I’ve been trying to find some answers as well, this is great. It’s funny to think of fiction writing as a new thing, but I can see what they mean now!


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