Why are Books Titled with A Novel at the end?

Why are Books Titled with A Novel at the end? You've seen them on bookshelves and on Amazon. Literary novels that have a title with -- A Novel at the end of them. Things like:

New York - The Novel
Paris - The Novel
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - A Novel

When you do Google searches to find out why this is done, occasionally you'll land on blog pages with readers complaining that they think it's pretentious. That it's done solely so the author can make their work look more high-brow and literary. But actually, there's an important, valid reason that this is often done.

It's legal protection. It makes clear that what follows is FICTION.

Quoting from the Independent Book Publishers Association, or IBPA:

The prominent use of the words “A Novel” in the subtitle of a book is considered by some attorneys to be the best form of disclaimer. In addition, a full disclaimer should appear on the reverse title page of your novel, or skillfully integrated into the introduction or preface of your book.

IBPA Online

That's the gist of it. If it's not clear it is fiction, it could be construed as NON-FICTION and therefore libel. The author could be sued if something seems a little too close to home. But if the author states right on their front cover and in the title of every single listing that this work is FICTION, it helps give the author protection. Sure, you want that disclaimer in the copyright page too, but it's much more powerful to have it right there in the title itself. There's no question of someone seeing it.

Mark Fowler, an attorney who blogs about writers' legal issues, reminds us that no matter what statements you make, if a character in your book is clearly a real person and is clearly shown to be doing objectionable things that the real person never did, you're still going to be in trouble -

You do not libel someone simply by depicting him or her in fictional circumstances. Libel requires a false and defamatory statement of fact "of and concerning" an identifiable living person (or business entity).

Rights of Writers blog

So if what you write is true, you're safe. If it's false and the person is not identifiable, you're safe. But if you write about a clearly recognizable person or business, and you have them doing things that they didn't do in real life, you could be in trouble. It's just safer not to go there.

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