4.29.2006

Bibliographies for novels

Dear Ms. Snark, I am, like many others, a wannabe novelist attempting to get my first novel published. I wanted to ask you what you think about bibliographies for novels. Initially, I just thought that with many novels based on solid fact and research, it might be a good way to help point readers in the right direction if they want information about a particular subject covered in the story. The second concern for this is more recent: I've been following Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's travails in the British courts for allegedly plagiarizing two (alleged) 'non-fiction' books (awright, I admit I have issues with considering 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' anything but the most egregiously dishonest pretense at 'non-fiction' there is) and I wonder if he might have avoided some of this if he'd only included a bibliography. My novel, like Brown's, plays with history and speculates here and there, and I've already included a brief piece in the back delineating what was taken from established history and what I simply screwed around with - but I also cover a few subject areas I *know* people are going to want to know more about. Not too many novels include bibliographies, what is *your* opinion?


Dan Brown's book could have come attached to your own personal librarian and it wouldn't have helped him one little bit. In case you think that lawsuit was about anything BUT trying to pry loose some of the money that book made, here, let me hand you a clue napkin to mop your fevered brow.

I think a bibliography for a novel is last century. This is the stuff you'd put on a website now. Just for starters you can update a web site easily and old editions of your book won't then be saddled with outdated info. Plus you'll save wear and tear on the personal librarian by not tattooing an ISBN above her spectacles.

If you put this kind of info on a website you're much more likely to get caught up in a google search about something OTHER than your book, and that can help draw new readers to you. A bibliography in the back of a book won't be of any help that way at all.

Plus..it's a NOVEL. You don't have to source a novel, you can make it ALL up. Even if you're Dan Brown.

4 comments:

Bill Peschel said...

Judging by the articles I read in one of the "Davinci Code Broken" books, Brown made up a lot in his book, including the layout of the Louvre, sections of Paris, and how British police do and do not act.

Simon Haynes said...

Yeah, I was disappointed the coppers in Brown's book didn't have that authentic touch:
"Ello ello ello, what's goin' on 'ere then?"
"'Oo's nicked me tea an bikkies?"
"Chuck us a wedge, Fred."
Use those in your own novels with no fear of legal action - other than from aggrieved London Constabulary, that is.

Bella Stander said...

I must respectfully semi-disagree with Miss Snark. I see nothing wrong with having a bibliography at the back of a novel, along with one on the author's website. It's a lot more reader-friendly to have it in the book. Can't find any examples on my shelves, but I know I've read novels with bibliographies in them. I'm thinking Sarah Dunant's IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN and THE BIRTH OF VENUS; possibly MARCH by Geraldine Brooks.

Writers' Block said...

Crichton may have sold a few hundred thousand copies of State of Fear, complete with biblio, footnotes, non-fic rant, and other elements of the non-fic halo, but all of that didn't change my experience of reading it--it's 300 pages of polemic interleaved with 250 pages of a novel. The most boring thriller since Atlas Shrugged. Cross this boundary at your own risk.