To fans and creators of the form — and even to publishers and booksellers — the term “graphic novel” is woefully inadequate to describe the scope of this body of literature. It's misleading even to think of it as a genre, because graphic novels cover everything from traditional superhero comics to autobiographies, memoirs, and literary fiction. At its most basic, a graphic novel is any square-bound book, hardcover or paperback, that tells its story in a comics format.
The graphic novel has been around for at least twenty-five years. Will Eisner is generally credited with clarifying the form in his 1978 release,
Today, large publishers issue graphic novels under separate imprints; at Random House, for example, graphic novels are handled by Del Rey, the publisher's sci-fi/fantasy imprint, and Pantheon. Four Walls Eight Windows, Sasquatch Books, and even Little, Brown have published graphic novels. The market seems to be growing; a Time.com article on this literary form in November 2003 quoted a Borders official as saying that graphic novel sales have had the largest percentage growth of any book category in the last four years. One graphic novel, Neil Gaiman's
The storytelling guidelines of other genres apply just as forcefully to the graphic novel. The main difference is that the illustrations cover most, if not all, of the description and exposition you would find in a text-only novel. Action is essential in a graphic novel plot; you have to have action to propel the illustrations. Dialogue must be crisp and clean, and characters almost never launch into long soliloquies. Readers must be able to identify with the characters, and they must care what happens to them.