Cross genre and the limits of category

Following a post defining commercial fiction a Snarkling with spurs vents:

But what does one do when one writes literary fiction set in the 19th-century West? Particularly when it would never be published by anyone who does publish Westerns and it also does not easily fit the commerical fiction mode.My problem is that even with what I felt was an excellent query letter - read and approved by three of my more impeccably published (Holt, Random, St. Martins, etc.) friends - each reply simply stated that they do not, under any circumstances, represent... Westerns. Nothing else.Several of them even seemed to take considerable pride in refusing to read the submitted chapters. I might add that of three friend's agents - only one of them would even agree to read it despite their strong recomendations. And then that agent quit her job last week and left for Europe.I do not expect that there is anything you can recommend... other than keep trying. Just venting...

Time to put on your problem solving chapeau, dear Snarkling.

Who best to see the merits of a work about the west, than those IN the West.
First thing I'd do is get out your trusty Guide to Literary Sharks ...err Agents, and start looking up agents based in the West...Nebraska and westward. There are quite of few of them.

I'd look for publishers in the West too. There are lots of them. And if you're so inclined, there's a whole bevy of them assembling in Portland Oregon on 11/19 for the ...Publishers of the West Conference. They even have a trade association.

If you write well enough, someone will see it. And if you get this tome published, Miss Snark wants credit for spurring you on. Yee haw!


Maya said...

Don't forget the university presses. University presses are always interested in literary fiction and the ones in the western states would be prime markets.

Miss Snark said...

Pam writes: The most gorgeous book I've read in years is A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher (August 2005). It's literary fiction and a western set along the Oregon Trail. The publisher is Random House and the agent is Kit Ward of the Christina Ward Literary Agency. Good luck!

Bernita said...

I think there are a number of us who should give Miss Snark credit in acknowledgements when it happens.

Brady Westwater said...

I'll start by lavishing credit right now. Great suggestions and a superb tip on that conference.

The only problem is, if you keep this up quality of pro bono advice - you'll ruin your reputation!

And many thanks to Pam. I shall now promptly gallop out to buy and read that book, and then query that agent.

Miss Snark said...

Pam's comment about A Sudden Country is a great example of synchronicity. I've been thinking about this "western" thread these past two days and then, in this week's New Yorker in the Briefly Noted books section is ..tadaa...A Sudden Country. I was going to note it, but Pam beat me to it with an even better reference cause she's read the book not just the review.

Brady Westwater said...

Just finished... A Sudden Country. A stunning achievement by a fully realized voice; a seamless, haunting congruence of detail and sweep. Won't spoil it by saying anything more than, just read it.

Alas, in the publishing world - the Oregon Train is 'history' while I have willfully chosen the disreputable trail of the mythic western; a sheriff, a greenhorn kid and a gun man. Three generations of men who come together ten years after they last met.

Think Proust meets Jane Austen as channeled by Max Brand.

But even though it's a different genre than A Sudden Country - thanks to all the Snarkling's moral support - I have new found enthusism and an idea for an entirely new kind of query letter.