What am I?

What exactly does "commercial fiction" mean? I wish to query an agent with my science fiction MS and the submission requirements of said agent read "Literary Fiction | Mystery | Commercial Fiction | Fantasy | Thrillers/Suspense." Do I read "commercial fiction" to mean common genres such as romance, science fiction or what have you? Or does "commercial fiction" refer to something specific?

I'm targeting said agent because of a specific book she repped that leads me to think she may like mine. But I've run into the "commercial fiction" wall before in Jeff Herman's book and don't know if that knocks her off my list or not.

If you write science fiction or fantasy, you want an agent who says those specific words in "what I'm looking for". SFF is commercially viable but it's not "commercial fiction". Commercial fiction is mainstream, page turner stuff. Think Nicholas Sparks. Think Jodi Picoult. Think Dan Brown. Think "sales rather than review strength."

Agents who want to read work in a genre will say so: mystery, sff, romance, western. If that's what you write, look for those words.

Commercial/literary, upmarket, downmarket, all refer to types of mainstream fiction, which despite some websites interesting ideas is NOT a genre.


Bernita said...

Have run into another arcane (to me, only, probably) designation recently.
"light literary."

Anonymous said...

That's the best definition of Commercial I've seen in a long time.


Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Question...Could that be why some editors try to rework manuscripts extensively?...ei their literary fiction (character driven), rather than commercial fiction (plot driven), and they want to change the manuscript to their area.

Anonymous said...

Hi Snarkettes, I'm tossing around ideas in my head for a new novel. Does anybody know if there is an equivalent to Miss Snark's blog in the visual art world? Sort of a "how to get a gallery" tips blog? Cheers, Beth

Unknown said...

Speaking of "What Am I", what, specifically is "literary"? I am finishing up an MS that follows a family through a divorce. I know it's not a thriller, mystery, horror, SFF, and NOW I know it's not commercial fiction... what's left? Am I wasting my time writing this since it belongs in no category?

Anonymous said...

so Dan Brown isn't writing 'thrillers"? I mean, if I were Dan Brown, just wrote Da Vinci Code, would I have to call it 'commercial fiction' in my query, meaning that I want it to be a sales-tool, and not review-bait ?:)

ssas said...

justin, your book sounds literary to me.

Rick said...

I may be wrong here, but to me, "literary" has overtones of playing with the conventions of fiction - controlled violations of the rules of narrative; magic realism; experimental in some way. From the one-phrase description, Justin's book sounds like a classic, character-driven mainstream novel, not specifically "literary" unless it is edgy in some way.

Think of it in movie terms: "literary" is the equivalent of an art-house film, while "commercial" is the equivalent of a big-budget (hoped-for) blockbuster. Justin's book sounds equivalent to the sort of mainstream drama that is Oscar bait for actors. How that translates into a book pitch I don't know, beyond straight mainstream, but there should certainly be a market for it.

ssas said...

But in my experience, literary also includes memoirs, and they often do not push conventions. (Think The Tender Bar By JR Moehringer. I think it's quite literary, but it doesn't push conventions.)

I guess we need to know more about it, Justin.

I think classic, character-driven novel is a great way to market the book, too. Keep in mind who will read it--that's the biggest marketing tool of all.

Harry Connolly said...

Miss Snark, how do you define "genre?"

I've seen it defined in so many ways. What's your take?