Dear Miss Snark,
I'm about 40,000 words into my first novel.
Here's my problem. I'm really struggling to 'categorise' my novel. Its not romance. Its not detective. Its not fantasy. It could possibly be YA. I'm not too sure. As to commercial and mainstream fiction...call me a nitwit and drown me in gin.....(the cheap kind that strips the varnish from your nails) but I don't know what any of that means. Not really.
I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction. This is partly because I like Faulkner and Twain and, can and have, reread them until I'm blue in the face. But mostly because I spend a lot of time in academia and text books. I just wouldn't know where to start.
I know my novel is about backwood Appalachia (Because it's always odd and curious and good for a character or two...and I know it well). Its funny. Its tragic. Its about children. Its about murder. But its mainly about life and death and the coping. (well, we know it's not about punctuation)
Is this commercial fiction? Mainstream? I don't know. I'm really stuck on how to label it. Any advice?
Oh Miss Snark always has a word or ten thousand of advice. Fear not.
First, you know it's NOT genre cause it's not romance, mystery, western, or sff. After that, all you have to call it is fiction. Let your agent, whomever that lucky sod turns out to be, figure out if it's mainstream or commercial. Who knows, maybe it's a whole new genre!
Commercial is generally how editors describe things that make their P&L statements sing: commercial means they sell a lot of it, or think they're going to sell a lot of it.
Mainstream is more staid. The Lovely Bones is literary ficiton, Sandra Brown is commercial fiction, and Jodi Picoult is mainstream. Oprah tends to pick books that are mainstream. Airport bookstores tend to sell a lot of commercial fiction.
And, don't worry about this right now. Finish the novel. Keep the serial scrubbers from Rabbitania to a minimum and worry about what to label the thing later. Right now your job is to write so well that agents don't care what it is they must sign you instantly.