6.16.2006

Miss Snark Hits a Triple

Dear Miss Snark,


1. What do you think of the use of the word "literary" to describe a novel--for example, in a query letter? The idea of using it, I suppose, would be to distinguish it from "genre" fiction. Drawbacks would be that it can sound pretentious and perhaps suggests a nonprofit quality. Would it be better to simply present the description and let the reader decide for her/himself?

Literary agents do not find use of the word literary to describe things to be ipso facto pretentious or a suggestion of unprofitablity.


2. How is "yanno" pronounced? Does it rhyme with "guano"?

Ha. No. ya know=yanno. Guano indeed.


3. When an agent sells a book, does she or can she negotiate a publicity budget or any terms relating to publicity?


Only if you are quite famous, or a lot of publishers want you, or you're one of the big authors at the house.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had an agent once describe "literary fiction" as "won't sell worth a damn unles the author is the President, the Pope or the hottest rock star on the planet and even then you have to get is to the stores before the hotness of the author wears off."

Sherry Decker said...

This made me wonder, if my book is sold to a major publisher, whom would I (attempt) to contact regarding promotion. What is that person's title? Is there anything I can do to help promote my book? Are publishers interested in my ideas for promotion or would they prefer I butt out?

Linda Adams said...

I always wondered what "Yanno" was! :)

bonniers said...

Literary fiction is its own genre, and its readers have specific expectations of writing quality, imagery, pacing, etc., the same as do readers of any other genre.

As an avid reader and writer of the stuff, I gotta say -- the definition in anonymous's post don't even come close.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that everyone always talks about how readers and writers of literary fiction look down on genre writers and readers. Yet it seems to me that there is a lot more slamming of said literary fiction by genre readers and writers going on than the opposite....

Plenty of literary fiction sells.

c. parsons said...

I will probably get the nitwit of the day award, but I have to ask: what is difference between labeling your work literary, mainstream or contemporary? I’ve written a manuscript that’s not genre, so I assume it’s got to be one of those three. I further assume that if I choose to call it literary, I’m saying that it’s character-driven, not plot driven. But then I get the heebie-jeebies because I’m afraid “literary” sounds as though I’m comparing myself to William Faulkner. Dear Miss Snark, could you please differentiate between these three and while we’re at it, as an extra bonus, what the heck is HI-LO? In the Writer’s Market I notice many agents say they’re looking for it—I’m pretty sure I’m not writing it, but I’d like to know.
Thank you -- I love your blog!

The Rentable Writer said...

At first, I thought "Yanno" referred to that violin player (or did he play the cello?) and then I realized: DOI! It's ya know! I say and hear that a thousand times a day. How didn't I recognize it ...

HawkOwl said...

I think "literary" simply means that there is a deliberate attempt at style. For example, The Crimson Petal and the White definitely tries for style. Why else would one refer to a cat as "his saucer-eyed familiar?"

"Contemporary" sounds more like something that follows the most current trends in art and style. I can't think of any "contemporary" fiction but a painter like Kandinski would have been "contemporary" in his day, as in he was doing something very modern.

"Mainstream" is just what's nothing else. It's not a genre, it's not literary, it's not contemporary. It's just a novel about everyone's day-to-day reality, written in an unobtrusive style, that doesn't make an artistic statement.

At least that's how I see it.

c. parsons said...

Thank you, HawkOwl. Now you wouldn't happen to know what Hi-Lo is, would you?
C.Parsons

Nobody said...

C.Parsons, Hi/Lo refers to high interest level, low reading level. It's essentially a book with "older" content written in an easier to read format, meant to draw reluctant middle-grade and teen readers.

c. parsons said...

Bless you, Nobody! (I was right, I'm not writing it. Well. I think I'm not writing it.)
C. Parsons