I've been told that that my style is more literary than commercial, and it started me thinking.
What has your style been labeled? How do you think an agent would catagorize it?
Are we victims of a pigeon-holing system in our queries? Don't blondes hate it when you lump them all together?
Jocks and geeks are not all the same. Nor are all politicians dishonest. Ah, I may have chosen the wrong example there.
But what is commercial and literary fiction anyway, and why is it so important for agents to know what kind of fiction we're submitting?
I.) Commercial Fiction in a nutshell :
This type of story appeals to a wide audience, has a distinct plot, and its characters actively pursue a goal or overcome a challenge.
These stories are primarily read for entertainment.
There are many categories of commercial fiction, classified by genre and sub-genres.
Each genre has basic elements that readers expect to see in the stories. Some commercial fiction may appeal to more than one type of audience, and can be considered mainstream.
II.) Literary Fiction in Freudian clarity :
These stories focus more on internal conflict than external events,
the plot is less obvious,
and there is an emphasis on artistic prose rather than the more straightforward storytelling seen in commercial fiction.
There is usually extensive development of the characters, with a slower pace,
and less emphasis on what happens and more on the character’s reaction to what happens.
III.) Ah, the penny drops (as they used to say in New Zealand.)
But this time literally. The agent is interested in how marketable our novel is.
With commercial fiction you get :
Wide audience. Action. Crisp, easy-to-digest prose. Wide market. High sales.
(Yes, "wide audience" is the same as 'Wide Market." I did that on purpose. Both mean profits hence an easier sale.)
With literary fiction you get :
The opposite ... which is death in today's market.
IV.) Agents are looking for a hot date to take to the Prom.
Literacy is not an essential. Just action, looks, and above all else ... not being boring.
After all, readers can be bored for free. And no one likes being lectured to.
V.) Think about it :
Who would you want to share a roadtrip with, Tony Stark, even without the Iron Man armor, or Hamlet?
A no-brainer, right?
VI.) A commercial hero takes matters in his own hands. A literary hero is swept up by events.
You snorgle in a genre novel. You deep-sea dive in a literary fiction.
VII.) Your prose can be both pretty and filled with action.
It is a danger however.
The beauty of your prose may have an agent knee-jerk shove you into the literary slot,
which in today's market happens to be the garbage shute.
Ouch. What do you think? Why do you write what you write?
So? Is this movie literary or commercial?
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