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Thread: Definition of Upmarket fiction

  1. #1
    In debt to AW Raphee's Avatar
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    Definition of Upmarket fiction

    The subject says it all. I have been hearing this word of recent and have no idea what it means.
    It doesn't even exist as a genre on Agentquery etc.

    So do I say my novel is Upmarket Literary. Or do I say it is Upmarket. Can you help define this.
    Also what is the trend with using this word anyway.

  2. #2
    Sailed away years ago ORION's Avatar
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    My agent uses it as in upmarket women's fiction like Jodi picoult, Sue Monk Kidd,Anita Shreve, Anna Quindlan i.e.
    It refers to a more commercial/ broad appeal women's fiction with literary echos, and not strictly genre romance. That is how she uses it when we talk. Others may chime in.
    I have only heard it referred to with respect to women's fiction I've never heard it used with anything else.

    NOW don't you guys jump all over me- I'm not stating my beliefs I am just repeating what my agent has discussed with me...
    Patricia Wood
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    Patricia Wood's debut novel LOTTERY is available for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders and your local independent book store.
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  3. #3
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    I think "upmarket" in this context means "written by people with college degrees for people with college degrees, but not self-consciously 'literary'--in-between commercial and literary fiction." Tom Wolfe, for instance, or Michael Chabon, or the folks ORION mentioned.

    I also think it would be an odd word to use of your own writing.

  4. #4
    I Pride with my Grandson! KTC's Avatar
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    I'd say it crosses both the literary and commercial lines. Meaning it will do well in both.
    "Iím putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Andersonís, TWISTED, and John Greenís, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!" ~ From a review of BURN BABY BURN BABY.


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  5. #5
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KTC View Post
    I'd say it crosses both the literary and commercial lines. Meaning it will do well in both.
    In other words, Oprah's Book Club potential?
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  6. #6
    I Pride with my Grandson! KTC's Avatar
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    Maybe she chooses up market on purpose? I'm just saying. (The best way to remain successful is to choose successfully.)
    "Iím putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Andersonís, TWISTED, and John Greenís, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!" ~ From a review of BURN BABY BURN BABY.


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    practical experience, FTW funidream's Avatar
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    In my discussions with agent and editor, the term upmarket seems to have less to do with who wrote it, and much more to do with who they think will buy it. And like Orion, I've only heard the term used in conjunction with women's fiction.
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  8. #8

    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    I think "upmarket" in this context means "written by people with college degrees for people with college degrees, but not self-consciously 'literary'--in-between commercial and literary fiction." Tom Wolfe, for instance, or Michael Chabon, or the folks ORION mentioned.
    You can't read these authors without a college degree?

    Wow - we're talking about a whole new genre all by itself, then.

    They may have to start keeping these authors behind the counter, so joe-average-reader can't buy them on the sly.

    Going to have to get the laminator out for my Phd papers - and carry a much larger purse so it will all fit - I can see that.

    Sass

  9. #9
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassafras View Post
    You can't read these authors without a college degree?
    Yep, that's exactly what I meant!

    Here's what Miss Snark has to say about "upmarket".

    This agency says they're "aggressively seeking upmarket adult fiction that's appropriate for book club discussion"--the whole "book club" factor might be a big part of this.

  10. #10
    I Pride with my Grandson! KTC's Avatar
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    Well...I'm Chabons biggest fan and I stand before you today without a college degree. That's hogwash. As I said, I believe upmarket is a balance between commercial and literary...a buy-factor across the board. Books that cater to both world. The dumb people like me and the college people.
    "Iím putting this book right up there alongside Laurie Halse Andersonís, TWISTED, and John Greenís, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. Not to be missed. Highly recommended!" ~ From a review of BURN BABY BURN BABY.


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  11. #11
    Deleted.
    Last edited by sassafras; 01-25-2008 at 12:33 AM.

  12. #12
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassafras View Post
    (Why would ANY novelist limit themselves in such a way, as to write a novel ONLY for a limited group?)
    Niche marketing.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator SuperModerator Stew21's Avatar
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    I truly believe it fills the gap between literary and commercial fiction.
    Literary-appeal and Commercial-appeal/sales combined.
    that is all.

  14. #14
    I agree with Stew21. "Upmarket" and "mainstream" mean the same thing to me. JMO.
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  15. #15
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    More Googling reveals the following authors described as "upmarket" in newspapers/magazines/online sources: Ian McEwan; Patricia Cornwell; Charles Frazier; Zadie Smith; Umberto Eco; J.K. Rowling; Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha); Tracy Chevalier; Graham Swift; Martin Amis.

    Apparently, the author who is the antithesis of "upmarket" is Danielle Steele, because she's cited in at least three articles with the tag "{upmarket author} is no Danielle Steele".

    I should amplify that what I meant by the shorthand of "for college graduates" was really "using a vocabulary that would be associated with college-graduate reading levels on scales like the Lexile system." Obviously, not everyone with that vocabulary is a college graduate, and not every college graduate has that vocabulary.


    I also think it's a stupid term, and one I would avoid using myself. But the range of meanings that people assign to it seem, roughly, comprehensible to me.
    Last edited by IceCreamEmpress; 01-23-2008 at 10:23 PM.

  16. #16
    Sailed away years ago ORION's Avatar
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    Guys...the point is what do the AGENTS mean when they talk about upmarket...NOT what WE think it means.
    That's why I repeated what my agent said.
    There is almost an industry lexicon that is ever changing.
    On agentquery.com some agents say that they want "upmarket women's fiction"
    (as opposed to genre romance) Check out what they represent.
    This may be a great question for bookends, pubrants AND nathan to see how they all interpret upmarket...
    Patricia Wood
    http://pkwood.blogspot.com
    http://patriciawoodauthor.com

    Patricia Wood's debut novel LOTTERY is available for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders and your local independent book store.
    http://search.barnesandnoble.com//e/9780425222201

  17. #17
    It's all happening... talps's Avatar
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    I do love it when my already genre-puzzled brain gets jumbled by more terminology. Tough enough to select something that can most accurately describe a novel. Why not add a few more odd adjectives to the mix? (he says, tongue firmly planted in cheek)

    I had a rejection letter that was personalized with a comment that said she was very interested in the premise because she was in pursuit of "upmarket commercial women's fiction." Okay, cool, even though I'd tagged at as strictly commercial, I was on board with that.

    So now my question is... Based on comments in this thread thus far, am I correct to assume that the term "upmarket" should not be included in an author's query letter? That this adjective can only be applied by an agent after having read the work?

    It is a constant terror of mine, this trying to intellectually grasp that I'm not derailing a project based solely on a query letter's genre label.
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  18. #18
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by talps View Post
    So now my question is... Based on comments in this thread thus far, am I correct to assume that the term "upmarket" should not be included in an author's query letter? That this adjective can only be applied by an agent after having read the work?
    That's what I've gathered from this thread.
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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW Danger Jane's Avatar
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    It sounds like a tag the agent uses to market the novel, so yea, it doesn't seem that necessary for query letters. Since they're the ones doing the marketing and all. BUT I'm not represented, so...

  20. #20
    Sailed away years ago ORION's Avatar
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    I agree. In your query letter you could say
    "Dear Agent X,
    I understand you are interested in commercial upmarket women's fiction. I would like to show you my 234,000 word novel IN PURSUIT OF LOVE WITH A RIPPED BODICE..."
    Patricia Wood
    http://pkwood.blogspot.com
    http://patriciawoodauthor.com

    Patricia Wood's debut novel LOTTERY is available for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders and your local independent book store.
    http://search.barnesandnoble.com//e/9780425222201

  21. #21
    Sailed away years ago ORION's Avatar
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    you guys all know I was seriously kidding about the title don't you?
    Patricia Wood
    http://pkwood.blogspot.com
    http://patriciawoodauthor.com

    Patricia Wood's debut novel LOTTERY is available for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders and your local independent book store.
    http://search.barnesandnoble.com//e/9780425222201

  22. #22
    Sailed away years ago ORION's Avatar
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    and the word count...
    Patricia Wood
    http://pkwood.blogspot.com
    http://patriciawoodauthor.com

    Patricia Wood's debut novel LOTTERY is available for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders and your local independent book store.
    http://search.barnesandnoble.com//e/9780425222201

  23. #23
    Making my own sunshine AW Moderator heyjude's Avatar
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    Orion, You mean that's not gonna be your newest?

    I for one am disappointed.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by ORION View Post
    you guys all know I was seriously kidding about the title don't you?
    What's wrong with that title?

    yes I'm kidding


  25. #25
    It's all happening... talps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ORION View Post
    I agree. In your query letter you could say
    "Dear Agent X,
    I understand you are interested in commercial upmarket women's fiction. I would like to show you my 234,000 word novel IN PURSUIT OF LOVE WITH A RIPPED BODICE..."
    Hmmmm... someone's been hacking into my computer!

    FYI, it's down to 228,000 words. Too many scenes where the bodice was seductively removed. Ripping 'em off really cuts to the quick.

    *ahem*

    Anyway... Thanks to everyone who answered my question.
    Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.

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