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kaitie
12-29-2009, 04:08 PM
So what exactly is meant by this? I'm starting to query soon, and basically my list consists only of people who represent suspense/thriller. The thing is, I also see an awful lot of people who say they just represent "commercial fiction." I'm not sure what that means. Does it essentially mean any type of fiction, or is it for everything that isn't mystery, suspense, horror, etc.? It would definitely open up some more doors (one would hope I can get someone in the list I already have, though), but I don't want to query them if seeing, "suspense" novel in the query would make them think I was a nitwit. Opinions?

scarletpeaches
12-29-2009, 04:10 PM
It applies to any genre, I reckon. It just means it has potential for high sales.

Hopefully all fiction is commercial, right?

kaitie
12-29-2009, 04:14 PM
Unless it's literary haha. ;) You're fast! See, I'd like to think that mine has the potential for high sales. How on earth do you decide something like that?

Nakhlasmoke
12-29-2009, 04:15 PM
yeah, basically work with a high chance of appealing to the broadest spectrum of readers.

and since we all know that books that no one thought would be as massive as they are hit a large market (twilight, HP as examples) it's ultimately meaningless.

scarletpeaches
12-29-2009, 04:36 PM
Unless it's literary haha. ;) You're fast! See, I'd like to think that mine has the potential for high sales. How on earth do you decide something like that?Literary is a genre just like any other.

"Commercial" just means that it sells.

Literary fiction sells. That's why it's been named and genrefied and has its own section in many bookshops.

kaitie
12-29-2009, 04:52 PM
I just mentioned it because it seems that the theme is these agents saying that they accept "Literary and commercial fiction." Which sounds to me like it would envelop almost anything, doesn't it?

scarletpeaches
12-29-2009, 04:55 PM
It probably does. To me it sounds like they're saying they do accept everything, so it's safe to send whatever you have.

kaitie
12-29-2009, 05:30 PM
Alrighty, sounds good. I'm gonna add to my list then. I was kind of frustrated because there were five or six agents I'd seen who I thought might be a good match, but who didn't specify, so I wanted to be certain. So is it still okay to call it suspense for these guys? Or should I say "commercial suspense" or something?

Mr Flibble
12-29-2009, 05:33 PM
Oh, oh I know! I read it er...will look that up. Will edit when I've found it.

It's the difference between plot-driven ( commercial) and character driven ( literary) Although that's a rather basic way of saying it, and it's not what I think of as literary but...

So basically commercial a faster paced book which centres on the plot rather than a slower paced that centres on the growth of the character. It's not a genre ( afaia)so whether you'd put it in the query I don't know

ETA: Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell


The difference between literary and commercial is a matter of feel and emphasis. A literary plot is more leisurely in pace, usually more about the inner life of the character. A commercial plot is mostly about action, things happening to the characters from outside

He even has diagrams :D However like he says there can be both literary and commercial elements in many books ( He cites Stephen King as an example. Commercial plot but with added depth of characterisation than is usual in horror) and that 'literary' - in this sense at least - has more room for ambiguity, especially in the endings

He also notes this rather arbitrary as most books are character driven but also have plot, but as he says it's the emphasis that is the key.

kaitie
12-29-2009, 06:07 PM
Wow, great answer! That's kind of confusing. I would never consider myself literary at all, but I'd definitely call it character driven as well. While there is a plot, the thing that makes the story interesting is the character (IMO). On the other hand, it's paced really fast and very minimalistic in terms of style. I'd never have even thought to think of it as literary just because of the character, though. And I can't possibly imagine anyone looking at it and calling it that, either. I guess in my mind literary is reserved more for the nice, pretty, poetic and like...well-written stuff. Not that my writing is bad, it's just not something I'd call literary either. I'll stick to the pacing. It's definitely paced fast enough for commercial, I'd guess.

Cathy C
12-29-2009, 06:12 PM
I think the definition varies by agent. A LOT! But what I've heard from a few agents I know is that yes, all fiction that isn't literary or historical is commercial.

However, some agents draw a distinction between what appears on the "General Fiction" shelves in the bookstore versus "genre" fiction that's on the labeled stacks. So, SF/F or Romance might not be considered "commercial fiction" to some agents, but it would to others. I think thriller/suspense would qualify in either case because it's often on the general fiction shelves, rather than on the mystery shelves in smaller stores. Larger stores have shelving identification for nearly everything, so it hardly matters.

But I'd imagine thriller/suspense would qualify as commercial no matter what definition the agent (or editor) uses. :)

kaitie
12-29-2009, 06:18 PM
Thanks, Cathy. That helps a lot. :)

Judg
12-29-2009, 07:53 PM
When in doubt, query. The worst they can do is say no. Commercial fiction is such a vague term with varying definitions, it's not much help. I don't query agents who specifically say they don't want my genre, but everybody else is fair game.

Jamesaritchie
12-29-2009, 08:15 PM
For my agent, "commercial fiction" means anything you might find on the NYT bestseller list.

willietheshakes
12-29-2009, 08:53 PM
For my agent, "commercial fiction" means anything you might find on the NYT bestseller list.

Ah, so Clive Cussler and James Patterson AND Toni Morrison and Ohran Pamuk. That's helpful. :)

Libbie
12-29-2009, 09:04 PM
I think "commercial fiction" is going to be one of those things that different folks classify differently. I can tell you what we call it at the book store: "Commercial" is the stuff that flies off the shelves and we can't keep in stock. Charlaine Harris (who we shelve in horror), Stieg Larssen (thriller/mystery), Anna Sebold (literary/fiction), Jim Butcher (sci-fi), Diana Gabaldon (romance.) So from a bookseller's POV, commercial = high sales even though it's also classed by "genre." Go figure.

When I personally hear "commercial fiction," I think shorter length; more accessible narrative voice than, say, Vladimir Nabokov or Charles Bukowski; lighter themes (vampires or boyfriends rather than the state of the human condition during the French revolution).

Rather than targeting agents who represent "commercial fiction," target agents who represent books that are similar to your own in voice, theme, or plot.

kaitie
12-29-2009, 10:21 PM
For my agent, "commercial fiction" means anything you might find on the NYT bestseller list.

This also means that if I class it as commercial it's a guaranteed bestseller, right? ;)

kaitie
12-29-2009, 10:23 PM
I think "commercial fiction" is going to be one of those things that different folks classify differently. I can tell you what we call it at the book store: "Commercial" is the stuff that flies off the shelves and we can't keep in stock. Charlaine Harris (who we shelve in horror), Stieg Larssen (thriller/mystery), Anna Sebold (literary/fiction), Jim Butcher (sci-fi), Diana Gabaldon (romance.) So from a bookseller's POV, commercial = high sales even though it's also classed by "genre." Go figure.

When I personally hear "commercial fiction," I think shorter length; more accessible narrative voice than, say, Vladimir Nabokov or Charles Bukowski; lighter themes (vampires or boyfriends rather than the state of the human condition during the French revolution).

Rather than targeting agents who represent "commercial fiction," target agents who represent books that are similar to your own in voice, theme, or plot.

So what you're saying is that my historical fantasy about my vampire boyfriend trying to take the crown in 1700s France is probably gonna be a hard sell...

Namatu
12-29-2009, 10:29 PM
So what you're saying is that my historical fantasy about my vampire boyfriend trying to take the crown in 1700s France is probably gonna be a hard sell...That sounds like historical urban fantasy, or whatever they officially call it. ;) Now what have I read that's in that genre? I'll be back! ...

I tried the first in this series (http://www.amazon.com/Rest-Falls-Away-Gardella-Chronicles/dp/0451220072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262111623&sr=1-1) by Colleen Gleason, which PW calls a "paranormal historical series." Also check out Gail Carriger (http://www.amazon.com/Soulless-Parasol-Protectorate-Gail-Carriger/dp/0316056634/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262111820&sr=1-1).

kaitie
12-29-2009, 10:44 PM
I'd like to send out a work to an agent as a "literary commercial paranormal historical urban fantasy." How much fun would that be lol? Of course, I've just got an odd sense of humor. An agent would probably just scratch his head and say "noob" and hit the delete button. But I'd be amused. ;)

Namatu
12-29-2009, 10:56 PM
To really make that work, you've got to make a catchy acronym out of it. :D

kaitie
12-29-2009, 11:11 PM
Lit-com hiparfan!

Just not quite working, is it lol?

Namatu
12-29-2009, 11:37 PM
I don't know. It made me laugh! LitCom PHUF!

kaitie
12-30-2009, 06:33 AM
LOL I like PHUF! I read it like "puff" in my head, but with a slightly "h" sound in there and it amused the crap out of me. :D