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Chekurtab
02-02-2012, 12:12 AM
I'm sure somewhere in the depth of AWWC buried a discussion about commercial fiction, but I can't find one. I understand what commercial fiction is. I'm not sure how to classify it. Is it a genre, a category, or maybe an umbrella term? Please share your thoughts.

gothicangel
02-02-2012, 12:31 AM
I'm sure somewhere in the depth of AWWC buried a discussion about commercial fiction, but I can't find one. I understand what commercial fiction is. I'm not sure how to classify it. Is it a genre, a category, or maybe an umbrella term? Please share your thoughts.

To me, it's anything that isn't literary fiction [i.e any agent asking for 'commercial fiction' is fair game ;)]

Torgo
02-02-2012, 12:39 AM
I'm sure somewhere in the depth of AWWC buried a discussion about commercial fiction, but I can't find one. I understand what commercial fiction is. I'm not sure how to classify it. Is it a genre, a category, or maybe an umbrella term? Please share your thoughts.

If A is the set of best-sellers, and B is the set of high-profile literary prize-winners, then 'commercial fiction' = A - (A & B).

Chekurtab
02-02-2012, 02:29 AM
If A is the set of best-sellers, and B is the set of high-profile literary prize-winners, then 'commercial fiction' = A - (A & B).

A - (A&B) = - B. Is it opposite of literary prize-winners? Or is it what my favorite thinker of 21st century calls "fuzzy math"? LOL.

JimmyB27
02-02-2012, 02:30 AM
Commercial fiction = made up stuff that makes a shedload of money.

kuwisdelu
02-02-2012, 02:35 AM
A - (A&B) = - B. Is it opposite of literary prize-winners? Or is it what my favorite thinker of 21st century calls "fuzzy math"? LOL.

You need to study your set theory. Or just draw a Venn diagram.

In Torgo's definition, A - (A & B) is the set of bestselling authors who are not high-profile literary prize winners.

Deb Kinnard
02-02-2012, 02:46 AM
Commercial fiction is anything that a tiny subset of people (acquisitions editors and lit agents) think will sell well.

In the words of a buddy of mine, in a disillusioned moment: "Commercial fiction is anything you're not writing."

QuantumIguana
02-02-2012, 02:47 AM
I've heard the phrase used as a term of derision toward books that people actually bought...

Rolling Thunder
02-02-2012, 02:56 AM
I'm sure somewhere in the depth of AWWC buried a discussion about commercial fiction, but I can't find one. I understand what commercial fiction is. I'm not sure how to classify it. Is it a genre, a category, or maybe an umbrella term? Please share your thoughts.

This site may help.

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/genre-fiction.html

Chekurtab
02-02-2012, 03:33 AM
You need to study your set theory. Or just draw a Venn diagram.

In Torgo's definition, A - (A & B) is the set of bestselling authors who are not high-profile literary prize winners.

I see...Interesting.
I believe the consensus is that commercial is an umbrella for genre best sellers.
Is it Okay to submit your work as "commercial fiction" to an agent who seeks it, or you need to be more specific?

aadams73
02-02-2012, 03:40 AM
Is it Okay to submit your work as "commercial fiction" to an agent who seeks it, or you need to be more specific?

I did. :)

scarletpeaches
02-02-2012, 03:46 AM
Stuff what sells.

Lock thread.

dangerousbill
02-02-2012, 08:08 AM
Commercial fiction is what other people write. Literary fiction is what I write.

blacbird
02-02-2012, 09:13 AM
Fiction that sells and makes the author money.

caw

smellycat6464
02-02-2012, 09:43 AM
books that are fun to read
literary fiction are books that you are forced to read, or as mark twain put it, books that people own but never use!

haha that was a bit of a stereotype, I have a friend who thoroughly enjoys books like all quiet on the western front, or the sun also rises, but hates harry potter and hunger games with a passion

but if the purpose is to entertain, its commercial, if its supposed to teach something, then its literary, if it does neither, its one of those backwards books the scary people in my college read haha

kuwisdelu
02-02-2012, 09:46 AM
but if the purpose is to entertain, its commercial, if its supposed to teach something, then its literary

I hope you were still being sarcastic here, because that's just plain wrong.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2012, 04:22 PM
Echoing kuwi's post, and to add that this:
books that are fun to read
literary fiction are books that you are forced to read, or as mark twain put it, books that people own but never use!...is also plain wrong. I read literary novels all the time and love them.

Chekurtab
02-02-2012, 08:28 PM
I see we swerved off the topic. But smellycat was quoting Mark Twain. I don't remember the quote ad verbatim, so I paraphrase:
The literary classic is a novel that everyone want to have read, but nobody wants to read.

It's a good joke, and as all Twain's jokes it has a point.

Architectus
02-02-2012, 08:37 PM
Commercial fiction is designed to make money, to write for the masses, dumbed down most likely, just like Hollywood movies are dumbed down. However, readers are less lazy and more likely to want their minds expanded and are then willing to read an intelligent novel.

Still, what the masses want is Dean Koontz, fast thrillers, romance, etc.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2012, 08:41 PM
Thanks for that.

Yours,
An apparently dumbed-down romance author.

QuantumIguana
02-02-2012, 08:58 PM
Shame on the lowly peasants for reading books they actually enjoy. They should read books that are the equivalent of creamed spinach, that are not to enjoy, but are instead somehow "good for you".

firedrake
02-02-2012, 09:09 PM
Commercial fiction is designed to make money, to write for the masses, dumbed down most likely, just like Hollywood movies are dumbed down. However, readers are less lazy and more likely to want their minds expanded and are then willing to read an intelligent novel.

Still, what the masses want is Dean Koontz, fast thrillers, romance, etc.

Oh dear. Here we go again.
I seem to recall you slamming populist fiction in another thread a while back.
Literary snobbery gets sodding tiresome after a while.

Enjoy your worthy reads, I'll just keep writing my commercial trash.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2012, 09:10 PM
There's such a thing as literary romance, too.

There's a headfuck for you.

Chekurtab
02-02-2012, 09:18 PM
Let me go back to the original question. It it all right to claim you are writing commercial fiction? Or is it too ambitious? Too vague? Should you be more specific? More humble?

scarletpeaches
02-02-2012, 09:26 PM
If it were me, I'd probably specify genre. "Commercial" is something that comes into the mix later, when you get to the promotion/marketing stage. In my opinion, of course. It always seems to me like giving that label to a book before it's published and selling is a bit like tempting fate.

aadams73
02-02-2012, 09:41 PM
Let me go back to the original question. It it all right to claim you are writing commercial fiction? Or is it too ambitious? Too vague? Should you be more specific? More humble?

As I said above: I did. And it sold (extremely well) as commercial fiction.

But my novel doesn't fit neatly into one genre. It's got fingers in a few of them: spec fic, horror, thriller. And it's a love story (but definitely not a romance).

If your story fits neatly in one genre, run with that. But if it doesn't, there's no harm in calling it "commercial" if it's an honest assessment.

My general litmus test for commercial fiction is this: Can you realistically see your novel on the front tables at a bookstore? If the answer is yes, then it's commercial.

pyrosama
02-02-2012, 11:09 PM
Commercial fiction = making money

Literary fiction = making art

QuantumIguana
02-02-2012, 11:33 PM
If it were me, I'd probably specify genre. "Commercial" is something that comes into the mix later, when you get to the promotion/marketing stage. In my opinion, of course. It always seems to me like giving that label to a book before it's published and selling is a bit like tempting fate.

It's like "fine art". It looks like the term ought to mean "good art", but actually it doesn't. It just means as opposed to practical art or crafts. I remember a museum that had thermostats on display as art. They were designed with aesthetics in mind, but they were designed primarily to be functional. The ancient Greek urns that are in museums today were designed to be appealing, but they were primarily practical containers. The art that went into them was to persuade people to buy your urns instead of someone else's. I visited an art museum that had cars as art. My wife was able to appreciate the design of the car by thinking of it as a work of art that she wouldn't have had if she had to look at it for its practical purpose as a vehicle.

The thermostat, the urn and the car may make it into museums and be appreciated as art, but this doesn't make them fine art. Now, if I make a painting, it would be "fine art", because it wouldn't serve a practical purpose, it would be just for looking at. But no one would put it on display, because it wouldn't be any good.

Similarly, just because many people want to buy it doesn't mean it is not art. Just because few want to buy it does not mean it is good art. Many of the best books have been quite popular.

Torgo
02-02-2012, 11:53 PM
If it were me, I'd probably specify genre. "Commercial" is something that comes into the mix later, when you get to the promotion/marketing stage. In my opinion, of course. It always seems to me like giving that label to a book before it's published and selling is a bit like tempting fate.

We often do it in-house. A manuscript comes in and we say, cor, this looks really commercial. Though I think 'commercial' as a label for something unpublished is something better left to agents and publishers to apply - you need to have a lot of day to day book trade experience to be able to make that call.

Theo81
02-02-2012, 11:53 PM
It's like "fine art". It looks like the term ought to mean "good art", but actually it doesn't. It just means as opposed to practical art or crafts. I remember a museum that had thermostats on display as art. They were designed with aesthetics in mind, but they were designed primarily to be functional. The ancient Greek urns that are in museums today were designed to be appealing, but they were primarily practical containers. The art that went into them was to persuade people to buy your urns instead of someone else's. I visited an art museum that had cars as art. My wife was able to appreciate the design of the car by thinking of it as a work of art that she wouldn't have had if she had to look at it for its practical purpose as a vehicle.

You're confusing Art and Design. Different strokes for different folks. Design eats in fancy restaurants and buys named brands. He knows what animal his meat came from. Design is Commercial Fiction to Fine Art's Lit Fic.

The thermostat, the urn and the car may make it into museums and be appreciated as art, but this doesn't make them fine art. Now, if I make a painting, it would be "fine art", because it wouldn't serve a practical purpose, it would be just for looking at. But no one would put it on display, because it wouldn't be any good.

A painting serves a purpose. It is Art. Art is its purpose. Art is as hard to define as Lit Fic, but the best definition I've ever heard is that Art exists to be nothing other than Art.

Similarly, just because many people want to buy it doesn't mean it is not art. Just because few want to buy it does not mean it is good art. Many of the best books have been quite popular.

To answer the OP, yes, you can describe your MS as Commercial Fiction, but - as with any genre - it will only benefit you if it's accurate. If you aren't sure, it probably isn't.

Commercial fiction is, well, commercial. Maybe I'm cynical, but I'd describe it as something which lots of people would read but which few would remember or have a problem with. The kind of stuff which people who "don't read books" would read.

Architectus
02-03-2012, 01:31 AM
Oh dear. Here we go again.
I seem to recall you slamming populist fiction in another thread a while back.
Literary snobbery gets sodding tiresome after a while.

Enjoy your worthy reads, I'll just keep writing my commercial trash.

Interesting, Dean Koontz is my favorite author. I don't read literary crap. I prefer writers that write in a casual tone. To hell with all the fancy prose, yuck.

However, when it comes to story, I do like an intelligent one, which can be hard to find, but I mostly read commercial fiction. I never said I had anything against it.

JimmyB27
02-03-2012, 01:35 AM
There's such a thing as literary romance, too.

There's a headfuck for you.
Are the unusual positions what make it literary?

scarletpeaches
02-03-2012, 01:42 AM
Interesting, Dean Koontz is my favorite author. I don't read literary crap. I prefer writers that write in a casual tone. To hell with all the fancy prose, yuck.You really don't know when to stop, do you?

There are plenty of people on this site who write such 'crap'. Maybe if you did read it, you'd learn something.
However, when it comes to story, I do like an intelligent one, which can be hard to find, but I mostly read commercial fiction. I never said I had anything against it.O RLY.

Jake.C
02-03-2012, 01:57 AM
I thought 'commercial fiction' was a synonym for 'genre fiction'. Perhaps not?

Architectus
02-03-2012, 02:00 AM
You really don't know when to stop, do you?

There are plenty of people on this site who write such 'crap'. Maybe if you did read it, you'd learn something.O RLY.
I never said I haven't read literary fiction. I just don't like it. I read what I prefer, which is casual. Koontz doesn't write too casual, though, and he's my favorite, has been for years. I also love Octavia Butler.

If I call literary fiction crap, and in context it is about the prose, it is only my opinion. Nothing to get frustrated about. Some love it; some hate it. Some even call it art, as if to seperate it from great stories told in a casual tone, as if those casually told stories aren't art.

QuantumIguana
02-03-2012, 02:06 AM
No, I am not confusing art and design. Commercial art is still art, even if being artistic isn't the primary purpose. When that jug is sitting on a pedestal, it is being displayed as art. I don't think the museum is mistaken.

Phyllo
02-03-2012, 02:24 AM
From the AgentQuery website:

Commercial Fiction:

Commercial fiction uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal. Commercial fiction often has the “ouuuh” factor: summarize what happens in your novel is a single, succinct sentence, and you invariably get, “ouhhh, that sounds interesting!” Plot (the events) and story (the overall tale) are first and foremost; characters’ choices and actions create heightened drama that propels the reader forward with urgency.

Like literary fiction, the writing style in commercial fiction is elevated beyond generic mainstream fiction. But unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of enviable prose or internal character conflicts. Commercial fiction often incorporates other genre types under its umbrella such as women’s fiction, thriller, suspense, adventure, family saga, chick lit, etc. Commercial fiction is not the same as "mainstream" or "mass market" fiction, which are both umbrella terms that refer to genre fiction like science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and some thrillers.
(my emphasis)
For my two cents, that suggests a good page-turner as opposed to the book where you might linger to re-read sentences or ponder the character's development. But like all books, it would be well-written.

Jake.C
02-03-2012, 02:31 AM
What's this idea that, in literary fiction, story doesn't come first? Even as a generalisation that seems very bold.

Chekurtab
02-03-2012, 03:05 AM
It's interesting to see how many unrelated discussions are going on, and how many people - willingly or not - hijack the post with their agenda.

As commercial fiction goes, I think we have two camps. One camp think it's an action page turner. The other camp uses the term as umbrella for anything that sells. These are not mutually exclusive.

I think I'm starting to understand set theory.

Torgo
02-03-2012, 03:06 AM
It's interesting to see how many unrelated discussions are going on, and how many people - willingly or not - hijack the post with their agenda.

As commercial fiction goes, I think we have two camps. One camp think it's an action page turner. The other camp uses the term as umbrella for anything that sells. These are not mutually exclusive.

I think I'm starting to understand set theory.

There you go, you see. Maths is fun!

Chekurtab
02-03-2012, 03:14 AM
Thanks, Torgo.
Thank you all for participating. I appreciate your input.

ios
02-03-2012, 04:04 AM
To answer the OP, yes, you can describe your MS as Commercial Fiction, but - as with any genre - it will only benefit you if it's accurate. If you aren't sure, it probably isn't.

I've heard it used, whether accurately or not, as another name for a novel whose genre is called "mainstream fiction."

Jodi

kuwisdelu
02-03-2012, 05:41 AM
I never said I haven't read literary fiction. I just don't like it. I read what I prefer, which is casual. Koontz doesn't write too casual, though, and he's my favorite, has been for years. I also love Octavia Butler.

If I call literary fiction crap, and in context it is about the prose, it is only my opinion. Nothing to get frustrated about. Some love it; some hate it. Some even call it art, as if to seperate it from great stories told in a casual tone, as if those casually told stories aren't art.

If think a "fancy" vs "casual" style of prose is what separates literary from commercial/genre fiction, you have successfully demonstrated you have read very little literary fiction, if any.

kuwisdelu
02-03-2012, 05:43 AM
From the AgentQuery website:

Commercial Fiction:

...unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of enviable prose or internal character conflicts.
...
For my two cents, that suggests a good page-turner as opposed to the book where you might linger to re-read sentences or ponder the character's development. But like all books, it would be well-written.


What's this idea that, in literary fiction, story doesn't come first? Even as a generalisation that seems very bold.

Furthermore, it presupposes a difference between a strong narrative storyline and internal character conflicts. What if your narrative storyline and your internal character conflicts are one and the same?

blacbird
02-03-2012, 05:47 AM
If I call literary fiction crap, and in context it is about the prose, it is only my opinion. Nothing to get frustrated about. Some love it; some hate it. Some even call it art, as if to seperate it from great stories told in a casual tone, as if those casually told stories aren't art.

You are aware, aren't you, that a lot of writers who get called "literary" write very clear, simple, straightforward prose?

caw

Architectus
02-03-2012, 03:05 PM
If think a "fancy" vs "casual" style of prose is what separates literary from commercial/genre fiction, you have successfully demonstrated you have read very little literary fiction, if any.

I never said it did. I don't care for literary fiction, one reason being the prose mostly used. Some sci-fi I like is considered literary because it won a nebula. China Meiville does seem sort of literary, though, but I like his books. I could do without some of the overly written prose, though. I don't want anything resembling poetry in a novel's prose, personally.

Torgo
02-03-2012, 05:23 PM
I don't want anything resembling poetry in a novel's prose, personally.

How odd! Well, each to his own, I guess.

kuwisdelu
02-03-2012, 08:07 PM
I don't want anything resembling poetry in a novel's prose, personally.

I do. No one ever said you had to. But the point was:


You are aware, aren't you, that a lot of writers who get called "literary" write very clear, simple, straightforward prose?

Dismissing literary fiction for the reasons you stated simply shows that you have read and know very little of it.

Amadan
02-03-2012, 08:35 PM
I never said I haven't read literary fiction. I just don't like it. I read what I prefer, which is casual. Koontz doesn't write too casual, though, and he's my favorite, has been for years. I also love Octavia Butler.

Octavia Butler is usually considered a literary author. And a science fiction author. There isn't a lot of "literary sci-fi," but it does exist.



What's this idea that, in literary fiction, story doesn't come first? Even as a generalisation that seems very bold.

I think it's a generalization that is mostly true, but the problem is (as with the Octavia Butler example), the line between these categories is never absolute.

Most people, when talking about "literary fiction," are thinking of authors like Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth, where the prose and the underlying message is what gets your attention. McCarthy and Roth's books tell stories -- of course they do. But people don't read them because of their interesting stories.

I can think of a few literary authors who are strong on story, but not many.



I never said it did. I don't care for literary fiction, one reason being the prose mostly used. Some sci-fi I like is considered literary because it won a nebula. China Meiville does seem sort of literary, though, but I like his books. I could do without some of the overly written prose, though. I don't want anything resembling poetry in a novel's prose, personally.

1. A Nebula does not necessarily convey "literary" status.

2. WTF? Most literary prose does not resemble poetry.

backslashbaby
02-03-2012, 08:39 PM
Can commercial fiction ever be strange? I know strange things can be popular, so that's why I ask. Strange can also be artistic enough to not be very accessible. I mean the kind that you think most folks would enjoy even though it's bizarre.

Manuel Royal
02-03-2012, 10:19 PM
If A is the set of best-sellers, and B is the set of high-profile literary prize-winners, then 'commercial fiction' = A - (A & B).1) But aren't all the best-sellers, by definition, commercial?

2) Depends on whether the definition is based only on results. Maybe it should be based on intent. Although most writers -- well, the vast majority -- are happy if their books bring in a lot of money, that may or may not play a part in their process of composition.

3) Let's try to expand on that by adding another set, C, the set of "commercial fiction" -- and here we define "commercial" as "intended to appeal to either a broad, or a deep, audience (that is, a work that appeals to either (or both): a) a lot of readers with a variety of interests; b) almost all of the people who have a very specific interest)".

So now we've got three overlapping sets, and seven categories. Hope everybody's happy.

Anyway, whatever it is, there's nothing wrong with commercial fiction, as long as it's also good writing.

RobJ
02-03-2012, 10:37 PM
Most people, when talking about "literary fiction," are thinking of authors like Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth, where the prose and the underlying message is what gets your attention. McCarthy and Roth's books tell stories -- of course they do. But people don't read them because of their interesting stories.

I read Roth for the interesting stories.

Torgo
02-03-2012, 10:40 PM
1) But aren't all the best-sellers, by definition, commercial?

Hmm, Jonathan Franzen sells a lot of copies, but you wouldn't refer to his books as 'commercial fiction', I think.


2) Depends on whether the definition is based only on results. Maybe it should be based on intent. Although most writers -- well, the vast majority -- are happy if their books bring in a lot of money, that may or may not play a part in their process of composition.

I think there's some equivocation between what's intended to be commercial and what actually is commercial. I'd say something that is intended to be commercial but which doesn't enthuse the market isn't actually commercial.

Toothpaste
02-03-2012, 11:22 PM
Actually in my mind that's exactly what Franzen is. To me he is quintessential Commercial Fiction.

Amadan
02-03-2012, 11:51 PM
I read Roth for the interesting stories.


Okay. I find his stories to be derivative retreads of themes that have been written to death. (Admittedly, I haven't read a lot of him.) I can't imagine why anyone would want to keep reading him just for the plot.