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aruna
08-08-2014, 05:29 PM
OK, the subject heading is just a little bit over the top. But it's beginning to annoy me. Every now and then I try to sign up for something, and I'm asked for the genre of my my book, and there's a whole list I can chose from, but the one thing my books are, ie Mainstream Fiction, is not there. It's happened time and time again, but as an example I'll link to this site I was interested in today:

http://bookbloggerlist.com/submit-listing/

It's a book blogger site and authors are invited to sign up. There are 20 (!) genres or categories listed, but not one of them is just, you know, just plain ordinary Mainstream/General Fiction. There's not one category there I feel comfortable with. I suppose if pushed I'd have to go for Literary/Poetry, but there are so many prejudices and negative associations with literary I just don't want to go there (boring, academic, pretentious, all about Theme, all about characters talking to each other, Stream of Consciousness, all about Teh Writing...)

It's just an ordinary story that is not Romance and not Horror and not Mystery and not Literary, written in plain but correct English without any fancy deliberations as to Style.

Anybody else encounter this problem? Anybody else frustrated? It's as if you have to EITHER fit your book into one of the established genres, OR you have to write "pretentious, boring" Literary.
Not that I believe that Literary is necessarily pretentious or boring; but it sometimes is, and all too often I find people describing it as such.

I write books with, I hope, strong stories and, I hope, interesting characters and, I hope, have thought-provoking themes woven into the story, and they are set in various countries at various times, sometimes over decades, and are thus neither Historical nor Contemporary.

Bookshops -- at least in the UK -- DO have a General Fiction section. It just seems to disappear when we go online, starting with Amazon. Thank goodness, AW does have such a section!
I'd like to hear your thoughts!

Jamesaritchie
08-08-2014, 07:29 PM
Mainstream fiction? From my experience, just about all mainstream fiction starts off as pure genre fiction. It then crosses over into mainstream because readers from many genres love it.

Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and just about every other bestselling writer is considered pure mainstream. Literary writers who sell well enough are also mainstream.

For publishers, "mainstream" is just another way of saying a writer is selling well enough that we'll remove the genre category from his or her books. When's the last time you saw the word "horror" on one of King's novels?

But most writers have to earn their way onto the mainstream list by first selling well enough in a genre.

Mainstream is still the largest selling category out there, but this doesn't mean a writer can intentionally write a "mainstream" novel.

aruna
08-08-2014, 08:30 PM
So, James, you have to be a megaseller to be considered mainstream? What about the type of book I just described above? ...a story that is not Romance and not Horror and not Mystery and not Literary and not any of the other genres, written in plain but correct English without any fancy deliberations as to Style.

So that means it all boils down to definition. You seem to think that Mainstream means any novel that sells well.

Mainstream has nothing to do with sales. An unpublished author is perfectly correct, say, in describing a book as mainstream when pitching to an agent or publisher. It's not something you intentionally set out to do because you think it's cool or hot or special; it's just the kind of story some people write, just as others are drawn to SF or Western. I would think most of the stuff we label "women's fiction" is mainstream, even if if hasn't made the bestselling lists. It's as much a category as anything else.


I found this definition online which for me captures it:


Mainstream fiction consists of stories that can’t be slotted into a particular genre. It can cover any topic, in any time period, be any length, etc. Like genre fiction, mainstream fiction tends to focus on story, though usually with greater depth of characterization. The primary goal of mainstream fiction is entertaining the reader; secondarily the writer might touch on some philosophical issues. Stories are usually told in a straightforward, linear manner, and meet reader expectations in much the same way as genre fiction does: endings are happy (or at least satisfying), problems are resolved, no loose ends are left dangling. The reader does not have to struggle to “get” the story.

Mainstream fiction is harder to market than genre fiction, because there’s no built-in audience. It’s generally sold on author name recognition, with new authors marketed on their similarities to established authors. That said, mainstream fiction is still seen as highly marketable by publishers. Books in this category are expected to sell well because of their potential to attract a diverse audience. The majority of books found in the general fiction section of bookstores are mainstream novels.

http://www.toasted-cheese.com/jj/fiction/

aruna
08-08-2014, 08:48 PM
Another definition: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/21/literary-novels-_n_3790198.html)


Mainstream: Sometimes referred to as literary light and general fiction, mainstream fiction blends genre fiction with techniques often unique to literary fiction. The language of the novel will at times delve into prose of a more literary vein (full of insight) while the rest of the writing will be more driven by the story. The premise of the story has to instantly hook the reader, but the narrative arc will be equal parts plot-driven and character-driven. Perspective is important, but the story takes precedence.

As with any good story, conflict will arise, but it will be presented in a way that’s more apparent and less nuanced than it would be in strict literary fiction. This distinction makes most mainstream fiction easier to read and accessible to a wider range of readers. Keep in mind that mainstream novels for new writers generally fall between 70,000 and 100,000 words.

chompers
08-08-2014, 11:45 PM
I agree, aruna. It's stories that can't be defined under one genre (or even sub-genre). Therefore it should technically appeal to overall readers (ie. mainstream public). For the bestsellers who have an obvious genre, they're also given the distinction of mainstream because they have crossed over into mainstream culture and are being read by overall readers. THis is my understanding.

aruna
08-08-2014, 11:55 PM
Mine too! ;)

JustSarah
08-09-2014, 12:09 AM
I look at the link, just to see what it is.

Mainstream has always confused me. When I purchased books at Barnes And Noble it was always referred to as General Fiction.

I've been frustrated over genre for a while. Whenever I assign one, my story always flows in the opposite direction. Like: A who dun it becomes a how catch em. A horror becomes a psychological thriller. A romance becomes a romantic, becomes I tend to often use downer endings.

So yes, I feel your pain.

Hapax Legomenon
08-09-2014, 01:59 AM
I thought this was contemporary fiction -- and when it's not contemporary, it's historical.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-09-2014, 03:26 AM
The term I'm most familiar with in the US is "general fiction". "Mainstream" in the most common sense does refer to anything widely known by the public. There is a less common sense as Aruna describes. I rarely hear the term "contemporary" outside of YA or Romance as a genre label. It's occasionally used as a standard adjective. But again, Aruna is not incorrect in her word usage, and I think the definitions she gaves adequately clarify for anyone who is confused.


I think it's a bit weird they don't have a general fiction category on that site. But I don't know that we've reached the death of general fiction.

JustSarah
08-09-2014, 04:08 AM
So what is General Fiction, does it have to be contemporary? I mean I've seen Orwell's dystopia listed as general fiction.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-09-2014, 07:10 AM
So what is General Fiction, does it have to be contemporary? I mean I've seen Orwell's dystopia listed as general fiction.


It's not really, but it gets put there because it's a classic.


It generally is contemporary fiction at the time it was written, or else it falls into some genre.

benbradley
08-09-2014, 07:34 AM
Is Mainstream different from Popular Fiction?

aruna
08-09-2014, 08:35 AM
I thought this was contemporary fiction -- and when it's not contemporary, it's historical.

Historical fiction to me is far more specific than simply "set in the past". It has to show me how society/politics were then; it offers me insight into the events of the time, as lived out by the characters. The background, the era, is as important as the characters.

And some books just aren't either/or. The book I'm currently revising has three time frames: the thirties, the sixties, and the noughties, equally divided. So would you say it is historical or contemporary?

Also, the thirties and sixties threads are not at all about historical events, but about the personal stories of the protags, so even if the book was ONLY set in those eras, it wouldn't be "historical" imo.

Latina Bunny
08-09-2014, 08:50 PM
I don't think it's dead. Maybe just re-named? think it's sometimes called General Fiction, or just Fiction? At least, that's how the bookstores label anything that doesn't fit into any of the following: Nonfiction, SFF, Romance, Christian, YA, or Children.


Historical fiction to me is far more specific than simply "set in the past". It has to show me how society/politics were then; it offers me insight into the events of the time, as lived out by the characters. The background, the era, is as important as the characters.

And some books just aren't either/or. The book I'm currently revising has three time frames: the thirties, the sixties, and the noughties, equally divided. So would you say it is historical or contemporary?

Also, the thirties and sixties threads are not at all about historical events, but about the personal stories of the protags, so even if the book was ONLY set in those eras, it wouldn't be "historical" imo.

Historical, I would think, but I could be mistaken.

I remember that there was an old AW thread wondering if any story set in the eighties/nineties were considered Historical, but I can't remember what people agreed upon.

Still, either way, I would hope research was done, anyway. Otherwise, why bother setting it in any of those eras?

If you aren't researching those eras for the story, or the story can be put into the current era with no problem, then you might as well call it Contemporary. Doesn't matter if it's just a slice of someone's life, you would have to still do research. Slang, social cues, technology, clothing, etc, do change over time.

Scribhneoir
08-10-2014, 12:11 AM
Also, the thirties and sixties threads are not at all about historical events, but about the personal stories of the protags, so even if the book was ONLY set in those eras, it wouldn't be "historical" imo.

I agree. "Historical" is more to me than just setting. If a book is simply set in an earlier era, I consider it a "period piece." I don't know if that counts as an official category, though.

Latina Bunny
08-10-2014, 12:36 AM
I finally got a chance to look at that link, Aruna, and you're right about that particular link in the OP. It doesn't seem to have General Fiction, nor does it have Women's Fiction, either. Hmm... Maybe the site expects you to put it into Literary & Poetry section?

Liosse de Velishaf
08-10-2014, 03:30 AM
I agree. "Historical" is more to me than just setting. If a book is simply set in an earlier era, I consider it a "period piece." I don't know if that counts as an official category, though.


I think most readers and publishers usually call both of those historical fiction.

Unless you mean like someone wrote a contemp book in the 1800s, in which case I would agree that that's not the same as historical fiction.

JustSarah
08-10-2014, 03:49 AM
I think most readers and publishers usually call both of those historical fiction.

Unless you mean like someone wrote a contemp book in the 1800s, in which case I would agree that that's not the same as historical fiction.

Sorry to bud in, but wouldn't that be like writing a contemporary now, and someone finding it in 2179? Contemporary from the time that it was written, even though it may be an earlier time.

Roxxsmom
08-10-2014, 03:56 AM
They still had a general fict/lit section at B and N last time I was there, and it was the largest section. Seems odd they wouldn't include this as an option on writing sites or for surveys.

So how would they classify writers like Pat Conroy, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan etc.?

Liosse de Velishaf
08-10-2014, 05:16 AM
Sorry to butt in, but wouldn't that be like writing a contemporary now, and someone finding it in 2179? Contemporary from the time that it was written, even though it may be an earlier time.


Yes, that is what I'm saying. I wouldn't call that Historical Fiction.

Xelebes
08-11-2014, 07:28 PM
I thought this was contemporary fiction -- and when it's not contemporary, it's historical.

In Canada, there is also Local Interest.

Once!
08-11-2014, 07:58 PM
@aruna - having looked at your list, I see what you mean! I wouldn't know how to complete that form accurately.

I suspect it's more a case of a badly designed form.

WhitePawn
08-11-2014, 09:09 PM
I've seen agent listings that include "commercial fiction" on their genre interests. Is this perhaps the new word for mainstream fiction?

aruna
08-11-2014, 09:22 PM
Yes, that's a possibility... but it's not as if Genre fiction isn't commercial! Now Literary, that I get as non-commercial.
It's confusing.

JustSarah
08-11-2014, 09:32 PM
So with non-commercial, does this mean a different intent on the authors part? Or just books that don't sell?

The scenario I'm thinking of, is where they write with the intent of art. But it becomes its own entity, and becomes mainstream.

Is it mainstream something one becomes, or is written as?

aruna
08-11-2014, 09:43 PM
Well, I don't sit down and plan to write a mainstream book -- it just happens that what write doesn't slot in neatly anywhere; the nearest it comes to genre is women's fiction, but a lot of people sneer at that description, just as people sneer at literary fiction. Oh, for a category that is nice and neutral and doesn't set people off arguing about whether it (the category) is sexist or pretentious or whatever!

jaksen
08-14-2014, 02:32 AM
I'd still call it literary, sneers and all.

I'm kind of a boring regular person and I read literary fiction all the time.

(Not that you're boring or your book is, just I don't think of the term 'literary' as being all that elitist or high-brow. Maybe once it was, but I just don't see it today. And I've been around and reading since the 1950's.)

Liosse de Velishaf
08-14-2014, 03:10 AM
A friend of mine volunteers at a large used book fair in Missouri, and he tells me they have a general fiction section and so do all the bookstores in his area. I don't think it's dead or even dying.

Roxxsmom
08-14-2014, 05:40 AM
Probably just a badly designed form, a case of the person making it having a brain fart and leaving mainstream/contemporary/general off the list. I notice that form doesn't even have any contact information on it, which is annoying. No way to tell the person responsible for it that it's missing a large chunk of what people read.

Fuchsia Groan
08-14-2014, 06:03 AM
I can't remember where, but I read something recently that clarified the "general fiction" distinctions for me, at least as they work in US publishing. According to this source, there are three designations for general fiction: literary, commercial and mainstream. Commercial seems like the closest to what Aruna is describing, and is often associated with trade paperback sales. "Mainstream," according to this definition, is associated with the mass-market format.

But even if those distinctions are accurate for publishing (can anyone confirm or deny that?), readers wouldn't be familiar with them.

Chris Bohjalian sells as "literary," and so do Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. I don't think readers automatically associate a term that encompasses such a vast range with "pretentious," but I could be wrong.

C.bronco
08-14-2014, 06:18 AM
Frankly, I belive Jane Austen eliminated the taboo about cross-genre in Literary Fiction when she wrote Pride and Predjudice with Zombies. You are a literary woman, and don't be afraid of labels! Besides, your publisher will give you revenue inducing labels, and it is best to go along with whatever they decide. Whatever the classification, it does not diminish what you wrote.

Roxxsmom
08-14-2014, 09:15 AM
I can't remember where, but I read something recently that clarified the "general fiction" distinctions for me, at least as they work in US publishing. According to this source, there are three designations for general fiction: literary, commercial and mainstream. Commercial seems like the closest to what Aruna is describing, and is often associated with trade paperback sales. "Mainstream," according to this definition, is associated with the mass-market format.

But even if those distinctions are accurate for publishing (can anyone confirm or deny that?), readers wouldn't be familiar with them.

Chris Bohjalian sells as "literary," and so do Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. I don't think readers automatically associate a term that encompasses such a vast range with "pretentious," but I could be wrong.

Makes sense, but even so, general, mainstream and commercial were not available categories on that reader poll. Seems like a big omission to me. Probably a facepalm on the part of the person who created it.

aruna
08-14-2014, 07:23 PM
I'd still call it literary, sneers and all.

I'm kind of a boring regular person and I read literary fiction all the time.

(Not that you're boring or your book is, just I don't think of the term 'literary' as being all that elitist or high-brow. Maybe once it was, but I just don't see it today. And I've been around and reading since the 1950's.)
:)


A friend of mine volunteers at a large used book fair in Missouri, and he tells me they have a general fiction section and so do all the bookstores in his area. I don't think it's dead or even dying.
True; this doesn't happen in bookshops. I've only seen it online.


Frankly, I belive Jane Austen eliminated the taboo about cross-genre in Literary Fiction when she wrote Pride and Predjudice with Zombies. You are a literary woman, and don't be afraid of labels! Besides, your publisher will give you revenue inducing labels, and it is best to go along with whatever they decide. Whatever the classification, it does not diminish what you wrote.
I agree. I just wish... well, never mind! I'll stand tall! I plan to write, as you suggest, Awesome Fiction! Maybe that will the new Literary! :)


Probably just a badly designed form, a case of the person making it having a brain fart and leaving mainstream/contemporary/general off the list. I notice that form doesn't even have any contact information on it, which is annoying. No way to tell the person responsible for it that it's missing a large chunk of what people read.

But it's not the first time I've seen it online and won't be the last -- unfortunately!

aruna
08-14-2014, 07:26 PM
But even if those distinctions are accurate for publishing (can anyone confirm or deny that?), readers wouldn't be familiar with them.

Chris Bohjalian sells as "literary," and so do Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. I don't think readers automatically associate a term that encompasses such a vast range with "pretentious," but I could be wrong.

I actually think that "literary" has lightened up. I read one definition of literary that said you need an MFA to be a literary writer; that it's all about mind-boggling style and subtle themes. I think that kind of writing is now way out of date, and that's what inspires people to call it boring.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-15-2014, 01:21 AM
:)
True; this doesn't happen in bookshops. I've only seen it online.



Well, I could see that. Mainstream fiction doesn't have as much presence online in my experience, unless it's famous best-sellers.