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Definition of Upmarket fiction

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maestrowork

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To me "upmarket" means commercial but with huge literary leaning... not quite literary, very commercial, but appeal to readers who want more than popcorn entertainment.

The Kite Runner, for example.
 

maestrowork

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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.

Quite a spectrum here. I think McEwan, Frazier and Golden are more literary than upmarket/mainstream, as is Updike. Amy Tan is definitely upmarket, as is John Irving. I don't see Rowling as "upmarket" at all. She's a genre writer who becomes extremely popular.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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Quite a spectrum here. I think McEwan, Frazier and Golden are more literary than upmarket/mainstream, as is Updike. Amy Tan is definitely upmarket, as is John Irving. I don't see Rowling as "upmarket" at all. She's a genre writer who becomes extremely popular.

Well, as I say, I wouldn't use the word myself, but these are people who have been described as "upmarket" in various publications.

I think the "would a library-sponsored book club select this book?" test might be useful.
 

ORION

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The answer I got TODAY emailed from actual editors and agents was (and I am paraphrasing here for brevity)
it does usually refer to women's fiction, as a way of separating books that would be consider smart and ultimately destined for trade paperback, from more mass market fiction.
it's usually used to describe fiction by
and about women.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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interesting. So, by definition, Rowling would qualify as 'upmarket' because she is a woman, then?

Rowling, I think, is described as "upmarket" in the UK because she uses long words. Although I appreciate what ORION is saying and think it's valid to some extent in the US, a lot of the UK sources describe male writers as well as female writers as "upmarket".


In my Googling, I came across a discussion of "upmarket historical fiction" on a librarians' newsletter:

Historical fiction was everywhere, but nowhere: It had become the genre that dared not speak its name. This has changed to some degree in the early twenty-first century. It has finally become fashionable again to talk about the historical novel in public. Publishers are actively promoting their books as “upmarket historical fiction”—novels, in other words, that one wouldn't be embarrassed to be caught reading on the subway.

Maybe the time is right for "upmarket" Westerns? ;)
 

talps

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Place your bets... At what point will there be an "upmarket chick lit?"

I am going to end up throwing a dart at all possible genres when I get around to my next query season...
 

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interesting. So, by definition, Rowling would qualify as 'upmarket' because she is a woman, then?

I think it's got to do with the intended audience. So if Rowling was writing for women and her stuff was more literary than average, then yes, she'd be upmarket.
 

donroc

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omissions

Rowling, I think, is described as "upmarket" in the UK because she uses long words. Although I appreciate what ORION is saying and think it's valid to some extent in the US, a lot of the UK sources describe male writers as well as female writers as "upmarket".


In my Googling, I came across a discussion of "upmarket historical fiction" on a librarians' newsletter:

Historical fiction was everywhere, but nowhere: It had become the genre that dared not speak its name. This has changed to some degree in the early twenty-first century. It has finally become fashionable again to talk about the historical novel in public. Publishers are actively promoting their books as “upmarket historical fiction”—novels, in other words, that one wouldn't be embarrassed to be caught reading on the subway.

Maybe the time is right for "upmarket" Westerns? ;)

Interesting that the librarian omitted Sabatini, Costain, Shellabarger, and many others who wrote wonderful imnsho historicals and stimulated my love for historical reading and research.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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Interesting that the librarian omitted Sabatini, Costain, Shellabarger, and many others who wrote wonderful imnsho historicals and stimulated my love for historical reading and research.

Well, she skipped from the 19th century to the 1950s, so that would cut Sabatini and Shellabarger right out, chronologically. My guess is that this is a segment of a longer piece that she edited down for this newsletter.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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Here's another definition of "upmarket fiction" by [US] mystery writer Nancy Martin:

The books my club members democratically selected are nearly all on the trade bestseller lists right now. Some are Oprah books. All are what we, in the biz, now call "upmarket books"---current and mostly contemporary novels that have literary aspirations, perhaps, with solid content to provide discussion materal. Plot isn't as important as the subject matter---say, of female bonding, the nature of friendship, the mother-daughter relationship or the moral questions involved in conceiving a second baby to provide organ donations for a first child, etc, etc. You'd recognize an upmarket book right away.--It's probably a trade size paperback with an artsy cover that you wouldn't be embarrassed to carry on the bus. No lurid pools of blood. No children's shoes abandoned on a stretch of lonesome highway. No heaving bosoms unless they're tasteful reproductions of lesser-known paintings. The books have price tags of $14 or more, so it probably takes a certain amount of disposable income to afford 10 or 12 book club selections that all give the reader the impression that her mind will be improved without too much pain and agony.
 

KTC

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To me "upmarket" means commercial but with huge literary leaning... not quite literary, very commercial, but appeal to readers who want more than popcorn entertainment.

The Kite Runner, for example.


SEE POST#4
 

KTC

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lol Orion. That's the way to do it. I would have emailed my editors too...but I don't happen to have any at the moment. Thanks for the 'real time' insights.

It's a woman's world, man. Us guys don't stand a chance in hell. )-=
 

talps

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So if I write a book with these "upmarket" traits and featuring a female MC, is it neither women's fiction or upmarket because I'm a guy?

It does interest me... and I beat my head against a wall daily trying to find the right genre for my work. I specifically went with the commercial tag the last time out because I was worried about being disregarded out of the gate for being a man writing "women's fiction." I aspire to stick to issues that resonate across both genders, and it just so happens that I'm far better at writing women characters than I am men. So I play to this alleged strength... but at the risk of sabotage?
 

IceCreamEmpress

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So if I write a book with these "upmarket" traits and featuring a female MC, is it neither women's fiction or upmarket because I'm a guy?

It's a novel. How they want to market it is up to you.

If it's a book you can imagine women reading in a book club, then send it to agents who say they're looking for "upmarket commercial fiction" or "upmarket women's fiction" or "women's fiction."

But you should describe it as a "novel", in my opinion. Don't give it a pigeonhole yourself.
 

ORION

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Least I be accused of high jacking this thread and deviating its purpose. Does anybody have anything else to add with respect to upmarket fiction? LOL
 
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