To follow up on my previous post, I wanted to comment further on the term “literary” as in a “literary novel.”
First, I want to say that I love smart, character-driven literary novels. They are what I gravitate to for my own leisure reading.
So please don’t get too angry with me when I share that labeling your book “literary” will, in the minds of many agents, brand your book as being dark, depressing, boring, overly intellectual, mid-list, unsalable, (insert your own adjective for not-money-making here), etc.
When our annual competitions winners (see below) called their novel manuscripts “literary” you could almost see the agents’ eyes roll up to the ceiling. As Peter Rubie put it: “When you call your novel “literary” you put yourself on a really difficult level—up against Annie Proulx, Philip Roth and the like.”
But what did get the agents revved-up were terms mentioned in my post below, for example “crossover novel” (catchword meaning: a character-driven novel that might actually sell to a mass audience), or book club novel (catchword meaning: somewhat intellectual, culturally relevant, might actually sell to a mass audience if it catches on with the book club set). Much of this is industry jargon, but it’s certainly worth knowing if you’re trying to pitch a novel.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this but please don’t shoot the messenger, I’ve got a busy schedule this month.