What is Mainstream Fiction? Upmarket Fiction?

Author:
Publish date:

Q: The more industry blogs I read, the more confused I get about which category my novel falls into. It seems to sit on middle ground between literary and commercial, which some agents have said they are looking for. One agent advised me to call it "literary commercial." I have also seen this described as "commercial literary" and "mainstream." I think my ms. may fall into the category referred to as "book club fiction," but my understanding is that it's bad form for authors to use that label on their own manuscripts. I guess my ms. could also be called women's fiction, in that it has a strong female protagonist, but it's not primarily about relationships.
- Margaret

A: I know how important it is to try and label your work right so I appreciate this question.
When literary meets commercial, the word mostly commonly used is "mainstream," and I think that is an acceptable term for you, Margaret. The word "upmarket" pretty much means the same thing, but that word, in particular, usually is used in conjunction with women's fiction. Normally, I would tell people to just say mainstream, but since your book is indeed about women, it could be called either. Both are acceptable. When you're looking at agent guidelines and they say they want women's or upmarket, call it upmarket. Otherwise, mainstream is a good category to use.


Want more on this subject?

  • How to Write a Query Letter.
  • What Should You Write in the "Bio Paragraph" of a Query Letter.
  • Why Your Manuscript Can Get Rejected, by Hallie Ephron.
  • Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
  • Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
  • Want the most complete database of agents and what genres they're looking for? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!
writing_mistakes_writers_make_relying_on_perfect_conditions_to_write_cassandra_lipp

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Relying on Perfect Conditions to Write

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is relying on perfect conditions to write.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Contest Deadline Announcement and a Flash Fiction Challenge

This week, we’re excited to announce the deadline for our Self-Published Book Awards, the guidelines for the upcoming Flash Fiction Challenge, and more!

for_the_travel_and_nature_writer_keeping_your_mimnd_sharp_and_your_words_insightful_caitlin_oconnell

For the Travel and Nature Writer: Keeping Your Mind Sharp and Words Insightful

Dr. Caitlin O'Connell shares some insight for travel and nature writers, including how travel helps keep your mind sharp and words insightful, whether you're writing fiction, nonfiction, sports, politics, or something else entirely.

Grushin_1:23

Olga Grushin: The No Man's Land Between Genres

Award-winning author Olga Grushin discusses what it meant to wade into a new genre and how she put her spin on the fairy tale retelling.

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.