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Literary vs Commercial Fiction

Unpicking two vague genres 

Week two of Genre Month at Jericho Writers features one webinar on literary fiction and one on commercial women’s fiction. But what constitutes literary fiction? And at what point does it become commercial?  

WEBINAR: Writing Literary Fiction - US (Member exclusive) 

TODAY! A continuous question in the industry is ‘what counts as literary fiction’. Join author Lee Matalone and editor Amber Oliver as they discuss the genre, talk about how a work of literary fiction comes together, and give tips and tricks to aspiring authors. 



This week at Jericho Writers:

WEBINAR: Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction and Romance (Member exclusive) 

In her 25 year career, Josie LLoyd has published comedies, romances, historical dramas, erotica as well as contemporary fiction. In this session, she will share her tips on how to write successfully in different genres and about the similarities and differences she finds between them. 



BLOG: How many words are there in a novel? 

This article looks at common genres and the standard word counts for each, covering commercial romance and literary fiction too.  


GIVEAWAY: Win a free one-to-one this Valentine's Day 

Thanks to Clare Reynolds waiving her fee for an upcoming event, we’re giving away a free one-to-one with a literary agent! To enter, send no more than 200 words about what your current writing project is and what the one-to-one would mean to you to submissions@jerichowriters.com with the subject VALENTINE GIVEAWAY. Closing date 14th Feb. 

How to categorise a tricky book 

Some books fall into neat genre categories, like crime or romance. Others can fall back on age group, such as young adult or middle grade. Other books, however, almost refuse to be categorised. They might straddle crime and thriller; borrow from literary; fall between the cracks of romance and erotica.  

So, what do you do with books like this?  

One tip is to rely on previous books to do the hard work for you. If there’s an already-published book that you think vaguely looks like yours, head to their Amazon page, scroll down and see the categories they’ve been shelved in.  

Another way is to splice genres. Perhaps your novel is mystery noir? Perhaps it’s literary women’s fiction. Perhaps it’s even paranormal suspense thriller.  

If you’re looking for an agent, then the point of genre in your query letter is really to describe the type of book you’ve written. An agent might open an extract expecting a murder on the first page of a crime novel, or aliens landing in sci-fi. You don’t have to nail this on the head – just use it to describe what they should prepare for (so they don’t wonder why those aliens are landing in the middle of your historical romance and think something, somewhere, has gone wrong).  

If you’re self-publishing, then use Amazon’s weird categories to your advantage to get a bestseller flag in a niche genre. Choose ‘books about washing machines for young adults’ and bask in the glory of your number one spot.  

How do you choose your genre? Are you splicing a few to make your own? Sign up for free and share them in the Townhouse here.  

Sarah x 

Plus, don’t miss: 

New agent one-to-one slots have dropped! (Discount available for members) 

Book a fifteen-minute call with a top literary agent or book doctor. Available worldwide, these slots ALWAYS fill up fast. Be warned and get in there quick to secure yours! 

Manuscript Assessment (Discount available for members) 

Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 

New price points added to mentoring (Discount available for members) 

You can now buy time with our world-leading mentors in blocks of 10, 20 and 30 hours. If you’re writing or editing and would like one-to-one support and feedback from a prize-winning author or commissioning editor, do check this out.  

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Comments (1)
  • Type-ing ones work is the worst chore of all--at least for me. We work on the back side of the 'tapestry,' and who knows what it looks like from the front? I don't.

    I've had good reviews of both books I'm trying to market, even men liking what I consider 'women's fiction,' a ghastly category if you ask me, since I enjoy 'men's fiction'--which I've not seen as a category.

    A well-known author coach told me I write 'upmarket' fiction. What does that even mean, and how to assure some agent 'yes, this is a well-crafted, thoughtful work.'  The 'knock 'em dead' phrase that must hook some literary agent is so over-thought by authors like me that we never know how to write this. 

    I'm whining and twisting in the wind here. I've queried so many agents already, my fingers are worn down. Wish I knew the right trail to follow.

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