Marketing Your Book: Part 5 - Literary Fiction


Marketing your Book: What Genre are you Writing, Who is Reading it and What do they Expect? Part 5 - Literary Fiction

Figuring out how to categorize your own work can be a surprisingly difficult task, but it's essential to nail down your genre if you have any hope of reaching readers who want to read your book. In this five-part series, I break down the common genres and try to offer guidance on what to do with that manuscript that you don't know what to do with.

What is Literary Fiction?

Literary fiction is, by far, the hardest genre to pin down. In Part One, we talked about how Romance is different than most other genres because the story is not about the main plot. The typical plot in a Romance novel is the not central focus of the story the way it is in a Thriller or Mystery or Science Fiction-the plot is in the background, and the main focus of the story is the relationship arc of the two (or more) main characters. The plot of the book is used as a way to show the emotional relationship. Literary fiction is closely related to Romance in that the plot of the story isn't the main focus of the work, but instead of a relationship, the plot of the book is used as a way to show the prose. Beautiful and masterful writing is a perquisite of the Literary Fiction genre, but it also needs to go a little deeper than that to not be dismissed as fluff. Literary Fiction needs to take us on an emotional journey to tell us something about ourselves or the world around us.

Fans of Literary Fiction often see more popular genre fiction or commercial fiction as being lacking in artistry and depth, while fans of popular genre fiction often complain that Literary Fiction is 'boring' and that 'nothing happens.' Both are often true-it all depends on what the reader wants. The best of all genres will have beautiful writing, will ask intriguing questions, will have deep characters readers can identify with, and will contain interesting, engaging plots. Harper Lee's How to Kill a Mockingbird, George Orwell's Animal Farm, and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange are excellent example of Literary Fiction that does this. JK Rowling's Harry Potter, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover are examples of popular genre fiction that do the same thing.

Literary Fiction is a term that encompasses, along with others, both Women's Fiction and Chick Lit, although the differences are mostly perceptual. Both Women's Fiction and Chick Lit are almost always written by women and marketed towards women and the primary difference between the two sub-genres is, more often than not, the cover. Chick Lit will be marketed as a light and bubbly read with a lot of humor, while Women's Fiction will be seen as more serious and intellectual-but very often, the cover is the only tangible difference between the style, structure, and depth of the stories.

Who is Reading Literary Fiction?

The typical Literary Fiction reader is a lover of all books and is a reader with a great deal of reading experience who has come to appreciate the art of good prose. Literary Fiction readers tend to be well educated with at least a bachelor's degree. They usually dabble and explore all types of books, but keep coming back to Literary Fiction for the depth, prose, and mastery that so defines the genre.

What do Literary Fiction Readers Expect?

It's going to be important not to skimp on the editorial services if you're trying to break into Literary Fiction. Readers come to these books for expert writing, and typos and grammatical errors will be spotted. More to the point, mastery of writing is essential for works of Literary Fiction because there is no framework to work with-Literary Fiction doesn't really have any rules. This may seem freeing, but can be essentially the same for novice or less experienced writers as being thrown out into the middle of a lake on their first day of swimming lessons. Structure and framework and set expectations give a writer a chance to learn the craft-only then can they start to figure out how to freestyle without drowning.

Literary Fiction readers expect a meaningful read. They want to connect intimately with the characters and walk away from the work feeling like they've learned something on a deeper, emotional level. These readers want to delve into the nature and meaning of the human experience. They do not want their writers to shy away from hard subjects or to take the easy road out-they want to see and experience the inner musings of the characters as they tackle some of life's hardest and most rewarding moments.

How to Market to Literary Fiction Readers:

Literary Fiction has the smallest reader pool, but it also has the longest staying power. Marketing strategies which get flash best-sellers won't work well with Literary Fiction-you'll want to strategize for a slower burn.

Literary Fiction readers want to deeply connect with you characters, so writing to a niche market you know a lot about can be a very effective way to build a following. Focus on the reality behind the story-raising teenagers in a digital age, coping with divorce, deciding whether or not to have another child-whatever the theme or plot is around your novel. "The human fight against good and evil" is vague, but characters struggling with infidelity or a difficult legal system isn't, and is relatable to a lot of people. Is your protagonist from the LGBT community? Do they have a disability, or are they an immigrant? Is your story set in another country, or another time? People interested in these specific attributes will be more likely to buy your book if they know it contains those interesting elements. 

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