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  • Hetal Avanee

what is Commercial fiction

So my query stats for Beautiful Nightmares are pretty well..abysmal. They're awful. With a two percent request rate. And the rejections are piling up and my confidence is plummeting.

But I finally received some feedback and wanted to share it in case it can help you.

I don't see many agents specifically ask for "Commercial Fiction" on wishlists, and I had definitely not heard of it before my rejections, but this didn't stop me from poking around the web until I found thoughts on the subject and how to execute it. What is it? Well, at it's core, it's the marketability of a book: is this story written for a wide audience, with a distinct plot, where characters actively pursue a goal or overcome a challenge? Then this is Commercial Fiction.

With Literary fiction the focus is more on internal conflict than external events. There's an actionable plot, sure, but it might be less obvious. And I don't tend to write in a straightforward manner. I create extensive backgrounds for my characters, letting the stories flow at a slower pace, with less emphasis on what happens and more on the character’s reaction to what happens.

Maybe everybody but me already knows this -- wouldn't be the first time I'm the last one to know -- but I when a few agent's stated they sought "more commercial fiction" in their feedback, I needed to dig. And learning the above, well, it's apparent I like to blur the lines between Literary and Commercial in my fantasies, but I also fail to adhere to the core rules of either type. I need to settle or at least strive for the perfect intersect between them.

The learning never ends.

Or at least searching the web ;)

Writer's Digest provides this definition: The biggest difference between literary and commercial fiction is that editors expect to make a substantial profit from selling a commercial book, but not necessarily from selling literary fiction. Audiences for commercial fiction are larger than those for literary fiction.

Carly Watters simple info-graphs breakdown the elements for us: "...learning how to market yourself starts with knowing where your book stands and where it will sit on bookshelves."

Danielle Burby tells us to seek the High Concept: "Not every story is high concept, and that’s okay. But if the feedback you consistently get on your work is that it is “quiet” or that the agent just didn’t fall in love, it’s possible that a high concept is the thing you need to pull ahead of the pack

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