Fiction, Novel, Query, Writing

It’s not just a novel!

pinkquestionIf you’ve written a novel, you will have to identify it’s category when you query an agent. It’s not just a novel. I touched on this subject last week, then Sharon Egan wrote a detailed post on the same topic, and now I’m revisiting it. Sharon referenced AgentQuery’s genre descriptions and I quote from them below.  

Last week, I categorized my 250-opening-word contest entry as women’s fiction, but when literary agent Rachelle Gardner commented on it she said, “This seems like it’s going to be a romance and frankly I’d be disappointed, after this opening, if it weren’t. So I’m not sure about your genre of women’s fiction.”

greenquestionFor this very reason, I’ve struggled with revisions of the first few paragraphs of my novel. Ms. Gardner will be disappointed unless the definition of the romance genre has changed. However, according to the AgentQuery site, it hasn’t. And they say: “If you didn’t intentionally set out to write a romance novel, it’s probably not a romance.”

I did not intend to write a romance. I did intend to write about love. There’s a difference. Learning to recognize and accept love is as much a part of my book as any romance storyline. (But hey, if Ms. Gardner wants to represent me and sell it as a romance, who am I to argue?)

aquaquestionSo what is my novel? I’ve eliminated romance, sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, horror, or any of those other commercial genres. And I don’t think it qualifies as literary. So that narrowed it down to either women’s fiction or commercial. My novel has elements of both, but here’s the thing, according to the AgentQuery definitions, women’s fiction can fall under the umbrella of commercial fiction. So my novel is commercial women’s fiction, right? Well …

Traditionally women’s fiction has a female as the main character. My book is in three parts, with three main characters. In two of those parts, the point-of-view character is female, but in the third, the pov character is a male. And this male character is present as a main character in all three parts. So does that disqualify the book as women’s fiction? Not according to this post by agent Jessica Faust.

bluequestionSo, if you need help identifying your novel’s category, click the links above to read the descriptions at Sharon’s blog and the AgentQuery site. As for me, I’m sticking with the women’s fiction category for my novel, though I may tack on commercial. Or I may not. I may lose my mind from this querying process. And then the title of my blog will no longer be literary—it will be literal. 🙂

24 thoughts on “It’s not just a novel!”

  1. Call it People’s Fiction. Why box yourself in with women only. Men might like it.

    as for Rachelle, call it Women’s Fiction with a dash of romance. Or a splash, or sprinkling, jigger, shake, or stirred. Sorry, got off topic.


    1. Heck, Janet Reid and I share a fondness for the same brand of Scotch and I offered to buy her a bottle if she’d just read my partial and still she passed! 🙂


  2. Hey Linda,
    I agree with you, stories about love are not necessarily romance stories. The Time Travelers Wife is a love story with a twist, but I wouldn’t put it in the romance category.
    I like Tricia’s suggestion “People’s fiction”


    1. Too bad agents won’t let us make up our own categories.

      Also, what I think would help is if I knew how certain published books are categorized. In book stores they have all the non-genre fiction shelved together. So even if I could compare my book to one of those, how would I know how an agent would categorize it?


  3. I feel so much like a toddler in the writing world. So, my comment is more about just saying thanks for the links. I’ve bookmarked them for the day when I finally get to writing that query letter.


    1. Sorry, Christi, I don’t remember what you’re writing, but if you write genre, like Kasie (who writes YA fantasy) you won’t have my problem.

      Like Judy said, it makes me wish I wrote only genre. 🙂


  4. I think it is literary fiction. But that ‘s just me. Here’s a bit of a definition of literary fiction that fits your novel in my opinion.

    “In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character, whereas mainstream commercial fiction focuses more on narrative and plot.”

    What is it about literary fiction that you think doesn’t apply?


    1. Candi, I agree, or would like to, that the description you quoted could apply to Brevity. The plot is definitely character-driven.

      BUT I don’t think my writing is literary level. I aspire to that, but I don’t think it’s there.

      (Btw, did you notice that you, Tricia, and Kasie have all read the complete novel and yet don’t agree on the category? :-))


      1. Linda,
        You don’t have to be Faulkner to write literary fiction. Nobody would ever be considered literary fiction if the requirement were that you have to write a new timeless classic (not saying your isn’t). And I happen to think your writing is at a very high level!


Do you have a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.