Characters, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Query, Theme, Writing

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

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. 🙂