UPMARKET FICTION: Controversial?

I got a call from a Facebook friend objecting to my description of Rose’s Will as upmarket fiction. “Doesn’t that sound just a little conceited? Not that your book isn’t better than 90% of the others out there,” she said, “but it’s probably a term better left to your readers to decide.”

After the call, I scoured the internet for publishing terms, and indeed, by some standards, the term is controversial. What a surprise! Do I ever do anything that isn’t controversial? Despite ruffling a few feathers, however, upmarket fiction has come into it’s own right as a standard genre. More and more agents and publishers are requesting it.

What is upmarket fiction? Basically, it’s commercial/mainstream fiction with enough literary elements to appeal to the literary reader, making it span both genres and therefore have wider appeal. It is typically a character-driven story, with vibrant language, well-developed characters, and dimension that, by turns, expresses wisdom, irony, insight, and humor.

Rose’s Will is no Odyssey, but I’ve held it to a higher standard. Am I not entitled to use the term to describe it? What do you think?

EDIT: Here’s a link to an by Chuck Sambuchino. I met him at a writer’s conference last year. He’s an expert on the subject.

Posted in On Writing.

One Comment

  1. I think, because the term is subjective, “upmarket” can’t really be considered a genre of literature as opposed to an industry term denoting perceived quality.

    I’m sure, given your definition, that every author (even those of the more casual and “lighter reads” genres) would consider their work upmarket.

    Granted, you can’t be responsible for the offenses taken by every human being, but a less alienating term could prove to be more beneficial for networking purposes.

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