The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket, & Commercial Fiction (an infographic not made by me)

I have no infographic skills, but Carly Watters does. Writers ask me all the time to explain genre differences, and I do. Carly does it better. 

You’re welcome. (Now you can go thank Carly by clicking here.)

So tell me — is this what you thought? And if you’re being honest, where does your book fit (not where do you want it to fit — although maybe that’s a fair question as well, because then, go write it that way.)

Amy xo

13 thoughts on “The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket, & Commercial Fiction (an infographic not made by me)

  1. Gorgeous graphics! As someone who reads literary and upmarket fiction, I can’t help but think the literary graphic feels a bit anemic. Our book club tends to gravitate toward literary fiction, and I would say that literary fiction aims to achieve many of the things that upmarket does (in addition to what is portrayed in the graphic): it is character-driven; focuses on universal themes; aims for thoughtful discussion; and is (generally) appropriate for book club discussion. And having read Station Eleven, I personally felt it read much more like upmarket fiction than literary.

    But this just goes to show how difficult it IS to define genres and lump books into categories — that there is some crossover almost always.

    Helpful and lovely (I’m a visual person, so loved these images).

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree, Melissa. It’s so subjective. I think what this infographic is helpful for is for allowing to visualize how the differences can be perceived by agents and editors (readers don’t care much). This helps them sell and market books. But for example, I’d consider my books upmarket but there are many readers who call it “chick lit” which I’d classify as commercial. But does it really matter if they’re reading and enjoying the book? No. It matter when we’re writing (if you think you’re a literary writer and you’re not, I imagine you’re surprised) and when you’re trying to market your book, starting out earlier than even the query stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Amy. This is so on-target. I wish Amazon would add an “upmarket fiction” category. Ditto the promo sites. I suspect there are lots of readers looking for upmarket fiction who don’t even know the term because it doesn’t exist in the ebook world. Frustrating for those of us who write UF.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a fabulous post, and the infographic is ever so helpful for me. I write women’s fiction and had been labeling my work “literary, with commercial appeal” (and feeling a bit of a fraud in the process.) After looking at the descriptions and examples, I can now claim a place in the upmarket category. Since I’m about to start querying agents for my newest novel, this information is ultra-valuable to me. Thanks!!


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