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Defining Upmarket Fiction

There’s a new genre in town — upmarket fiction. It’s a term we didn’t use 15 years ago, but one that’s hot today. At least on my wishlist. I’m hungry for more upmarket fiction.

Upmarket is that crossover between literary and commercial fiction. It’s also been defined as book club fiction and a lot of women’s fiction is considered upmarket.

The writing in upmarket fiction has a style that’s more literary-leaning. The hook or plotting is more commercial. In other words, I can easily pitch an upmarket book in one or two sentences the same way I can pitch a commercial book, but the writing style is going to be different from a typical commercial genre.

Examples of upmarket fiction from my own list include Heather Webber‘s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, Melissa Payne‘s Secrets of Lost Stones, and Kia Abdullah‘s Take it Back. These books all have commercial appeal. They also have a more literary style of writing.

If you find your book has a one or two-sentence hook, but your writing style is a bit more literary you might very well be writing upmarket fiction.

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9 comments

  1. Dear Ms. Faust,

    Thanks so much for this post. What are your thoughts on an author describing their own work as upmarket? Is it presumptuous, and more of a term than is bestowed upon one’s work by agents, publishers, et cetera? Or does it help if an author classifies their work as such, if that is what they have striven for?

    Thank you!
    Elizabeth Gillman 

  2. Thanks for the genre information. I have had the most unbelievable angst over trying to decide on the genre of my novel. I have finally decided that it is a pop culture novel. A “coming of age” novel for boomers.

  3. Thanks for this! Just wondering what would be the right blend of character growth and plot in upmarket fiction. In literary fiction, I hear a lot that the character drives the story. In commercial, they say the plot drives the story. What would be the case for upmarket fiction?

  4. Dear Jessica Faust,

    Is there much of a market for upmarket fiction that deals with heavier issues related to masculinity and society?

    Thanks!
    -Sam

    1. No. I would consider it YA. Dystopian, but it’s also really hard to reclassify something that was published so long ago and to such success. A book like Hunger Games has taken on a classification of its own.

    2. That’s a tricky question at first glance, since The Hunger Games definitely has a commercial hook, which upmarket fiction often shares, as well. However, upmarket fiction often has a commercial hook while also developing nuanced characters and complex themes whereas commercial fiction, like the Hunger Games, are more involved in their plot-driven narrative. So, short answer: nope!

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