Understanding Women’s Fiction

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 17 2011

I’ve been trying to wrap the basic marketing language around the book I’m close to finishing, and am having a tough time classifying it. My main character is a tough, no-nonsense, middle-aged woman who kidnaps her granddaughter, and the story takes place in large part on the road in rural Alaska. It’s edgy and stark, a little frightening in places, though it isn’t horror/crime/mystery, and while the heart-warming moments are few and far between, it DOES revolve around this woman’s relationship with her son and daughter-in-law and the tough choices we make as parents.

As I get ready to query, would calling this women’s fiction, since the primary market would most likely be women, throw an agent off since it seems to depart from the loose definitions of women’s fiction I’m seeing? Is there a better way to wrap it?

As I often say, it’s all about the voice. Women’s fiction is not simply a book whose target audience is women. It’s also a book about a woman’s personal growth and change and it tends to be strongly emotional. It sounds like your book is women’s fiction, but without reading it I have a hard time judging.


7 responses to “Understanding Women’s Fiction”

  1. If you switched the genders of the characters, what sort of fiction would it be?

  2. ^What he said.

    Would the same themes, etc., hold if it were a grandfather kidnapping the grandchild? If so, it's probably not women's fiction, and would probably just fall into the regular literary or commercial categories.

  3. Lord knows I hate labels, but I would label it as women's fiction. There are plenty of agents taking women's fiction.

  4. Avatar Tonja says:

    Would it be reasonable to call it literary or commercial (whichever it is) but note that it would likely be marketed toward women?

  5. Avatar Dee Phelps says:

    I have the same problem with The Disappointment Room. It is an historical, suspense, a little romance, multi-cultural (Gullah)and family saga. Having a hard time classifying this novel. Any suggestions?

  6. Avatar Kierstyn says:

    I believe that it still would follow under Women's Fiction. I look forward to reading your book. Although it isn't how books are handled, sometimes books should be set with categories after one has read the book.

  7. Avatar Tee says:

    Thanks, folks – I'm just now seeing this. J. Nelson, Kristin, you're asking the same questions I'm asking. Subtleties in the story would change with a male character swapped in, but its fundamental track wouldn't. A writer friend pointed out that my problem may be simply that I approach most thinfs through a gender neutral lens, and so male and female characters in my stories are to some degree interchangeable – but that creates a market problem.Still, I wonder about how books like McCarthy's The Road, for instance, would be different if it weren't "the man led the boy" through this apocalyptic territory, but "the woman led the boy." Would that change the story so drastically that Cormac McCarthy would have written women's fiction?I've got other books that more comfortably fall into that category, but this and a handful of others are trickier.