Un-Literary?

May 23rd, 2008 • Kate

Intriguingly, I’ve recently received a number of queries sent in response to my strong stated interest in literary fiction, to which I say… huh? Sure, on my submissions page, I mention I’m looking for “brilliant, funny, original middle grade and young adult fiction, both literary and commercial” but this is all in one bullet point, and thus, I think it pretty clear that the word “literary” here refers to “middle grade and young adult fiction,” and is not a separate interest. Does anyone still remember how to diagram sentences?
I’m sure I’ve read the book that would disprove my point, but my impression of contemporary adult literary fiction, as it’s being submitted and sold in the publishing industry right now, are books that seem to emphasize the craft of writing rather than storytelling. That is to say, I think the term “literary fiction” as it’s bandied about is slang for a book about words, not plot.
As I said, I’m sure there’s lots of examples that would prove me wrong, but that’s my general, personal impression. There are many great and wonderful agents out there looking for adult literary fiction (my former agency practically specialized it in!), but not me.
Now, if you want to trick me into looking at your literary masterpiece, write a killer query that hooks me into the story, and feel free to skip the fact you think it’s literary. Confuzzle me!

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One Response to “Un-Literary?”

  1. Caryn Says:

    It's possible to be a good writer and a poor storyteller — or vice versa — but both are important for me to enjoy a story. A book with beautiful description and no story is pure self-indulgence on the part of the writer. There's nothing wrong with it, since many readers enjoy it, but it's not to my taste, either.