What is Upmarket Fiction? And Book Club Fiction? Are They New Genres?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Most writers have probably heard of “Upmarket fiction.” But you may have questions about it. Like, when should you use the term? And how do you figure out if your novel fits in the category? Is it considered a genre, like Romance or Mystery? And is it the same as “Book Club Fiction?”

It’s not surprising if you have questions. Because bookstores don’t have a section designated “Upmarket.” And you’re not going to find it as a category on Amazon.

I don’t particularly like the phrase. It sounds kind of snooty, doesn’t it? But I love the books.

And they are a hot commodity in the publishing industry right now.  Agent Jessica Faust says “It’s a term we didn’t use 15 years ago, but one that’s hot today…I’m hungry for more upmarket fiction.”

I’ve had a number of readers ask me about it recently, so I figured I’d better do some research.

So What’s the Definition of Upmarket Fiction?

You can find lots of lists of fiction genres, but you won’t see “Upmarket fiction” included. You may have seen somebody mention “Book Club” novels, but you won’t find that section in a bookstore, either.

According to what I’ve read, “Upmarket” and “Book Club” fiction are pretty synonymous terms, and you can use either when querying an agent.

They define fiction that fills the gap between genre and literary fiction.

These are meaty stories that book reading groups can discuss over a nice chardonnay. They have thought-provoking themes and memorable characters. But they’re not so dense that everybody has to lie about having finished them. 

. . . .

Some Examples of Upmarket Fiction

  • Mexican Gothic — Silvia Moreno
  • About a Boy — Nick Hornby
  • Where the Crawdads Sing — Delia Owens
  • Squeeze Me — Carl Hiaasen
  • Like Water for Elephants — Sara Gruen
  • The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold
  • She’s Come Undone — Wally Lamb
  • Pay it Forward — Catherine Ryan Hyde

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris