After spending time searching for a publisher or agent, I often come away from the computer more confused than enlightened. I'm new to the world of publishing, you see, and I'm educated in Psychology and Counseling, not English Lit. I feel like there is a secret lingo that I'm not privy to. The following is a list of what I still don't understand:
1. I don't know what agents mean by "literary nonfiction" "narrative nonfiction" and "commercial nonfiction." I vaguely know what literary (literature, writing), narrative (telling a story), and commercial (to be sold) mean. In my mind, the terms would not be mutually exclusive, but agents seem to imply that they are -- as in "bridge the gap between literary and commercial nonfiction" and other such mysterious phrases. What do they mean by these terms, and how do I categorize my writing when I think it is all three?
2. What do they mean by "women's fiction," "women's literature," and "chicklit"? Are these different names for the same thing? Chicklit is a less formal term, does it refer to less formal writing? A less sophisticated audience? Can chicklit be nonfiction? Also, when they say "think book club" I think "chicklit." Am I wrong?
3. I don't know what "upmarket" is, but it sounds snobby. Is it like "uptown," as in, it will appeal to educated people with money? Is there such thing as "downmarket" books? Maybe steamy romances or graphic novels?
4. If I have a "platform" does it mean that I am already famous, that I can claim some expertise in a field, that my book will appeal to a specific population, or that my topic is hot or politically charged?
5. Some agents want works that "cross over." What's that about? Where are they crossing to and from? From women to men? From book to film? From one side of the mysterious literary/commercial gap to the other?
6. Some fellow shewrites members have suggested that I call my book "experimental" memoir. This is not a term that agents use. Where did the term come from, and do I really want to use it if no agents or publishers ask for it?
These are the questions that I ponder as I look over lists of publishers and agents. If anyone out there can decode these mysteries of the publishing universe, I will be your grateful and captive audience.