Upmarket women’s fiction, to me, means books with female protagonists where the primary plot doesn’t focus on men, marriage, or babies. I am looking to acquire romance, but I don’t consider romance and women’s fiction to be the same thing. When I think about the kind of women’s fiction I like to read and want to represent, the best I can explain is that I want books about women, married or not, with children or not, who go through any number of life’s regular dramas. I want books told from women’s points of view that are about love, adventure, family, work, and personal goals. I want books that pass the Bechdel test, but I won’t automatically reject a book that doesn’t. At the end of the book, I want to see that the main character has achieved something that doesn’t involve acquiring a boyfriend, husband, or baby. If your book’s central plot revolves around a woman’s struggle with infertility, for example, I am probably not the right agent for you. Within this realm I especially love stories about sisters and changes within women’s friendships.
Books that fit the description of “upmarket women’s fiction” are usually standalones, though sequels are not unheard of. They’re a balance of literary and commercial and make for great book club selections. They’re often, but not always, set in the real world. They can incorporate elements of mystery, romance, history, pretty much any genre.
Some recent examples of upmarket women’s fiction include:
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
- Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
and some “classic” examples of upmarket women’s fiction include:
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I’ve enjoyed these women’s fiction titles, some more upmarket than others:
- Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (which could also easily fit my wish for domestic thrillers)
- Dare Me by Megan Abbott (which also has YA crossover appeal)
- Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews (not as literary as others, but has great women’s friendships, which I always like to read about)
- A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson (includes a strong mystery element)
With upmarket women’s fiction, as with all genres, I like distinctive voices, a clear vision of what’s at stake for the main character, commercial viability, and literary style.