The mystery of what comprises commercial women’s fiction

So last week I was looking for a novel that is representative of the category of commercial women’s fiction. During one of our morning meetings we actually had a lively discussion about what constitutes this kind of book. Is it romance?  Does it include women’s psychological suspense?  What about certain kinds of mysteries and thrillers?

Are literary women’s novels included in this category? Can women’s fiction be written by men or must these novels only be written by women? Are these books published in mass market or are they hardcover and trade paperbacks?

I just found this website which does help to define the category.  Here, the definition is quite clear, really: women’s fiction includes various types of novels that generally appeal more to women than to men.

Using this definition, I did select a book to read for our company book club.  I wonder though what you think.  How would you define “commercial women’s fiction”?

4 Responses to The mystery of what comprises commercial women’s fiction

  1. Ciara says:

    I really despise the term women’s fiction. Considering it’s mostly women who buy books, surely all fiction is “women’s fiction” and considering the type of books that come under that heading I think it’s a pergorative term. Not that there’s anything wrong with a romance or chick lit, to each their own, but the implicit message is that women are frothy beings who read “women’s fiction” about romance and shoes and somehow “real fiction” is gender neutral or even “men’s fiction”. I don’t even see why they feel a need to categorize any sort of novel as “for women”. All it does is reinforce gender stereotyping.

  2. Deni Phillips says:

    In contrast to Ciara’s opinion, I appreciate the “women fiction” label because it separates it from chick-lit and romance. The “women” in women’s fiction tend to be working through issues that are particular to women, or in a way that is particular to women. After all, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, so we do things differently.

    It is a way to market, as are all genre categories. So, why not? I can’t imagine a more complimentary way to describe these novels. Hen-lit seems to be the alternative. Uck!

    The only thing that would make this more palatable would be if there were a category for men experiencing emotional issues.

    Many of the “women’s fiction” books I’ve read could be called Mainstream. A few could be Literary. One hundred percent are written better than some, emphasis on some, of the romance and chick-lit I’ve read, primarily because the plots and sub-plots are more complex. I like them. I read them. I read reviews of them. And I’m writing two of them. So I’m biased. I admit it.

    That’s my two cents.


  3. Giora says:

    It’s a great question Jane, and because I put my 76K words novel in the category of “Contemporary commercial women’s fiction”, let me respond. For me, this category is about women being the main characters and with some romance. And men can write it too, me being one. But I interviewed a few women in order to write it from a woman point of view, and did research on topics relevant for women’s lives like romance, love making, giving birth and raising a baby .. topics which appear in my commercial novel. Mine is commercial and not literary, because the focus is on the events and emotions (fast moving) not on the prose of writing (which tend to be slower).
    And that’s one man opinion …:)

  4. Rima says:

    Any book that Oprah has featured on her show.

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