How to go viral with literary fiction


Big question. Big risk. Big reward?

Before talking about HOW, the question is WHY?

‘Going viral’ is a short way of saying ‘become wildly popular so everyone wants one.’

Potentially lucrative.

Also, potentially lethal.

It is one thing to have a product/idea be popular with the masses, but it is another to have the masses laugh at it.

A hula hoop going viral at the right time becomes a toy that almost anyone can buy – AND almost anyone can learn to use – at least sort of. Right before Christmas, at the right price (enough for a hefty markup but not expensive enough to break anyone’s bank), and balanced with the manufacturing ability to produce more in a hurry, hula hoops were very popular and sold millions. (Disclosure: I had one as a kid in Mexico, and was pretty good at it.)

But a book?

It almost seems contradictory to the concept of literary fiction to try to make it go viral.

Except that it has been done.

Something like two MILLION copies of The Goldfinch were printed.

Something like half of those copies were eventually pulped.

Unknown numbers of the ones purchased were READ.

Unknown numbers decorated coffee tables as the ‘book to have.’ Not to have read, necessarily, but to seem to have read. It being literary fiction and wildly popular, if you had a copy you wouldn’t necessarily tell your friends whether you had read the whole thing or not.

Full disclosure: I read the reviews, lots of them, and decided it was probably not my kind of book: too many of the complaints were pet peeves. Some day I will find out for myself, but the day hasn’t come when I can divert MY focus without derailing my own writing. Yet.

How did it go viral?

The most expensive way, the way of the BIG traditional publisher, with a campaign that put the publisher’s entire resources behind a gamble: that they could push a literary novel into being THE literary novel of the season, make it a ‘must have’ and sell enough copies to justify the advance, the push, AND enhance the publisher’s reputation.

Not just reputation, but selling a reasonable number of paper bricks at a hardcover price is lucrative – one well-publicized ‘winner’ can carry the publishing house’s season.

The economics get all fuzzy if the numbers don’t work out, or they would use this system for all their books every season. But the economics MUST work out, or the big publishers wouldn’t keep trying to find (make) the breakout novel of the season.

In sum, it costs a lot of money, but can pay off with a lot MORE money.

How to take advantage of the possibility if you’re an SPA?

Well, if you’re already a popular SPA like Brandon Sanderson, with a loyal fan base, you can kick it to the next level with a huge Kickstarter calculated to both satisfy those fans and create a beautiful buzz for your books. [Hint: He wrote four books in secret – and then releases them to his Kickstarter fans before anyone else is allowed to buy them.]

What if you’re an unknown SPA?

Then you have to hope like crazy that you catch the public imagination – or, possibly better still, the attention of a significant influencer, and get the push from someone else’s fame.

Because the product is not an easy one to sell. For one thing, they consume, each, almost a whole waking day. And there isn’t yet an audiobook so you can do other things while listening – plus it needs closer attention than many, to pick up and follow its varied threads. It’s a pretty intense experience to live a story with three main characters by sitting inside their heads, right behind the eyeballs, thinking their thoughts and registering the external world through their senses.

Not a short commitment from a potential reader, as a popular five-minute song might be.

Add to the mix an author with no energy due to a boring chronic illness – no energy to do the vaunted indie marketing, which requires dedication and verve, spending hours creating material and doing what a whole lot of professionals at a traditional publisher will do for a favored author: designer cover, a book tour, appearances on media from internet to live TV, promotions at Walmart, movie tie-ins for the fortunate… arranging, arranging, arranging – by someone(s).

The right mix of promoting the book and promoting the writer is crucial – time-critical and planned and managed. And still subject to luck. Not just the cost – but the contacts – are crucial to try to control the presentation and roll-out for maximum exposure.

So what do I OFFER such an influencer?

Few things can be left to random kindness any more.

The best value from an influencer is one who discovers your book – and promotes it on their channel of influence (think BookTok) – without any work from the author. Because they like it.

But no one can COUNT on that LUCK. Even when a book such as the lovely The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, written by a very ill woman who paid attention to the snail in a terrarium, happens, there are friends and pushers, people who did the work of finding a publisher for her, who made it their job to promote her memoir and her writing. Another book which didn’t count on luck, but was awarded the Pulitzer for fiction, A Confederacy of Dunces, was pushed, after he couldn’t get it published and committed suicide, by John Kennedy Toole’s mother, to writer Walker Percy. Again, not something to count on.

What I can offer is the brownie points (does anyone still remember those?) from discovering something unique: a chronically ill and disabled writer who takes forever, but writes mainstream fiction – and writes it well, or the influencer wouldn’t even be considering using up their points for someone else. It could be pushed as ‘discovering the indie/self-published X’, where X is the influencer’s favorite important mainstream writer. I’m far too modest to suggest a comparison author, but my reviewers (at least two) have compared me to Jane Austen. It’s worth a thought.

And if you don’t go viral, how about getting banned?

Another path to notoriety! Otherwise known as ‘publicity.’ Anything to make a good story, right? Not mine – the influencer’s.

It’s a little harder for me – I’ve been looking to the future use of teaching Pride’s Children in schools, and have deliberately kept the actual words and events to the PG-13 level – but someone is quite welcome to take my third main character Bianca Doyle’s unorthodox way of getting a father for her children as scandalous and upsetting drivel to which innocent teenagers (!?!) should not be exposed. Go ahead – it takes little to get the righteous flustered and judgy.

Those are the potential arrows in my literary-publicity quiver

I am quite happy to discover and entertain more, if you have suggestions – I want to be widely read. I would like a few more reviewers, please rhapsodizing about my prose. You needn’t be fulsome – understated works, too.

I would like a huge contingent of breathless fans waiting for me to finally complete work on LIMBO (or LIMBO & PARADISE), to the extent of making preorders possible.

I would love a ready market for any prequel or sequel short stories about our merry band and their quarrelsome ways, and I will continue to work at my deliberate pace (or until cured) to add to the canon.

Wishes make good goals for 2023, if a tad unrealistic. One can dream.


Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and HAPPIER NEW YEAR to all – may the holidays you love and celebrate bring you joy.



42 thoughts on “How to go viral with literary fiction

  1. acflory

    To be honest, I’ve read one book by Sanderson and did not like it. He’s ok, but in my book he’ll never be remembered as one of ‘The Greats’. He sure knows how to market himself though. :/


      1. acflory

        Yeah. -cough- I may have rarefied tastes, but few bestsellers ‘do it for me’. Dune is probably one of the few that does, but it was a cult classic /first/. Ok, I’m a snob. 😀


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          No, you are unique. You know what you’re trying to do, but it doesn’t fall easily into a specific TYPE of SF. But neither did Dune when it came out.

          People should be glad there are still authors willing to do this work, the kind with internal self-consistency.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          -sigh- it would be a lot easier if I found military scifi enthralling, as most scifi readers are still male, and that’s what /they/ find enthralling. I could count on the fingers of one hand the military scifi I truly like. I prefer a kind of social scifi – like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. It won literary accolades but I don’t think it ever became a best seller. 😦


        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Dunno. Maybe you could blast the military scifi readers with the consequences – show the life from the other side? Military life is hard on the families who get dragged along – or DON’T get dragged along. Or who have to deal with how their people come home.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          If I were writing what I just suggested, it would probably include both the military and their families, and what’s going on inside their heads. Except my husband was already out when I met him and my dad was demobilized from training when WWII ended, so I have no inside track.

          I do have Mother’s stories, such as her having to give up her Mexican (dual) citizenship when she married Daddy during the war, or she couldn’t live on the Air Force base in Alabama – the one with German prisoners-of-war wielding shears and maintaining the shrubbery around the pool where the officers’ wives sunbathed, and where she, who had been reared with servants in Mexico City, found out she was responsible for my father having a succession of neatly ironed uniforms – during an American southern summer when he’d sweat through a uniform in an hour or two!

          And imagination. But you have to have a bit of real world grounding to deploy your writer’s imagination on – and an interest.

          I wonder if military women would be an attractive SF audience.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. acflory

          There’s a military series called Poor Man’s War etc etc which strikes a great balance between action/adventure/philosophy/character development etc, and my friend Chris James has written an amazing future history of a war which does the same thing. But the good stories are rarely bestsellers.
          Not trying to put you off, just pointing out that quality and quantity don’t often go hand in hand.


        6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I’m used to that – but there are still readers who DO care, and they often serve as judges for competitions which are looking for the good stuff (I hope).

          The main reason I would think is that it is hard to produce better writing quickly, and some writers prefer to get a story out and sell it over polishing it more – which makes sense.

          I still think you can have both (not if you’re like me, but in general, if you learn as you go, and USE that knowledge on first drafts). Some writers do this, others who are prolific don’t.

          I can only do things ONE way – don’t have the capacity to let them go until I think they’re as good as I can make them, and have been hand reared by myself on my reading preferences. I guess I can arrange to release the rough draft from 22 years ago for the third book if something happens to me, but I’d really hate anyone to read it!

          Liked by 1 person

        7. acflory

          lol – when it comes to writing, I only have ONE way as well. To be honest, there are times I wish I could just dash something off and get it out there to increase my ‘body of work’. But I can’t so that’s that.
          And don’t you dare talk about not finishing the third book. Verboten! 🙂


        8. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          As long as it’s up to me, it’s getting finished. The story up until now has a LOT of unresolved pieces, and threads I’ve been building for 300K words – which I hope will resolve to readers’ satisfaction – and a few very interesting pieces that make some things in California very different from other places in the world…

          It’s just that I should have been much farther along by now. ‘Should’ is a difficult word.

          Don’t worry too hard. Both Tolkien and GRRM suffer from the same malady: George could not speed up his project for the end of the TV Game of Thrones, Tolkien would still be at it if he had been granted more life.

          I’m sure there are less-impressive projects going millions of words out there, and we grant benediction only posthumously, not deciding until the work is finished, but that’s the nature of a beast composed of imaginary pieces.

          Liked by 1 person

        9. acflory

          I should be much further along with the Vokhtah series…but I have a bad case of alien fatigue. I’ve been writing that story since 2004. In a way I don’t want to finish it. In other ways I know I must so I’m not allowing myself to start anything else until I do. -sigh- my own personal catch-22.


        10. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          There are two reasons not to finish something: because you don’t want it to end, or because you can’t stand it any more but feel an obligation to finish what you started.

          Pantsers claim that once they know the ending, it’s not interesting to get there (very short summary).

          I don’t know what the end of PC is, but even though it may be bimodal, with another critical bit happening in the future (I have yet to decide the details), and will still involve many of the same characters, I would also be okay with finishing the main part of the story off after the end of LIMBO, with a critical stalemate – and maybe some short stories.

          I won’t know until I get there, but anything else won’t have the tight cohesiveness of the original, roughly a bit plus and minus a human baby’s development span.

          Unless there is something I want to say about that child, grown up, and I don’t have any model for that.

          For what I have, I have roughly used Dorothy Sayers and the Book of Job. Never thought it would take this long (I bet you didn’t either).

          You can abandon or postpone anything you want – all universes have no ends we can reach. Stories will go on, or new ones will start up – you can stop any time.

          Do you want to finish or do you think you have to?

          Liked by 1 person

        11. acflory

          I think most pantsters, myself included, write for themselves first. That’s why, once they know the ending, it’s all over bar the shouting. Or words to that effect.
          I personally love editing, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that I had the whole story of Vokhtah written in 2011-ish. It was huge. As I learned about publishing I realised I’d have to split the monster into more manageable chunks. So I thought I’d quickly write a prelude to the story before I got stuck into the chopping. Unfortunately, that prelude changed the whole dynamic of the story, and suddenly I didn’t know how it ended. Again. Only this time I was sick of it. Sooooo….
          I feel obliged to finish it, but much of the joy has gone out of it. Does that make any sense at all?


        12. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You’re looking back from the other side (heaven, the void, whatever you believe or hope for), and have been given the chance to judge your own life and legacy: what will you think then, when there is nothing you can do?

          I want mine finished – you may or may not care.

          Just trying to give you some distance.

          Or: will your child, now the legatee, wish you had finished it? Or have someone else tackle that?

          There is a huge amount of work – or you don’t have to, and can do something else. What else would you rather do?

          I can’t help, but you CAN unstick yourself. Or you can make a decision for the next five years, and promise to revisit the whole question when you’ve gotten X finished first.

          Are you SURE you changed EVERYTHING with that prologue? Or did you just divert the stream for a chunk?

          Should I just leave you alone?

          One can find joy again, or decide something was a learning experience which need not be repeated or continued.

          Save these questions in case I need you to ask me.

          Liked by 1 person

        13. acflory

          lmao – questions saved for posterity…yours and mine!
          The simple answer is that I cannot /not/ finish it. How I go about doing it…that is the harder question. No answer there.


        14. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I’m facing the same with a much more mundane problem: a tax thing that needs doing, that I took over from the husband last March because he wasn’t getting it done, and that my gut knots every time I try to work on it a bit.

          I just discovered that doing EVERYTHING right – making SURE I keep putting myself back to bed until I’ve had enough sleep the night before, eating a high protein breakfast, taking the few supplements which seem to help me focus at all, and deciding I want it DONE – should help me make some real progress on it today.

          I want to be able to FOCUS completely on the new computer and the new book, without this mangy tax problem hanging over my head, and the best way is to just finish as much as I can, and then wait for the other half to help with the couple of missing pieces he can’t even find time for until the year is over (for good reasons). I haven’t finished MY part, and that’s eating at me, but I’ve also been sabotaging myself subtly because I really don’t want to do it.

          But I will!

          Sometimes you have to just cut to the chase.

          If you CANNOT not do it, then DO IT. Time’s passing – and it isn’t DOING itself. Nor is it letting you do something else.

          If you can’t give up, then find the intestinal fortitude to buckle down and FINISH the D*&N thing.

          I’ll let you know how it goes. My FIRST step is always BLOCKING the internet. I shall be out of touch for the next two hours while I TRY.

          Liked by 1 person

        15. acflory

          -grin- yes coach! And good luck with the tax thing. I’m actually better at real life things I dislike. I just tell myself I have to do ‘a little bit’ before I’m allowed to do anything that I do enjoy. The little bits add up and after a while the whole doesn’t feel so completely overwhelming.


        16. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          One thing I do NOT do is to try to control myself in any way – I’m so non-functional so much of the time that what I need is as much self-support as I can manufacture.

          I don’t waste it when it comes, but I was delighted today to re-use my ‘block the internet – get something done’ helping trick.

          It has been hard since the surgery; maybe I’m finally coming out of the aftereffects. I, too, don’t mind doing things that need doing – especially when they will save me time in the long run (I made my low-carb crustless quiches two nights ago – breakfasts for two weeks).

          And tonight I had a shower! Sad that I have to micro-manage, but glad that I can, and I mostly recognize when it’s happening, and keep doing the things I know which sometimes work.

          I want to WRITE! Without the Sword of Damocles leaving blood on the back of my neck. (recognize the image?)

          I’ll keep better track of the better half’s struggles, but he doesn’t like to worry me.

          He’s setting up our youngest’s retirement accounts with her now that she’s working – he’s good at that stuff.

          It’s always something!

          Liked by 1 person

        17. acflory

          -grin- yes, I recognized the reference to the Sword of Damocles. I’m currently waiting for the guilt to build up enough to force a start. Preparing against bushfires and the xmas thing gave me a valid excuse for ‘frittering’ away my time, but now I can feel the first stirrings of conscience. 😉
          I have to ask though, retirement accounts? Surely none of your kids is old enough to retire yet????


        18. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          The easy part?

          Go back, reread, and start marking the pieces you LOVE. That will possibly give you the anchors you need.

          Don’t ask anything more of yourself but that to start – you’ve already poured too much negativity, too much ‘should’ over that part. You need to balance the acidity of the solution, add baking soda to the vinegar.

          You can also document why you gave up, for yourself to figure out later, but first find the WHY, not the WHY NOT TO.

          And, BTW, I answered that same question for myself, had accidentally had a bit more sleep and a little more frustration, the few Christmas obligations we had are done, and the husband is busy figuring out to do the things that MUST be done in 2022 to count for this tax year, so I offered myself the same choice: dump it and do it later with my new assistant, or block the internet for a couple of hours and try without all the distractions, and I got started. Thanks.

          Liked by 1 person

        19. acflory

          Drat, I always answer the most recent comment first and work my way back. I think I did say something earlier about starting to feel the need to get back to it, at least for a while. Writing has been in fits and starts for much too long. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to wake up brimming with enthusiasm [for the story]. But no more complaints. If plodding is the only way, then plod I must.
          I’m glad you managed to get in a couple of good hours. It’s a great feeling. 🙂


        20. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I started rereading Netherworld again. First, the last chapter, :), then all the way from the beginning. It’ll be as fresh as possible by the time I get past the paperwork problem and get back to writing.

          I may finally be past the complicated physical part.

          Liked by 1 person

        21. acflory

          -sigh- it would be a lot easier if I found military scifi enthralling, as most scifi readers are still male, and that’s what /they/ find enthralling. I could count on the fingers of one hand the military scifi I truly like. I prefer a kind of social scifi – like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. It won literary accolades but I don’t think it ever became a best seller. 😦

          p.s. MERRY CHRISTMAS!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      He has his universes and their internal consistency – I don’t have the energy to commit to one right now.

      Probably won’t read The Wheel of Time, either. Nor Game of Thrones.

      It takes time and energy to construct these universes – readers tend to stick once you find them, but they also tend to be individualistic.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I hadn’t heard of Brandon Sanderson so I Googled him out of curiosity and this link was the first hit:

    “Brandon Sanderson name is actually a pen name for a system of generating novels based on an AI, 300 unpaid interns to massage the output …”

    I have no idea if that’s BS or fact but the video I’m watching as I write this comment has had almost two million views. And the guy in t he video may be Brandon Sanderson with more than 400,000 followers on YouTube. I’m still watching the more than 16 minute long video.

    Then, while I was still listening to his YouTube video, I visited his Amazon author page and discovered, with shock, he has 460 titles listed there. HUH!?! Who can write 460 books and this guy looks like he isn’t even 40 yet.

    I still have seven minutes to go with his video and now I’m thinking he’s a conman. He’s talking about a Kickstarter where we donate money to him. What? No way! Brandon has to have more money then me. The Amazon Author first page has 16 titles and overbook has thousands of reviews, with 444 titles left on all the other pages I’m never going to look at.

    Well, back to listening to the last few minutes of his way too long YouTube video.

    While listening to him sound like a used care salesman selling junk, I found this on another site: “Brandon Sanderson’s daily word count: 2,500 words”

    No way Brandon could write 460 books writing 2,500 words a day and look younger than 40. So, to test if it was possible, I looked at one of his books that has almost 36,000 reviews and it was 1,213 pages long.

    The more I learn about this guy, the more I’m thinking this is true: “system of generating novels based on an AI, (with) 300 unpaid interns to massage the output”

    interns means ghost writers that get no credit for massaging the rough draft from an AI app designed to churn out stories.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I think he’s a real person (from people I know who know), and the high number of books reflects short stories, collections, boxed sets, and other re-use of materials. It isn’t that many original stories only.

      His detractors don’t like him; but there are many like him in other forms of entertainment – TV soap operas come to mind. Bots don’t get Hugo awards.

      If you aren’t connected to a lot of the SP blogs you might not have heard – I heard about the Kickstarter from multiple sources.

      He also took over and finished Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, for which he was chosen by Jordan’s widow, possibly by Jordan himself.

      Not my reading field – his universes use magic, and I’m constitutionally opposed to magic (though exposed to plenty of writing with it) as a basis for anything. Too much like hand-wavium for a hard scientist like me.


  3. cagedunn

    The placement of the book into the right category can do some of the work for you, and if it’s in the wrong category/ies, it can hurt sales.

    I’d suggest considering a change of categories, maybe to:
    Literature & Fiction
    Women’s Fiction

    Literature & Fiction
    Women’s Fiction
    — this one may be the most suitable, and appears to have similar books.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks – it’s interesting – but I don’t write women’s fiction. And Contemporary, by itself, means Romance to most readers.

      I’m already in Literature and Fiction, but I haven’t done enough marketing OR the right kind of marketing; I don’t think Amazon readers use search for my kind of fiction – they come, already having decided what they want – to get it quickly and inexpensively delivered.

      I may try FB ads, except I’ve never had one served to me, so I’ve never seen if they are convincing.

      Also considering a few things such as Bookbub.

      I’ll figure it out, but I think I’d like to have it finished first, so the readthrough doesn’t get forgotten.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cagedunn

        When I look up your book, it’s in Psychological Literary Fiction, Psychological Fiction, and Contemporary Literary Fiction.
        Contemporary only means romance if it’s under the umbrella of romance as a higher level category in a contemporary setting (ie literature & fiction, romance, contemporary), but under Literary & Fiction, it has nothing to do with romance (and it looks like ‘Zon has already placed it within the ‘contemporary’ sub-category, along with psychological, which to most readers means something similar to ‘Girl on a Train’ or ‘Gone Girl’).
        Even Horror has a sub-sub category of contemporary, and that’s nothing to do with romance.
        The right category can save a lot of marketing effort, and getting the category that lists books similar in nature/content/reader interest to yours gives ‘Zon options of offering it on the same search pages.
        The best advertising in the world will only bring in a slight change, and after that, it’s up to organic means (it’s about 2-5% of improved download/sales during an advertising campaign as opposed to 70+% when the story is positively ‘talked about’ by influential readers.
        I understand finishing it first, though, but it’s still worth looking at the categories to find the closest fit to the best target market.
        And good luck – we all need a good dash of that.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Pointing to ‘similar’ books is the best way? – I don’t know what they are. Never have. I don’t know of any that, for example, use this kind of a mix of three characters. You can’t remove one.

          It’s not anything I’ve seen before and wrote ‘in the tradition of.’ The ‘comps’ are not there if you don’t necessarily write in recognizable genres. Which is why it’s mainstream, ‘a novel.’ But the category hasn’t existed on Amazon, as such, for the whole time I’ve been writing.

          Generally, disabled characters are either quirky sidekicks or destined to be red-shirts. Main characters? Pfft.

          ‘Girl on a train’ or ‘Gone girl’ it is not – those are suspense or thrillers. I don’t know how internal they are – haven’t read them. The intent is to drag you into lives, one of which is the outlier, whose character is trying to keep it that way.

          I put it in ‘psychological’ with my keywords, deliberately – because of the degree of observing ethics and morals and consequences; the closest I’ve come to reading that kind of internalized awareness is something like Jane Eyre – Jane’s self-talk is the justification for her actions.

          The entanglement is profound and critical. And depends similarities and differences in the way the three characters see the world – which you are made privy to.

          But it’s not a mishmash of genres – it’s a realistic portrayal of an unusual and unexpected mix of writers and actors, hideously public and reclusively private. With a resolution that matters.

          Which I’m trying to write as realistically as possible – to make it even probable.

          We’ll see.

          I assume you haven’t read it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. cagedunn

          I did read it – which is why I stated the other books listed under psychological that are more in line with what readers expect under that listing.
          Your story is more closely aligned with Strout, Kingsolver, Picoult, whose books are in: Contemporary Literary Fiction, Literary Saga Fiction, Women’s Literary Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction.


        3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          THANK YOU! I will use all this – and try something different.

          It isn’t working all that well as it is – I appreciate the specific feedback.

          Still not so sure about the Women’s Fiction part – but I like the rest. You’re saying readers who like Women’s Fiction are more flexible than I’ve assumed, or do you have a particular book/set of books in mind.

          But the other three keywords – I have copied this and will make the changes.

          I’ve read some Picoult, though, and I do not go after the ugliest and grittiest as she seems to do. I won’t be reading any more of hers. Kingsolver I like, Strout I will have to go look up.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. cagedunn

          It’s not about what she writes, but the audience expectations of books under those categories – and women’s fiction is broad enough to take the story because there are a lot of characters, women, who struggle with one form of difficulty or another, including disability, within the category. It’s where the reader goes when they want ‘fiction for the thinking woman’. Does that sound like your books? I think it does.


        5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I’ll take your word for the readers – I’ve had a difficult time these last years, having so little energy that writing has to always be preferred to reading.

          ‘Fiction for the thinking women’ – maybe – but I’ve treasured the reviews from older men: part of my design is letting them in, and their remarks imply I’ve succeeded.

          Of course the Venn diagram can include more than one demographic. For different reasons.

          I just did a quick read of some Strout – I’ll look a bit further, but she writes, at least in the beginning of Abide with Me, ALL narrator, where I remove any trace I find of one to tell the story exclusively from the characters’ povs. I found it uncomfortable to read. Possibly her readers like to BECOME the narrator? To imprint on that character instead of the ones in the story? Interesting. It works to set the scene, I guess.

          We each have our style.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. cagedunn

          Category isn’t about style, only about reader expectations. Within each of those categories will be many, many styles – as you say, we each have our style – and the reader will choose a style when they’ve found a book within the category they most prefer.
          Category is like a bookshelf, and on the bookshelf will be books of a variety of styles, but all a similar form. Poetry – one shelf, many, many forms under that, and within each form, distinct/unique styles.
          Re: men
          Having the book under the Literary Fiction umbrella means they can find it, too. And I know many men who read books from the Women’s Fiction shelf. A good book is a good book (and I read men’s fiction; the label/category is a hint to the reader, not a definition).


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