different types of fiction

Fiction Category InfographicWhen an agent or editor says that they want literary work vs commercial work, do you know what they mean?  I have to admit that I’ve had a much better idea what is commercial than what is literary.

This infographic from PS Literary offers a great explanation of Literary, Upmarket, and Commercial Fiction.  I just wish the examples included some juvenile work.  Just in case you’re wishing the same thing, I’ve done my best to match some recent juvenile titles to these definitions.

Literary Fiction is award-winning.  Language for the sake of language is also a key element.  This is art for art’s sake and the story may be open-ended. Don’t expect these books to solidly fit into one genre.  Examples:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zuzac
  • The Fault in Their Stars by John Green
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

Upmarket fiction is character driven with universal themes. The writing is accessible and these are good books for book club discussion. Isn’t quite literary or commercial.  Examples:

  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  • A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Commercial fiction is fast-paced and plot driven. The writing is accessible and aims to appeal to a large audience. The plot tends to be neatly tied up unless something need to be extended because this is a series book.

  • Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
  • There’s a Hair in my Dirt by Gary Larson
  • Convergence by Stan Lee


You could probably make an argument about which books should be in which categories.  I know that I moved a few of them back and forth several times, but I hope this infographic helps you better understand the categories.

This oh so helpful infographic first appeared on Carly Waters, Literary Agent, but I saw it on Xina Marie Uhl’s Journey Taker.


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