How to Write Upmarket Fiction: Understanding its Definition and Key Elements

Posted on Jun 14, 2023

Avatar Of P.j Mcnulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Fiction, Writing > How to Write Upmarket Fiction: Understanding its Definition and Key Elements

Upmarket fiction is a consistently popular genre.

Not only do books that fall under the umbrella of upmarket fiction sell well in their own right. They are also popular choices for adaptations in the form of films and prestige TV series.

But what exactly is upmarket fiction? How do you go about writing and publishing it successfully? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is upmarket fiction? Definition for writers

An Elegant Woman Reading Upmarket Fiction

So, you’re aiming to pen the next hit in upmarket fiction.

But what exactly is it?

Simply put, upmarket fiction is the golden child of literature. A hybrid genre that blends the best elements of literary and commercial fiction to create a seamless mix of style and substance.

Imagine your book sporting the intellectual prowess of literary fiction, filled with deep character studies, sophisticated prose, and themes that can stimulate thought-provoking debates. It doesn’t stop there. Your work then borrows the page-turning pace and widespread appeal of commercial fiction, drawing in readers who crave stories that are engaging, relatable, and above all, entertaining. Upmarket fiction offers the best of both worlds, creating a powerful combo that captivates readers.

But why does this fusion matter?

When your book seamlessly intertwines these two elements, it breaks boundaries and appeals to a broader range of readers. It allows you to tell a compelling story with robust characters and a riveting plot, while also giving you room to explore deeper, more nuanced themes. This means your book is accessible to those looking for a fast-paced, gripping read and to those who appreciate the finer nuances of literary art. Essentially, you’re opening the doors to a wider market, boosting your book’s potential reach and success.

This is not to say that every book that manages this delicate balance will automatically fall into the upmarket fiction category.

Remember, upmarket fiction is not just about creating a compelling, universally appealing story.

It’s also about the way you tell it.

It’s about crafting a tale that is as beautifully written as it is engrossing, with prose that sings and characters that resonate. It’s about having your readers hang on to every word, lost in your language even as they’re frantically turning pages to find out what happens next. If you can master this, your book might just be the next gem in the world of upmarket fiction.

Why is upmarket fiction popular?

Let’s dive into the burning question: why is upmarket fiction skyrocketing in popularity?

Picture this: your book sitting proudly on the shelves of readers who usually wouldn’t pick up literary fiction, who crave a thrilling page-turner, but are pleasantly surprised by the depth and nuance your story offers.

But it’s not just readers who are hooked. Publishers and literary agents are constantly on the lookout for the next big upmarket fiction hit. Why? Because upmarket fiction is like a chameleon. It has this uncanny ability to fit into multiple categories, making it a highly marketable commodity. That also makes it perfect for self-published authors.

The more categories your book can slide into, the more marketable it is. And a highly marketable book is a dream come true in the independent publishing industry. That’s the golden ticket to multiple audience segments.

Don’t forget, upmarket fiction is seen as a safe bet. The storytelling prowess of commercial fiction ensures the reader engagement, while the themes borrowed from literary fiction add depth. This dual appeal makes your book more likely to be picked up by book clubs, potentially gaining popularity through word-of-mouth. That’s the kind of buzz that can catapult your book to success.

Yet, the popularity of upmarket fiction doesn’t mean it’s a quick fix or a shortcut to fame.

Yes, it can reach a broad readership, and yes, it can pique the interest of publishers. But it still requires careful, thoughtful crafting. It demands a story that’s as beautifully written as it is thrilling, a story that can captivate readers from the first page to the last. It requires characters that are believable, relatable, and compelling, a plot that can keep readers guessing, and a theme that invites them to think, to question, to reflect. So, are you ready to take on the challenge and make your mark in the world of upmarket fiction?

Examples of upmarket fiction to inspire and inform your book

Let’s dive into some notable examples of upmarket fiction.

First off, let’s take a journey through “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. Here, Kidd flawlessly entwines a coming-of-age tale with delicate themes of love, loss, and race. It’s a powerful narrative that strikes a chord with a broad spectrum of readers, blending an accessible and engaging plot with beautiful, thoughtful prose.

Next, consider “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. With its gripping narrative, complex characters, and the exploration of social issues, it perfectly exemplifies upmarket fiction. Moriarty’s novel is as much a page-turner as it is a commentary on friendship, marriage, and the ugly secrets lurking behind perfect suburban lives.

Then there’s “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Afghanistan, this gripping narrative deals with themes of friendship, guilt, and redemption. It’s a heart-rending tale that beautifully marries a thrilling plot with a profound exploration of human nature and the complexities of life.

Lastly, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn is a prime example of an upmarket thriller. The novel’s twisting, turning plot keeps readers on the edge of their seats, while the exploration of marriage and psychological manipulation adds a rich depth to the story.

These examples can serve as your guide, showcasing the potential of upmarket fiction.

How to write upmarket fiction: your step-by-step guide

An Upmarket Fiction Writer Working In A Beautiful Room

Here’s how to write your own upmarket fiction story:

1. Develop High-Concept Ideas: The first step is to brainstorm high-concept ideas. This means your book should have a unique, original premise that instantly grabs attention. Think of a storyline that’s intriguing, easily understandable, yet offers a fresh perspective. The idea should be so captivating that it can be pitched in a sentence or two but promises additional depth.

2. Strike the Balance: The heart of upmarket fiction is balancing literary quality with wide appeal. This means your book should explore complex themes and possess a level of intellectual depth usually associated with literary fiction. At the same time, it should tell a compelling, accessible story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

3. Create Compelling Characters: Your characters should be as complex as the world they inhabit. They should feel real and relatable, with clear goals, motivations, and conflicts. Your readers should be invested in their journey, eager to know what happens to them. Remember, character development is just as important as your plot.

4. Maintain Pace without Sacrificing Depth: Your plot should be intriguing and paced well enough to keep readers turning the pages, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of depth.

5. Quality Writing Is Key: Finally, the quality of your writing is crucial. Upmarket fiction demands a standard of writing that is both beautiful and accessible. Your prose should be polished and sophisticated, yet clear and easy to read. Every sentence should serve a purpose, every word should add value.

So now you know how to write your own work of upmarket fiction. Time to take the plunge, start crafting your upmarket fiction masterpiece, and who knows, you might just pen the next bestseller.

Is there a market demand for upmarket fiction?

The upmarket fiction market is buzzing with potential, teeming with opportunities and challenges alike. Here’s what you need to know to chart your path to success.

Upmarket fiction is increasingly becoming a favorite among publishers and literary agents. But that’s not all. Upmarket fiction has the potential to span across genres and categories.

It’s not confined to one specific genre, which means your book can appeal to fans of mystery, romance, fantasy, and more, as long as it combines the page-turning appeal of commercial fiction with the depth and quality of literary fiction.

However, the market for upmarket fiction is not without its challenges. Given its popularity, the competition is fierce. Your book needs to stand out, to offer something fresh and unique.

But don’t let the competition deter you. Yes, it’s a crowded market, but it’s also a market brimming with opportunities.

How to self-publish an upmarket story

To help you navigate this journey, here are seven invaluable tips to successfully self-publish your upmarket fiction book.

1. Professional Editing is Crucial: Even the most skilled writers need editors. An experienced editor can help polish your prose, enhance your narrative, and ensure your book is the best it can be. They can help you strike the right balance between commercial and literary elements, making your book truly upmarket.

2. Invest in Quality Cover Design: The adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t hold in the publishing world. A professionally designed cover can make your book stand out in a crowded market, drawing in potential readers. It’s an investment that can significantly boost your book’s appeal.

3. Nail Your Book Blurb: A compelling blurb is your ticket to capturing readers’ interest. It should convey the unique premise of your book, hint at the depth of your story, and evoke a sense of intrigue. Make sure it reflects the upmarket nature of your book.

4. Master the Art of Pricing: Pricing your book correctly is key to your self-publishing success. Too high, and you risk alienating potential readers. Too low, and you may undersell your work. Research the market, understand your audience, and set a price that reflects the quality of your book.

5. Plan a Strategic Book Launch: A successful book launch can set the tone for your book’s success. Plan it meticulously. Use social media, email newsletters, and author websites to generate buzz. A well-executed launch can get your book off to a flying start.

6. Gather Reviews: Reviews can significantly influence a potential reader’s decision. Encourage your readers to leave reviews, consider sending advance review copies to bloggers and reviewers, and build a strong online presence. Positive reviews boost your book’s credibility and appeal.

7. Engage with Your Readers: Connecting with your readers can help build a loyal readership. Use social media, author blogs, and email newsletters to interact with your readers, discuss your book, and share your journey. Building this connection can turn your readers into your biggest advocates.

Self-publishing is a journey of empowerment, offering you the chance to showcase your upmarket fiction masterpiece to the world on your own terms.

It’s a challenging path, but with the right tools, strategies, and a commitment to quality, your book can truly succeed. Are you ready to make it happen?

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.
Liked this post? Share it with friends!

Interested in working with us?

Book a free strategy call with our expert team!