Now: Women's fiction!
I seem to recall that during my initial call for feedback, one or two of you wanted an explanation of the difference between women's fiction and chick lit. In my preferred format (i.e. bullets):
• Women's fiction is more of an umbrella term, encompassing chick lit, most romance, most erotica, and "mainstream" women's fiction (think Carol Goodman rather than Jennifer Weiner). Historical fiction often overlaps considerably (think Philippa Gregory).
• Women's fiction is as old as, well, women (or at least as old as women writers), whereas chick lit is a relatively more recent phenomenon (early to mid-1990s).
• Women's fiction is aimed at women in general, whereas chick lit is aimed at women in their 20s or early 30s, often unmarried, and often trying to juggle their careers, love lives, and social (mis)adventures as they learn to navigate their way in the world.
Still confused? Well, it turns out it's just kind of tricky to define women's fiction, and even Jessica over at BookEnds has said as much. I tend to subscribe to the Potter Stewart school of thought (i.e. I know it when I see it).
And speaking of bestselling author Jennifer Weiner—who, having graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, is no intellectual slouch—she has her own ideas on the subject, as well as the sales to back them up. As you may have noticed from Ms. Weiner's sales—and, indeed, the recent trends in major retailer co-op and various bestseller lists—both women's fiction and chick lit are selling well. (If you're curious, the BookScan numbers generally confirm this, with titles like Best Friends Forever, The Help, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society selling exceptionally well.) Recognize those last two from yesterday's post? Well, I'd classify them as women's fiction as well as historical fiction. After tomorrow's post, I'd wager you'll find the historical romance gets you the most bang for your buck, so stay tuned.
In the way of advances, I really don't have much for you; while I tend to think the average women's fiction/chick lit advance is slightly higher than the average advance for a novel nowadays (somewhere in the $5,000 - $7,500 range), I really couldn't tell you with any certainty. My advice? Ask your agent!
A summary for you, then:
• There are subtle differences between women's fiction and chick lit: in short, chick lit is a sub-genre of women's fiction.
• Both women's fiction and chick lit are selling well right now, particularly if they happen to also fall under the categories of historical fiction, fantasy, or romance. I sort of see the genre developing away from chick lit in the next year or two (that is, I agree with Jessica—or at least, what Jessica said a couple of years ago). I don't expect this to be a handicap for those currently writing chick lit, however.
• The average advance is likely in the same ballpark as the average advance for any debut novel today ($5,000 - $7,500), but I don't have much data in this area and really advise you to ask your agent about this one.
• Again, with all the usual caveats and disclaimers, my theory: historical romance (itself a manifestation of women's fiction, though certainly not chick lit), especially if there are steampunk/vampire/fantasy elements involved, is where it's going to be at in the next six to twelve months. Keep an eye out for tomorrow's post on romance.