Commercial Women’s Fiction, Cont’d

Hi Everyone! Mercury is definitely in retrograde; it seems everything I posted yesterday didn’t stick, so I’ll try to recreate it today, as well as respond to the more recent postings. Here goes:

Berta: It depends on how you define mainstream. Is it reviewed by the media at large instead of just Latino media? Is it published amidst a general list instead of a Latino imprint? Is is bought by readers of all backgrounds instead of predominantly Latinos? I suspect it is a bit of all the above. If you go by this definition, then Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Dirty Girls Social Club was the first successful mainstream Latina novel. (Though there were nonsuccessful attempts previous to that, e.g. A Little Love by C.C. Medina.) In comparison to the AA market, there are technically more Latinos in the U.S. than AA, but if you look at the sales figures, it seems AA are more likely to buy books than Latinos. This may be due to differences in culture and history: there was a time when AA were legally prohibited from reading and writing. As such the act of reading/writing/publishing holds a sacred place in AA culture that is simply doesn’t for Latinos. Black folk have died for the privilege of reading; Latinos haven’t. AA are also more likely to self-publish when faced with rejection, while Latinos are more likely to give up. As for your AA friend, there may be a difference between literary and commercial multiculti fiction. People of all ethnicities read Beloved by Toni Morrison, but I wonder how many non-AA read True to the Game by Teri Woods.

Sasha: I coined the term “Chiquita Lit’ right here on this blog! It’s on my radar because nine times out of ten when agents and editors come to me looking for Latina writers, what they want is YA Latina chick lit. So yes, Chiquita Lit is what publishers are looking for this very second.

Mary: Hi!!! Great to hear from you 🙂 Some editors do have a very strong vision of what they want to publish. If you are a square peg and they have a round hole to fill, it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are they will ignore you. But if you are oval, and other circular pegs are nowhere to be found, they’ll try to squish you into their circular hole. The reason why editors are looking for the Latina Gossip Girl is because the Gossip Girl serious has made serious $$$. If it hadn’t, they wouldn’t be looking to replicate it. I think your readers are right to encourage you to stick to your guns. While Latinas are as fabulous with their shoes and careers and the next girl, when it comes to sex we seem to have a different sensibility. When I am with a group of Latinas, we swap stories about how our parents wouldn’t let us date till we were a certain age, or how our parents were horrified that we wanted to live with our boyfriends before we got married. When I am with a group of non-Latinas, we simply don’t have these kinds of discussions. What is relevent for Latinas isn’t necessarily relevant for non-Latinas, and our stories should reflect this.

Tempest: I agree!

Lupe: This is why I admire Harlequin–because they specialize in romance, they understand their readers in a way other houses can’t be because they publish books in countless categories. Either you’re a specialist or a generalist, and most large publishers are generalists. And specialists have an advantage over generalists when it comes to serving the needs of their customers.

3 thoughts on “Commercial Women’s Fiction, Cont’d”

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  2. Hi, Marcela!

    I’m curious. Why do you think most editors and agents are asking about Chiquita Lit? What is it about the Latina market that makes editors and agents especially interested in finding these books?

    And also, would you talk a little bit about publishing under a Latina/multicultural imprint versus not? (I suppose this goes back to the matter of specialization.) I have mixed feelings on this issue and was wondering what you see as the pros and cons. Great blog!

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