The Market of Women's Fiction

Since women tend to read more, and buy more books, it has been shown that women's fiction comprises about 40 percent (or a little more) of all the adult popular fiction that is sold in the United States. This is approximately 60 percent of all adult popular fiction paperbacks sold. This information comes from a recent Gallup Poll. This means that women's fiction is a $24 billion dollar industry.

Publishers and agents are actively looking for new works in the women's fiction genre. So, if you were on the fence about writing a work in women's fiction, this might give you that push you need!

Why is this market such a lucrative one, and why is it growing? Simple. As stated above, women tend to buy -- and read -- more books. Why not write to that growing audience? Another reason is because the works in this genre tend to be more timely. As we have talked about already, the themes are often ripped the from the headlines, which is something a number of people gravitate to, and women's themes hit home with, well, women.

The themes in these novels speak to women, and women want to read what they know, or what they've experienced, or about what they hope to get out of life. Themes of hope and change might speak to one group of women, while themes of family might speak to another. We often read about things that interest us, or things we're experiencing, or things we feel might help us. Women's fiction can hit all those notes.

But even though you know that women's fiction is in demand now, try not to hurry your writing, or try to force it; that often ends in sloppy work. The demand is there now, and the market is growing, so the demand will still be there when you finish.

When you do finish your work, what should you do? Who should you send it to?
Publishers versus Agents

A publisher is someone who actually puts out the books. The agent is the person who can help you find the right publisher for your work. Yes, you will pay an agent, but you will only pay the agency when they find your work a home, and it is typically a percentage of what you are paid for your book, by the publisher.

You can, of course, opt for going it alone and simply send your query letters, or your finished piece, directly to the publisher, but this is really not the way to go anymore. Once upon a time this was fine, but today most publishers won't even read unsolicited manuscripts, asking you to instead go through an agent.

Agents do the homework for you. They find the publishers that are seeking the type of work you have written, in this case women's fiction, and they go to work for you.

Finding the correct agent takes homework, as agents specialize. You will need to find one that works in the women's fiction field. For now, just note that publishers and agents are different animals, and there is a proper way to "shop" your work around once you have the finished piece in hand.
Publishing Guidelines for Women's Fiction

Now let us discuss what publishers are looking for in women's fiction submissions! Before you even begin writing, really, you need to think about these things. However, if you have already started your piece, do not let these items change your work or your focus.These are things you can adjust as you go along, or simply work on them when you go back and edit in a rewrite or a second draft.

Typically, publishers want a work of women's fiction to be somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 words. That is a lot of leeway, isn't it? Shorter novels are not usually as deep or intricate as longer novels, and typically your shorter novel will have fewer characters and relationships.

When you delve into a longer piece, note that you will need to do your research.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Writing Women's Fiction course?
Publishers are also looking for a solid, well-told story. You may have a great premise, but have you done it justice? Don't write a shallow piece; dive into it, and really flesh it out. Really draw your reader (and your agent, and the publisher) in! As you read back over your work, or have a friend read it, ask if the story actually covers all the bases. Did you start out in one place and end up in another? What I mean by that is, did you set out to tell one story and end up in an entirely different story? Stay on track and keep focused. Research: How, Why, What?

Whether you are writing a 50,000-word story or a 100,000-word piece, there should definitely be research involved. Even if you are writing from experience, you will want to get all the nuances right. For those longer, more intricate works, you will definitely have to do your research.

But how? Where can you look? Obviously the Internet and the library are great resources. If you are writing something ripped from the headlines, magazines, new programs on television, and newspapers can be a big help. Purchasing a subscription to some of the bigger online news sources can be a great idea -- and writing expenses are tax deductible! Even the envelopes and postage for the query letters and submissions are deductible, so remember that!

You can also interview people. If this is a ripped from the headlines piece, you may be able to speak with someone involved, or a reporter that covered the story. Don't be afraid to reach out! Or maybe you are writing a piece about something that happened to a loved one. If that is the case, interview them -- get more details. Every little detail helps you craft a more developed story.

Maybe taking a trip to the place you are planning to write about will help. We used Charleston as an example earlier. If you do plan to set your story in a place you are not familiar with, a trip can help. If you are travelling there strictly for your writing, that can be tax deductible, too. Ask an accountant to be sure!

All those little details will really serve to make your story more solid, just what the publishers are looking for!

Making your writing better, and editing…

Louis C.K., a comedian and screenwriter, recently stated that, "When it is time to write, I have one computer that has no ability to get on the Internet." (Rolling Stone, April 25th, 2013)

There are ways to create your writing environment to make it more productive -- but that can be different for everyone. Cutting yourself off from outside stimuli, such as television, the phone, Internet, writing to music, not writing to music -- everyone has a different idea of what helps them be creative. Is it candles? Aromatherapy? Whatever yours is, use it!

Edit, edit, edit … and then edit again!

We all know that we need to proofread our work, but editing for content is a bit different. Typically, when we hear the word "proofread," we think of checking for mistakes in spelling or grammar. But when you edit for content, you check to see what you can make tighter: Can one word work here instead of four? (or vice versa?). Can you change your paragraph to make it show, instead of tell?

Telling your reader what happened can bore him or her to tears, but when you show him what's happening, he can become involved.

Don't say, "Teresa broke her arm playing hockey." Say, "There were just five seconds left in the period. Teresa feinted right, she went left -- and got hip-checked by number five, falling hard onto the ice. When she stood, her arm hung at an odd angle from her body, and the crowd gasped." That is how you show your how reader Teresa broke her arm.

Check your work for that. If you have "told" too much, change it out and show it!

After you have proofread and edited your work, think about letting others read it. First-time writers may have a problem with this, but it does help! Let as many people read it as possible. Friends, family members, co-workers -- maybe even join a writer's group in your town, or online. Choose people you trust, and people you know will give you honest feedback. Buy them wine, make them dinner, take them out, whatever you need to do to repay them for their kindness -- because it is so essential to get feedback on your work. Each new set of eyes opens up possibilities. What one person notes or sees may be completely different from the advice or feedback from another-- and take their suggestions into consideration.
Agents: What They Do and How to Find One

In this article we will talk about the difference between sending queries to publishers, unsolicited, and sending queries to agents. There are many agents who are actively seeking women's fiction. We will also discuss what an agent does, and how to find one.

Your agent can be your best friend -- but an agent can be very hard to get! So, do you need an agent? Yes. Really? Yes!

It is true that "back in the day" you could just send out query letters and manuscripts to publishers unsolicited. They typically had someone on staff that would read these submissions, and if you were lucky, your work would be accepted and you would have a publisher!

Not so today. Currently there are very few publishers that will accept unsolicited manuscripts. If publishers do receive unsolicited work, they throw them out, unread. An agent is the person who will get your work read by publishers.

Your agent truly will do the work for you. They will read your work and decide which publishing houses are right for you, and then they will approach those houses. Your agent will promote you and your work, showing a publishing company why your book will work for them.

The agent you choose, or who chooses you, will know which publishers are looking for women's fiction. This saves you time, so you do not have to spend countless hours on the Internet, sending out your manuscripts, hoping to find the right publishers -- and hoping a publisher will even read what you have sent.

Your agent will also get your work edited again. In other words, make sure you have edited it before you send your work to an agent. Agents understand drafts, but they don't understand sloppy work that has never been proofread. Agents also will work to get you the best deal (the most money) possible. If you tried that without an agent, you might not know what a "good" deal was and might sell yourself short. Your agent won't do that.

Finding an agent can be one of the toughest parts of writing your novel. It may take dozens of query letters before you find one who wants to help you promote your work, but keep at it! Stay diligent, and keep editing!

Another way to make an agent more interested in you is to establish yourself as a writer. Publish articles in local magazines or the local paper, online (there are a variety of sites where you can submit work), win a writing contest, get your Master's Degree in writing, something. Show the agents you mean business.

Or maybe you have a blog? Blog about your work! Ask a local bookstore to promote you, or even set up a social media page for your writing.

Sometimes as you query agents, you will get lucky. Even if the agent can't see taking you on now, he or she might answer your query with some feedback that will help to make your work stronger and more salable. But mostly if an agent isn't interested, you'll get a rejection note, or nothing at all. No worries, take it in stride, it really does happen to everyone!

A final note on fees. If you send out a query to an agent who writes back and is very excited about taking you on as a client, but asks you for an upfront payment, this is a huge red flag. Forget this agency and move on! A legitimate agency will take a commission but only when they sell your work. Typically this will be around a 15 percent commission, taken from your advance, when your work sells. So, nothing up front! This goes for publishers, too, in case you do decide to bypass the agents. A publishing company will not charge any fees, for anything. No editing fees, no reading fees, nothing.