Pub Rants

Jackie Collins Anyone?

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STATUS: Last day of the fair. It might be 1:00 a.m. Denver time but I’m up and at ‘em to tackle the last round of meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LIES by Glen Hansard

As I mentioned last week, one of the first things I did when coming to London was to check out the area bookstores. In looking at my notes from my Waterstone’s visit, the most interesting thing that sticks out for me is how popular sophisticated urban contemporary women’s fiction is.

Oh, you read that right. I just wasn’t using the term we called it over here in the States.

Chick lit.

This is a genre that actually still works across the pond. In fact, I even had a French editor ask me if I had any shopping in the city with martinis and twenty-somethings. Didn’t even have to be front list. She was happy to consider back list titles for publication in France.

Could have knocked me over with a feather because unless you are already established in the US (Sophie Kinsella anyone?), it’s not something editors say they are actually looking for.

On the shelves of Waterstones, I saw many titles by Marian Keyes prominently displayed. An editor of an imprint at Random House mentioned that Jessica Brody (The Fidelity Files) was working quite well for them.

Check out the cover. Classic chick lit if I’ve ever seen one.

Another popular author is Susy McPhee for the older set (Husband & Lies and The Runaway Wife). The editor even called it hen lit.

So interesting. But here’s what floored me. I visited all the major houses in UK and every editor mentioned that escapist fiction was working for them (well, no surprise given the economy) but what they were looking for was the big epic dishy and glamorous titles I have always associated with the 80s and Jackie Collins. Think Tasmina Perry’s Daddy’s Girls.

One house had high hopes for Immodesty Blaize’s soon-to-be-released Tease.

I can’t say I’ve had any editors in the US ask for the same. There was some excitement two years or so ago for Tilly Bagshawe (sister of the well established UK author Louise) and her debut called Adored but I don’t think it did as well as they had hoped over on this side of the pond.

I’ll be heading to New York for Book Expo next month. We’ll see what the US editors have to say then. Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane most of the day heading back to Denver so probably won’t be blogging. But don’t worry, women’s lit and shopping weren’t all that the UK editors were looking for. Literary fiction and upmarket commercial fiction is high on their lists as well. I’ll look through my notes and blog, hopefully, on Friday.

Have a happy Wednesday!

26 Responses

  1. Venus Vaughn said:

    Sad to say, Tilly Bagshaw’s book SHOWDOWN was the first book I have ever, honest to God, just wanted to throw against a wall.

    I didn’t. I resold it to some sucker who doesn’t know why writing a believable character matters, but if I’d been stuck in an restroom with no TP and that book in my purse, I wouldn’t have thought twice.

    Otherwise, I’m not surprised chick-lit still has a market in the UK. It does here too, we just haven’t found the right books to fill it yet.

  2. Evangeline said:

    I’m only assuming here, but the popularity of soapy fiction looks like it’s simply a new form of the long-popular saga, and also mirrors the obsession UK audiences have with their mega-rich footballers and WAGS, and their reality TV shows and its stars (who also grow rich and have a lot of drama)–rags-to-riches type of stories.

    As for chick-lit, I miss it. And I can see why it remained popular in the UK because the cheeky, self-deprecating tone Brits seem to have down pat, goes with chick-lit IMO. I think US chick-lit got lost in the sea of “single gal in the city” rather than just a humorous, realistic story about a 20/30-something gal’s life–and don’t make me mention the eagerness with which the industry pounced on “-lit” (hen-lit, lad-lit, etc). It fragmented the genre.

    It looks like you had fun in London, and I can’t wait to hear what US editors have to say.

  3. Anonymous said:

    So…does this mean if I sent you a chick-lit query and you passed, I should resubmit?

  4. Fawn Neun said:

    I agree with Evangeline – they’re probably better at it than we are. After all, THEY have Patsy and Eddy, you can’t top that.

    So, if we actually have something that looks like it will sell in the British market, should we query you first or should we look for a British agent?

    Not that I think I can top AbFab. 🙂

  5. SGF said:

    I completely agree with Evangeline as well. As a US reader of chick lit, I am TIRED of those tinkly shopping stories, come on. I want smarter chick lit than that.

    Good thing I’m writing it. 🙂

    Marian Keyes does smarter chick lit, and she does well here in the US. I like her because she doesn’t focus on those soppy shopping high heels stories.

    I have always thought that the UK has a great audience for both types though. Every time I go over the pond, I find great reads in the airport bookstores where they tend to stock quick, escapist chick lit novels on endcaps. I am sorry to hear editors want Jackie Collins style novels. Gross.

  6. Marianne McA said:

    Just speculation: could it be that there’s a bigger market for chick-lit here in the UK because there isn’t really a romance genre?

  7. Kelley said:

    Pls, let us know what they say in NYC.

    Personally, I just don’t think shopping and stilettos are going to make a comeback over here. There seems to be a revolution going on thanks to the recession-it’s now all about saving and materialistic backlash. So, I don’t know if it would fly?

    But I do wonder–in bad economic times people have always wanted funny, and as a woman I know I want to read about real and strong women. So I guess I’m at a loss why it(light women’s fiction or romcom) is not hotter than it’s been. But maybe that’s changing, as other recent blogs have been saying. Again, pls, let us know.

  8. Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said:

    It seems that in the States, Chick Lit was shoe-horned into a small category where the characters wore expensive shoes and darted around in the big city, wreaking havoc wherever they went.

    Humourous women’s fiction has so much more to offer, I would hate to see it die just because of a label someone put on it.

  9. Amy said:

    Ahh… Look at all the new books I can order. I adore “smart” chick-lit and I miss it here. Thanks for filling us in on this subject!

    So, can I resend you my “sophisticated urban contemporary women’s fiction”? Or, should I send it to a UK agent?

    Glad to hear good news about this category – I tell you, it’s been a rough few years.

  10. cdnlibrarian said:

    Those 80s-style epics are so popular in the UK that they have their own nickname: bonkbusters. Love it!

    I first read it in the Bookseller (a UK industry publication) — no idea whether they coined or stole it, but it’s a classic.

  11. therese said:

    Great post and uplifting. The world of story is global and writers should focus on their passion, and good grammar.
    There’s always a market somewhere, some day, for the stories written – trends are specific to time and place.

  12. Matthew O'Brien said:

    Chicklit is not dead, but maybe it ought to be left to die lol. I have no problem with chick lit actually, if there is a market for it, but I sure would like to see some broader issues being dealt with than handbags and blockheaded boyfriends. Of course, then it wouldn’t be chic lit, would it?

    For example, teenage-girl binge drinking in the UK (I’m originally from England, so yeah, I know what I’m talking about!) has reached gross proportions. Teenage pregnancy is very high also. A YA book dealing with those issues would work wonderfully. I get the impression that young woman are yearning for deeper meaning. Not everyone wants to be a slut from sex and the city. There’s just no modesty anymore in that sort of thing, which is sad.

  13. Anonymous said:

    I think it’s hard to do funny well. There’s a lot of chick lit and romcom out there that tries to be funny, but isn’t.

    I’ve always been a fan of good glamour books, a la Barbara Taylor Bradford and Danielle Steel. Those books work because the characters are likeable. I couldn’t get into ADORED because they characters were miserable people, not believable at all.

  14. Amy said:

    Matt – How is teenage binge drinking and teen pregnancy classier than the women in Sex and the City?

    Just curious.

    I agree about books about boys and shopping, for me, it’s books set in NY. I would read anything set somewhere other than NY.

    Love UK writers by the way, my favorite chick lit authors are from the UK.

  15. Amy said:

    Oh, and ANON, funny is soooooo HARD. And so underrated. Original and funny is a tall task.

    Jen Lancaster is funny.

  16. Amanda Brice said:

    Kristin, I can honestly say I’m not surprised to read that chick lit is still selling overseas. It’s exactly what they were telling us at the International Women’s Fiction Festival back in September.

    They might not be still using the term chick lit, but they’re still looking for it. And it still sells.

  17. Evangeline said:

    Personally, I just don’t think shopping and stilettos are going to make a comeback over here. There seems to be a revolution going on thanks to the recession-it’s now all about saving and materialistic backlash. So, I don’t know if it would fly?When I was shopping for new books at, I was pretty amused by the topics of recently released and upcoming chick-lit: suddenly broke socialites, lost hedge funds, etc. Could this be a way for chick-lit to make its return to the US?

  18. Tammy Kearly said:

    When I recently read Glitter Baby I told all my pals, it’s just like the great stuff we read in jr. high in the 80’s…Scruples, Lace, etc.

    I had a wonderful time reading it. You could tell it was written a while ago, but it made me nostalgic for that type of book…and tempted to try my hand at one.

    PS – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marian Keyes…I’d read the grocery list she writes.

  19. Anonymous said:

    I love chick-lit (and mom-lit). I buy it wherever I can find it, and, yes, often it’s British. I’d choose chick-lit over vampires, demons and steampunk any day!

  20. Sir John said:

    I write international romantic thrillers and with this new insight I think it might be interesting to have you look at my work through new eyes.
    By the way, I would have loved to have made it to the London Book fair also. I love it there. I’m glad you had a good time.

    Johnny Ray