Sunday, August 2, 2009
Is there a market for literary fiction set in a country outside of the United States?
Question: Is there a market for literary fiction set in a country outside of the United States (for example, India)?
There is always a market for great fiction (and great books, in general), regardless of whether they are set in or outside of the United States (as has been proved by many recent bestsellers set in other countries). There is no reason why your novel’s being set in another country (for example, India) should be a deterrent to its sale, or should make it harder for you to land a literary agent.
As an agent, I myself was never biased against a particular work because of its being set in another country. Of much greater importance to me was the strength of the writing, the depth of the characters, the richness of the plot, the authenticity of the dialogue. If all of these (and other) elements were there, then the country was of no consequence. What is important, however, is that, artistically, the country (or the setting, in general) be authentically inherent to the other elements, and not forced onto the work simply for the sake of it.
That said, there have certainly been times in my career when I’ve heard back from an editor that he or she felt that a particular manuscript was too inherent to a particular country to be successful in the U.S., or heard back from a European publisher that a particular manuscript was too inherent to the U.S. to be successful in Europe. So there may be exceptions, depending of course on the work. But overall, I believe that universal truths will be recognized across countries and across continents: love, revenge, ambition, resolution, conflict…if an author taps into the essence of humanity in any given work, it will surely be embraced worldwide.
So my advice is to write what you know, and to focus on creating the best possible work. Once you achieve that, the setting should not be an issue.