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.


  1. I prefer to read manuscripts set in the U.S., but a women's journey type novel where the heroine explores Europe for the summer would be interesting to me.

  2. Mr. Lukeman, If I have a debut literary/historical novel that's 110K... is this too long? What would this wordcount mean to agents and editors and how would it affect my chances of representation/publication?

    Thank you,
    Renee Goudeau

  3. I actually look forward to storylines set in other countries. But they have to be places that I like to go, which is highly subjective. On the other hand, I doubt there's anyone who doesn't like the south of France.

  4. Dear Mr Lukeman,
    My novel, The Tailor's Needle, published by Picnic Publishing, UK, will be out in a fortnight. It is set in British pre-independence India. It is priced at £ 9.5 in the UK. My publisher wants to print another Indian edition. How many copies should she print and at what Indian price? Given that I have as yet written only one story collection in 2001 which sold about 400 copies in my town, Allahabd, (I don't know about other towns) and I have another novel and story collection waiting for representation. I am therefore as yet unknown.
    My best.
    Lakshmi Raj Sharma

  5. There is a local, regional publisher interested in the project I have submitted to her, however she says she doesn't have time to read it all now. Would it be disloyal for me to submit it to another publisher?

  6. So pleased to hear your positive views on literary fiction set outside the US since I refuse to die until I have hit the NY best selling list. But the only thing I know about setting literary fiction in the US is what I've picked up working for the US Army in Vicenza- Italy- therefore...

  7. Mr. Lukeman

    Dear Mr. Lukeman
    In 07' I self-published my first suspense novel. While on a small scale, it received very good reviews. It was shown on a local tv morning show here in Nashville and given a "highly recommended" review. To this day people who read it really love it and encourage me to give it wider exposure.

    My question is: Is it still possible to contact an agent to republish this novel for a bigger, national audience?

    Thank you- Ann Lee

  8. If it's a fictional novel, set in a foreign country, which uses real names of that country's politicians, how much of a chance does that novel have with agents? Would agents shy away from a manuscript with real names? Thank you.


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