Thursday, March 26, 2009

CHICKLIT: MISSING PERSONS REPORT

Chicklit has gone MIA.

Once so ubiquitous and easy to spot (Those shoes and tubes of lipstick on the covers! The cartoon images! Neon-bright girly colors!), chicklit has developed such a rampant case of shyness that onlookers suspect it should be declared dead. Let's have a look at the evidence, shall we?

Previously reported:
- An agent putting in writing to Apprentice Writer that (paraphrased) chicklit is toast,
nigh impossible to sell to publishers anymore,

- A used book store owner giving
less credit for chicklitish titles (including those clearly marked 'Women's Fiction') than any other genres due to difficulty unloading,


New clues:
- Harlequin's much-advertised 60-year anniversary celebration doesn't seem to have sent a party invitation to the genre. As far as AW could tell, none of the 16 featured free books available for e-download included chicklit, nor the featured series to be released during the year. Paranormal, suspense, inspirational titles etc. offer multiple choices for the reader each month; while
Red Dress Ink, the chicklit imprint, offers a single December 2008 title as most recent choice.

-
Upsurge in titles now described as 'Contemporary/Upbeat/Light/Humorous Women's Fiction'. Author Jane Porter's website divides her work into 'Classic Romance' (referring to series titles) and titles described as 'Modern Lit'.

-
Migration. First there was the disbandment of such sites as 'Literary Chicks', now previous chicklitish authors are popping up in other genres:

CARA LOCKWOOD - Young adult series and paranormal title
Every Demon Has His Day
ALESSIA HOLLIDAY - writing as Alyssa Day, paranormal series
Atlantis
LANI DIANE RICH - Co-wrote paranormal title
Dogs and Goddesses
EILEEN COOK- Young adult title
What Would Emma Do
EILEEN RENDEHL - writing as Eileen Carr, suspense title
Hold Back the Dark and urban fantasy title Don't Kill the Messenger

From this off-the-top-of-her-head and by no means exclusive sample, Apprentice Writer concludes that a) Some people are amazingly good at seeing the writing on the wall and doing something about it, and b) Young adult, urban fantasy, and holy-smokes-its-unstoppable,-Batman paranormal are the rainmakers at the moment.

Is there any hope of chicklit survival?
Well, yes. Apparently a chicklit voice can thrive by immigration to other genre lands and blending in there. Funny, first-person stories have been popping up (as would be expected from above) in Young Adult land, Paranormal land, and Fantasy land. Also, JANET MULLANY'S upcoming title,
A Most Lamentable Comedy, is billed as 'Regency Chicklit'.

But, the outlook for chicklit survival in the land of its birth - straight contemporary?
Looking doubtful.

Optimists will promise the inevitablity of its rebirth, certain to rise from the ashes anew at some unknown future point. Maybe. But, who knows how far in the future, and under what name?

Until then, AW wishes someone would
clue her in about the identity of the NEXT rainmaking subgenre.

11 comments:

Janet Mullany said...

Thanks for mentioning A Most Lamentable Comedy!

I've always wondered about the chicklit label myself. I adopted the term Regency chicklit for my books because explaining to a potential editor/agent that I wrote funny historicals written in (two) first persons, present tense, with the occasional fart joke, was opening up all sorts of opportunities for them to say NO! and run. Using the chicklit label implies a sort of light, breezy, humorous approach.

That said, I'm published by Little Black Dress (UK) a line that is all about voice (altho my first of the subgenre, The Rules of Gentility, was published first in the US by HarperCollins). I also think that UK publishers are far less concerned about pinning a book down to a subgenre, and I'd say that's all about marketing and audience and business models and other stuff outside my comprehension.

So, tastes change. Writers adapt. It's the way of publishing.

Alyssa Day said...

Interesting blog. I was in New York last week and a panel of publishing professionals said that they could all point to The Day that Chicklit Died. It wasn't all that funny to me, since I was one of the ones watching my career crash down around my ears!! But my motto in publishing is Adapt or Die, so I took a long-held love of mythology and Atlantis and ran with it. I sure miss reading the best of those chicklit books thought - they added a great deal of laughter and fun to my life.
hugs,
Alesia Holliday aka Alyssa Day

M. said...

Be still my heart. Ms. Janet Mullany, author of the very funny (and beautifully covered) 'The Rules of Gentility' has arrived for a visit! Welcome.

I must say it's comforting to hear that an author established in the biz can still it impenetrable at times. Makes a soon-to-start-submitting, starry-eyed newbie like me feel less doltish.

I am looking forward to AMLC, not least because of the pretty cover.

M. said...

Be still my heart, part II. Ms. Alysa Day (paranormal incarnation) aka Alesia Holliday (chicklit incarnation), the author of the very funny 'American Idle' has come for a visit. Welcome.

Let me first apologize for apparently misspelling your name, and then ask if you'd share when exactly that doomladen Day was? Did that panel of experts give any further idea about reasons or resurrection?

Julia Smith said...

Hey, AW - what's going on? Is there an industry cocktail party hiding out here somewhere? ;-)

M. said...

Julia - I know! I wonder if I should name authors' most recent titles more often! Very cool.

Julia Smith said...

M - I've got an award with your name on it...drop on by.

twiga92 said...

Funny - I hadn't heard that chick lit was dead. Maybe it's being called by different names now? There seem to be a subgenre of chick lit type books in Christian fiction which is more what I read these days. I don't know if it's officially dead yet as there seem to be a plethora of readers out there that still like to read it. Maybe we're just not buying enough of them for publishers to take notice.

M. said...

it's Twiga from bookaddict4life, come for a visit! Welcome.

I think maybe it what you say is true, the that points to another migration route of 'classic' chicklit - away from standard big city single girl type stories, and closer to inspirational type ones.

Janet Mullany said...

I must say it's comforting to hear that an author established in the biz can still it impenetrable at times.

I'm established?!! I'd say it's rather like a maze--the longer you're in it, the more confusing it becomes.

M. said...

@ Ms. Mullany - well, my definition of established would be: published more than once, with further titles pending. So, yes. Though I do find the maze image evocative.