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Pub crawl: Editors and publishers discuss the fate of literary novels

Smaller presses, with an eye toward excellence and craft, may hold the key to publication. But you’ll need patience and persistence to unlock the doors, say these successful editors and publishers.

Literary Novels
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If you’ve written a literary novel and have been unsuccessful in placing it with a commercial press, consider the path of independent literary publishing. Often when we think of literary fiction, we think of works heavy on theme and idea, multi-layered in meaning, with complex characters, innovative structure and unique style. In addition, some novels present elements of ambiguity, making readers struggle at interpretation, sometimes at the sentence level, sometimes with the work as a whole. Yet not everyone defines “literary” the same way, and certainly not every literary publisher looks for or emphasizes the same approach.

Indeed, the editors of several independent literary presses had various ways of explaining what they look for in acquisitions. Their insights follow.

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