This article can be re-published in its entirety without getting permission, but I prefer to link to it:
The article not only describes literary fiction (vs genre/commercial fiction), it also gives various reasons why literary publishers reject submissions. These reasons were more in-depth than usual, making them especially helpful.
I also found the article helpful as I try to figure out if my book qualifies as “literary” or “mainstream” or “genre.” It certainly doesn’t follow genre constraints, can’t be pigeonholed into one genre or another, and focuses on character and interior monologues as much as plot. Is it science fiction? fantasy? science fantasy? historical fiction? time travel? psychological? romance?
But it’s not “high-falutin'” with highbrow language or anything like that, either. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the level of “books only a college lit professor could love.”
I hope to eventually submit it to traditional small-press publishers (since I don’t like the terms of the big houses). But I need to know how to classify it, in cover letters to an agent or editor. It’s very confusing because I keep finding different definitions on different websites–and the websites themselves admit this!