by Paulette Stout
June 8 marks the fifth annual Women’s Fiction Day— celebrating one of the most popular yet misunderstood fiction genres. Despite regularly topping bestseller charts, ask readers and even some authors to accurately describe women’s fiction, and many have a hard time. Writers of women’s fiction are often overlooked in award categories and bookstore shelves. And we had no home of our own until the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) was founded in 2013.
WFWA defines women’s fiction as works focusing on “the protagonist’s journey toward a more fulfilled self.” While many genres feature conflict and transformation, most are plot driven. Mysteries are solved. Lovers united. Worlds saved from annihilation. In women’s fiction, the driving force of the story is the main character’s evolution into a more insightful, better version of themselves. And that self can be male, female, or however the author defines the character.
For writers, the beauty of the genre lies in its flexibility. Many genres are bound by strict conventions—broken at an author’s peril. Women’s fiction stories meander down satisfying paths that leave both readers and authors fulfilled. They can be contemporary or set anywhere in history. They can have mystery, romantic, or magical elements, as long as the focus remains on the character’s transformation. With that wide a berth, it’s no wonder women’s fiction titles remain top sellers.
That book is Women’s Fiction?
Many bestsellers labeled as romance, contemporary, suspense, and historical can be cross categorized as women’s fiction. If readers go in with one set of expectations, only to be surprised by the soulful content that often takes the story to a deeper level exploring personal tragedy, relationships, or adversity, that story is likely a contender.
Genre is easily confused. But it’s critical to get right if you want to reach the right readers. When I wrote my debut, Love, Only Better, I thought it was romance and paid the price. My book targeted the wrong audience! Now, I know better, and the same words are finding enthusiastic readers on the proper bookshelf: women’s fiction. With this clarity, I’m sure you can think of oodles of titles that deserve a women’s fiction category sash.
Want examples? I’d argue the below books can all be accurately categorized as women’s fiction:
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: Often thought of as a love story, the lack of a happily ever after, combined with the sober themes of surviving domestic abuse and homelessness land this title squarely in women’s fiction.
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus: The cover might look like a rom-com, but the independent-minded 1950s heroine and journey to overcome loss, assault, abuse, and workplace discrimination position this book squarely as women’s fiction.
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: History sweeps us away to the dust bowl, but the plains and migrant camps transform the insecure heroine in every way that matters.
The WFWA Community & Women’s Fiction Day
For ten years, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) mission has been to support career-minded women’s fiction writers in their journey to (and through) publication. It has grown bigger and stronger every year—so much so that WFWA created an annual day to showcase the accomplishments of women’s fiction authors, promote the genre, and raise awareness with readers.
As a nonprofit, WFWA is prevented from actively selling or advertising the works of author members. But for one day each year, it can: Women’s Fiction Day. This year, there is a full slate of social media lives and podcasts where readers can learn more about women’s fiction and the authors writing it—and writers can connect with others in the women’s fiction community. Readers can also enter giveaways for free books and connect with authors who will be engaging with fans on social media throughout the week. To learn more about Women’s Fiction Day and get in on the fun, visit the celebration page. Dig in and enjoy one of these amazing stories.
Paulette Stout is the fearless—and award winning—author of fast paced contemporary women’s fiction tackling social issues often ignored. With Paulette’s books, readers get bingeable stories and relatable characters that keep readers glued til the end. Connect with Paulette on her website at paulettestout.com, on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok @paulettestoutauthor or on Twitter @StoutContent.