Writers Without a Massive Platform

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Writers Without a Massive Platform

At the end of 2015, I wrote a post about my goals at Grab the Lapels. In it, I described why I started GTL, what I read that year, and what I wanted to change. My 3rd goal was “Provide a space for women to feel confident that they can get their book some attention when they may not in other venues.” That means I want to look at small presses and books that may lack “market appeal.”

pink-books

Apparently, going with pink helps.

Surprisingly, about half of the authors I read in 2015 were women who didn’t really need my help: Jenny Lawson, Kate Beaton, and Roxane Gay, for example. My goal in 2016 was to clean up the pile of books sent by publishers and authors, though the #20BooksofSummer challenge influenced my goal.

Overall, I read 21 books by authors by authors with a solid platform, including L.M. Montgomery, Barbara Ehrenreich, Lindy West, and Ruth Ware.

Sadly, my stats on writers without a solid platform are just over 50%. I read authors like Kelly Chripczuk, Monica Nolan, Tsipi Keller, and Elaine Richardson, and those authors tended to have diverse social, economic, racial, and national backgrounds.

What I’m learning on my quest to find fat fiction in 2017 is that most authors who write fat women are self-published or with small presses. Fat fiction doesn’t have the kind of “market appeal” publishers know is safe because no one’s really doing it — not successfully, anyway. Maybe it’s all the blue covers:

A lot of fat fiction hinges on weight loss and romance, and readers have tired of that already. I have, however, expanded my list since my end-of-the-year post, a task that has taken a considerable amount of time to complete. There’s variety: self-published, big publisher, small press, fiction, and nonfiction:

  1. I Do It With the Lights On by Whitney Way Thore
  2. Dietland by Sarai Walker
  3. Skinny by Diana Spechler
  4. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  5. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks by Susan Stinton
  6. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  7. Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore
  8. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
  9. Certain Girls (sequal) by Jennifer Weiner
  10. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
  11. Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio <<thanks for the rec, Rosalie Morales Kearns!
  12. Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson
  13. Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech
  14. Misadventures of Fatwoman by Elizabeth Julie Powell
  15. Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
  16. If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman << thanks for the rec, Rachel!
  17. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
  18. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
  19. This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabby Sidibe
  20. Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs by Cheryl Peck
  21. Faith, Vol. 1: Holywood and Vine by Jody Houser << thanks for the rec, Bina!
  22. Push by Sapphire
  23. The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister
  24. The Fat Friend: A Novel by Julie Edelson
  25. Venus of Chalk by Susan Stinson << thanks for the rec, Casey!
  26. Morning Song by Susan Simone
  27. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
  28. Invisible by Jeanne Bannon
  29. Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein
  30. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen <<thanks for the rec, TJ!
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About Grab the Lapels

I'm a graduate of the MFA fiction writing program at the University of Notre Dame. I also have a MA and BS from Central Michigan University. I teach composition, creative writing, and literature, which has inspired me to follow along with trends in teaching, publishing, and reviewing.

35 responses »

    • Actually, authors often have little to do with cover choice. Designers are given a synopsis and/or an excerpt and told what the publishers have in mind for best marketability. This has led to some pretty silly/misleading covers and some weird trends, like a set of colors (pink, baby blue, neon green), images on the covers (a high heel/cupcake/shopping bag), and font (cursive).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I can’t help but wonder, though, if books are actually “about” being fat, then doesn’t that in itself re-emphasise fat as not “normal”? I must admit that’s how I feel about most deliberately “diverse” fiction. I’d rather like to see fat, skinny, short, tall, gay, straight, blah, blah, characters where that label isn’t the thing that they’re about, but is simply part of what they are… what do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I want to see fat characters move through books without the book being about their fatness. For instance, if a character notes that she hates sitting in booths at restaurants because they squeeze her belly, but the focus of the book is a road trip, then excellent. When I say “about fat women,” I’m mostly thinking memoir. The focus is on the body, but did the author write a positive representation of being a fat woman AND living a life outside of yet influenced by her fatness, or was it all misery, losing weight, and getting married? So basically, you’re right: the goal is to find books that normalize fatness and thus aren’t afraid to mention it because a fat character might scare away readers. The absolute WORST, I’m finding, are books that have some kind of fat pun in the title and suggest only sex with fat women is fulfilling. Ugh. Spare me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It occurs to me that Ann Cleeves’ character Vera Stanhope is, I believe, a fat woman but also a highly successful police detective. I haven’t read them so not sure what her attitude is to her size, but from the TV series she strikes me as the kind of woman who wouldn’t be obsessed by her own body image. I have the first book on the TBR, so I’ll let you know…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I give you a lot of credit for deliberately searching out books and authors who don’t get a lot of national attention, but who still write books that are well-written and have good characters and so on.

    And I can’t help but agree with FictionFan. I’d love to get to a time in literature when the fact of someone being fat/thin/gay/straight/white/non-white/whatever is a part of the character, but doesn’t define that character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a couple of fiction books on the list that I’m worried are going to be ONLY about being fat, but based on the synopsis, it sounded like size was a small part of the story. *fingers crossed* If any book sucks, I’ll let you guys know 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t even know fat fiction was a thing. Learn something new every day I guess.

    Hey If I were to write a book, would you read it?
    I don’t actually have any immediate plans to write a book, I wouldn’t know where to start.

    But just out of curiosity?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, “fat fiction” isn’t really a category, which makes it hard to find. Actually, if you’re looking for smutty love with women with big booties, that’s not hard to find at all. Hell, you can get a Christmas-themed book like that. Read a book: Not for free. You so craaazy. Ideas on how to get started: begin by reading On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Or, if the money is there, sign up for a creative writing class at your local community college. Deadlines are helpful, as is seeing peers’ immediate reactions. You’re a witty guy; you’ve got something there.

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  4. I’m looking forward to following you on this project. I hope you’re able to find some good ones!
    It just occurred to me that you might want to check out Birdie by Tracey Lindberg. Her protagonist, Birdie/Bernie, is fat, but the book is not about her ‘fatness’. However, on her spiritual ‘journey’ she ends up losing a lot of her weight, and I was confused about how I felt about that, or what the author was trying to say there. I think it just happened, but it *was* pointed out a few times. I’d love to hear your take on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I LOVED Dietland but had such a hard time with 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Dietland was a celebration, 13 Ways felt like a condemnation. I know that wasn’t her intent, but the entire time, Lizzie is so focused on her weight, it becomes her entire persona.

    I can’t wait to read Hunger and I bet the Gabby Sidibe book will be pretty good too. I love her attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank for sharing this list! I am also hoping to read more fat fiction (inspired by you, of course!). This just massively expanded my TBR. I look forward to watching your reviews come in. It’s a shame you got off to a rough start, but that is to be expected sometimes. There will always be some bad apples in the bushel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was all news to me, although I can imagine that January is the best month to find all of the books about ‘fat’ – although they are probably the wrong ones, focusing almost exclusively on losing weight and improving yourself. I’d struggle to think of any other than the obvious (and very annoying) Bridget Jones.
    I also love your goal of reading women writers without a massive following. I want to do more of that too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope you find wonderful experience and representations in these books! Also if you find/read one that is WOC authored please let me know. So far I’ve mostly found non-fiction and blog posts by about the intersection of race and weight. By the way not sure if you’ve read it yet or you read comics but I found Faith was a great comic about a superhero who happens to be big.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Diversity Bingo 2017 | Rustling Reads

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