Louise Moore, managing director of Penguin's Michael Joseph imprint in the U.K., gave a keynote speech at the London Book Fair on Tuesday urging the publishing industry and society in general to stop looking down its nose at commercial fiction. "This divide between commercial and literary fiction needs to stop," said Moore. She was interviewed by journalist and editor Sarah Shaffi on the London Book Fair's main stage on Day One of the fair. "We are hanging on to heritage we don't need to hang on to any more."
Moore argued "commercial" should be reclassified as "relevant," and cited an example equating popular Irish fiction writer Marian Keyes as being as "relevant" as Bernadine Evaristo, who was co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.
"'What does 'literary fiction' even mean, does it mean it's somehow OK to read it?' - It's a bit gender - and genre - patronizing," said Moore. Moore felt that the term commercial fiction was almost working as a barrier to readers in discovering new authors and books. "I don't want to spend the last five years of my working life hearing people say: 'I wouldn't have picked that up, but wow, I really enjoyed it!'"
Moore maintained that the use of labels like commercial fiction, women's fiction and literary fiction was holding the industry back, especially when compared to other media sectors. "Look at Netflix, look at music, there are no categories like this, it's just a cultural cringe that we have," she said.
Moore has been publishing Marian Keyes since 1997, but noted that it was only recently that Keyes was deemed important enough by the media to review.
"It's been a really long process just to getting her reviewed," said Moore, revealing that The Times and Sunday Times newspapers had never reviewed her work until her most recent book was published. Authors in her division were "often ignored by reviewers, and if I think about that it could get me very annoyed!"