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Beach reads are big business! Magazine editors promote lists of recommended beach reads. Vacationers browse in bookstores for something to read by the pool. If you want to capitalize on the beach read phenomenon, Writer’s Relief tells you what you need to know:
What Makes A Book A Beach Read?
Alas, there is no universally agreed-upon, formal beach read genre in the publishing world.
The original 1990s-era concept of a beach read book often follows this format: It is a contemporary women’s fiction story that explores powerful stories of relationships in close-knit communities, and the book’s ending is usually life-affirming (traditional happily-ever-afters are not required, but a bit of optimism is). A classic beach read might tug your heartstrings and make you teary-eyed, but it won’t depress you about the state of humanity. It might offer some intellectual insight, but it won’t be overly challenging.
The concept of a beach read brings up a lot of questions about gender and book buying habits. Visit this page to learn more about how the concept of a beach read was invented, and what it means.
Examples Of Classic Beach Reads:
- Mary Kay Andrew’s The Weekenders
- Almost any book by Elin Hilderbrand
- Shelley Noble’s Beach Colors
- Karen White’s Folly Beach
- Nicholas Sparks’ Message in a Bottle
Find a list of more examples of beach reads here.
Isn’t Any Book You Read On A Beach Technically A Beach Read?
Well, yes. And that’s why the working definition of a beach read has become pretty murky these days.
Outside of the publishing industry (and sometimes even inside of it), certain books become recommended beach reads even though they’re not set on beaches. Some are historical. Some are edgy. Some lean toward mystery or thriller vibes.
Every list-compiling magazine editor has his or her own notion of what constitutes a beach read (for example, here’s an article that hints at a “smarter” class of beach reads). You have your own opinion about the kind of book you’d like to read while relaxing on a beach. Your neighbor might have a different idea. Some people might consider a dense WWI book like Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See to be perfect beach reading material; others might find the material too heavy for reading with a hot-pink cocktail in hand.
Should I Call My Book A Beach Read In A Query Letter—Or Not?
The important thing to keep in mind is that—these days—a book’s status as a beach read has little to do with genre. In other words, a book no longer has to be a contemporary women’s fiction novel set on a beach to be considered a beach read.
Instead, when a publisher talks about a beach read, he or she is usually talking about a way of marketing and positioning a book.
Sometimes, beach read marketing can backfire. If your debut novel is positioned as a June-release beach read, you might be facing some stiff competition among big-name, established writers. Your book might actually fare better if it’s released in December and not marketed as a beach read at all.
The bottom line is this: If you’re not sure whether your book is beach read material, don’t worry about mentioning it one way or another in your query. But if your book clearly hits all the classic original tropes of a beach read, your query letter’s book summary will probably make that apparent even if you don’t use the terminology.
How To Write A Blurb (Query Letter Story Summary) For A Beach Read Book
If you’re hoping to position your book as a prime candidate for beach read marketing, here are some of the essentials literary agents might be looking for:
- Evocative “vacation” setting (and [often] a woman main character who finds herself there)
- Strong, colorful community of locals
- A group of women friends, each struggling with her own challenges
- Often a romantic interest (that may or may not work out)
- A character-driven plot that forces the main character to a more authentic life
Here are some of our staff favorite beach reads.
Question: What is an example of a book that you consider a beach read?