The main focus of my research has been on the expat lit market and ‘émigré lit’ – memoirs from authors who emigrated. It’s a close relative of expat lit, and more comparable than ‘quest’ travel writing where the author is on a more obvious journey of some kind. I’ve come to the conclusion that the inner journey of the expat or émigré appeals to an audience who have had or are having the same experience – mainly other expats, travellers and immigrants.
During my tweeted conversations with author Anastasia Ashman, she supported the idea, saying ‘expat lit readers are the same people who like inner journeys, writing by émigrés, with a culturally nuanced perspective. The biggest distinction of expat lit is that it’s not travel literature.’
But because expat lit is not a recognised genre, titles are usually found mixed in with travel writing or living and working abroad anyway, both in bookshops and online. To be honest, they’re tricky to find and not everything is in the same place. As Jo Parfitt, author and owner of Summertime Publishing put it when we spoke, ‘They [bookshops] just don’t know where to put them unfortunately.’
I ran searches on Amazon.co.uk, to see what I could find in travel writing and living and working abroad, and added an extra search for ‘expat’ books. You can see some of the bestselling expat and émigré lit I found, pictured. The titles listed under travel writing perform significantly better than their counterparts in living and working abroad; perhaps the larger range of titles and sub-genres available in travel writing attracts a larger audience.