Here's what I've come up with so far.
- Literary authors, when asked "What do you write?" don't always have a short, handy answer. They might even blink at you and say, "Fiction."
- Commercial authors, when asked, "What do you write?" will respond with something concise: "Short contemporary romance under 75,000 words" or "YA steampunk with romantic elements."
- Literary authors ask, "What is the dramatic question?"
- Commercial authors ask, "What is my hook?"
After much stewing, I have come to conclude that both questions are the same. Plot is plot. Characters are characters. Nobody needs me to remind them of how many books that are currently considered classics started out (were originally published) as commercial works.
- Literary events have readings. The author reads from their work and books are for sale afterward.
- Commercial events have signings. Readers buy the book and take it home and read it themself.
This is a difference. No getting around it. Do I like hearing authors read? Sure. But sometimes I really would just have the book to cuddle up with. Just me. And the story. No author there to remind me they wrote it.