Historical Novel Society Conference 2014 – Part I: Selling Historical Fiction
This and the following few posts have been written after the event from handwritten notes. And my handwriting does not make much sense at the best of times. If there is anything wrong or inaccurate then I do apologise.
Two years ago I attended my first conference of the Historical Novel Society (the posts are buried here somewhere. If you or a friend like blog archaeology then perhaps you might enjoy digging them up. They’re somewhere around September/October 2012 last time I looked.) I had a great time and could not wait for the next one to come around. Well, the time had arrived! Off we went to the University of Westminster and met up with some writers I spoke to last time and got to know some new ones, including some I had already met online (through Twitter).
The Conference kicked off with a panel session on the Challenges and Triumphs of Selling Historical Fiction with Carole Blake, Matt Bates, Katie Bond, Nick Sayers, Simon Taylor and Susan Watt. The first topic was social media vs traditional advertising for new writers. A huge advertising campaign with the full works is only effective when you are an established name. To get yourself established, social media is a great way of building a following.
In the last year or so, Tudor fiction has been the most popular time period with readers by a long way as it has been for some time (although I was surprised the Romans hadn’t conquered more of the market). Nearly everyone who has been to school in the UK has studied the Tudors and the success of novels such as Wolf Hall and The Other Boleyn Girl have shown this popularity could last some time. The panel did say, however, that all genres are welcome, and new writers are always good for bringing a new approach and style. There are also some genres, such as alternative history, that can appeal to readers of science fiction and fantasy or historical mysteries that crime fans will enjoy.
The effects of film and television are hugely beneficial to sales of historical fiction books. Novels set during Medieval times are doing well thanks to the success of Game of Thrones and the forthcoming series of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon tales may help the sales of Viking novels (which is really good to know!)
Historical fiction for children was also mentioned and this is a very important sub-genre. Many people who read and write it do so because they were introduced to it at a young age. This is, therefore, something that should be encouraged and used as set texts at school (and if any parents or teachers want to use In the Shadows of the Gods then please do so. You might want to cross the swearing out before the kids read it, though.)
The question of e-book piracy came up. Many publishers have departments that keep an eye on the internet (as film companies do) and they do get sites shut down but another soon springs up (and I am not one of those authors that views it as a badge of honour so please don’t steal my books!)
The panel was asked (or the members were asked, I can never remember which one is which) for any advice they would give the audience. The advice given included don’t give up the day job, have a good cover, edit it thoroughly and don’t follow a trend (sorry to all those writing First World War novels.)
However, the most important piece of advice that was given, in my view, was ENJOY IT! You enthusiasm will shine through in your writing and people will want to read it.
Join us tomorrow where we hear the Keynote Address.