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Can we chat about historical fantasy?

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So now defiintively realizing that my novel is a work of historical fantasy, I would love to ask some more questions.

When an agent says they don't rep fantasy, can I assume historical fantasy would be a no no also?

Is the market for historical fiction and the market for historical fantasy the same? Meaning that if an agent says historical fiction is difficult to sell, would their viewpoint apply to historical fantasy as well?

Does one seem to have more commercial appeal than the other? I know this is probably a difficult question to even quantify since there are so many different types. But generally, does anyone have a feel or sense of one against the other?

I guess I'm just curious to know people's impressions in general about historical fantasy.

Thanks!
#1 - August 23, 2008, 11:08 AM
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Ok, it's me again. :dr

I think of historical fantasy as a subgenre of fantasy, not a sub-genre of historical fiction.  So, for instance, I'd think a house like Calkins Creek would probably be unlikely to publish historical fantasy, just because of their emphasis on strongly researched facts.  Off the top of my head, houses that are strong in hist.fant. also tend to be strong in fantasy in general: Arthur A. Levine Books, Bloomsbury, Eos/Harper Collins, Hyperion, etc.

As for whether or not an agent who doesn't rep fantasy would rep h.fantasy, my guess is probably no... but it would depend on the book and the agent (and possibly also what else you intend to write during your career). In some historical fantasy, the fantasy elements seem to be more palatable to non-fantasy fans (THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER; I, CORIANDER, Libba Bray's books, even CURSE), so you might find it easier to attract an agent with a project like that... but then you'd want to ask yourself what you're planning to write next, and if it's going to be hard for that agent to know where to place it.  Most of what I do is historical fantasy--but all of what I do is fantasy, so it was vital for me to have an agent with the same sensibilities (she and I read all the same books, which I thought was a pretty good sign!).

I think it's probably pretty similar with urban fantasy--again, the noun trumps the adjective. :)
#2 - August 23, 2008, 12:03 PM

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Is the market for historical fiction and the market for historical fantasy the same? Meaning that if an agent says historical fiction is difficult to sell, would their viewpoint apply to historical fantasy as well?

Probably not.  It's conventional wisdom that historical fantasy is hot right now, and historical fiction is not.

AM
#3 - August 23, 2008, 12:04 PM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

I agree with both Elizabeth and Anne Marie.  Historical fantasy is definitely more connected to the fantasy/paranormal set.  It's interesting that the historical element "shows" differently in HF as opposed to strictly historical fiction.  Maybe there's a more romantic appeal to the historical side when you add the fantasy elements.  I think they complement each other well.

I've found my niche in historical fantasy, not necessarily fantasy.  So I guess I've penned myself in rather tight (pun intended  :D )!  :tied
#4 - August 23, 2008, 01:24 PM
"If you don't get it right the first time, just get it written." ~J. Thurber
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hi ello!!

i realized that i didn't write a historical
fantasy--because my tale is not based on
an actual time or place--it merely uses the
chinese culture for a lot of the setting.

BUT i queried everyone. even if they don't
have fantasy listed. i hit agents who had
historicals listed, those who had multi-cultural
listed. i mean, i queried 121 agents, i think.
so i certainly was not limiting myself.

two agents who ASKED for asian fantasy turned
me down at the query stage. and agent bill
does NOT list fantasy as an interest--but reps me.

you. just. never. know.

 :love :goodluck

eta : and your novel is YA, right?
i'd query ALL YA agents listed--whether or not
they list fantasy as an interest.

but then, i am of the BALLS OUT mentality--as you know.
#5 - August 23, 2008, 01:24 PM
« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 01:27 PM by xiaotien »
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Some agents say they don't rep fantasy but they do rep YA--I always assumed they meant they didn't rep books for the adult fantasy market.  Unless they actually state that they don't like fantasy, period.  There are a few agents like this, and I wouldn't bother querying them.  There are SO many agents that do rep YA fantasy, it should keep you busy for awhile. 
#6 - August 23, 2008, 01:42 PM
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I'm in that last category...I'm one of the only fantasy writers my agent reps.  I think she liked my books because of their very strong history aspects.  And yes, I think historical fantasy is definitely hotter than straight historical fiction just now, at least in the YA world (different story for adult books).
#7 - August 23, 2008, 04:00 PM
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The YA novel I'm (supposed to be) working on right now is a historical fantasy. My agent has told me flat-out that "the fantasy element is what will sell it."
#8 - August 23, 2008, 04:15 PM

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I'm with KMT; a couple of agents who liked--but not enough--my historical novel said it would be an easier sell if it had a fantasy element.
#9 - August 23, 2008, 06:31 PM

 :thanks2
This was all very helpful!

ECB - Actually I wrote the first of a series. And I know the problems faced with trying to sell the first of a series. I will probably mosey down to that thread soon too! I did query stating that it was the first of a trilogy but neglected the "stand alone" part of the phrase which seems to be important. Oh well, I'm not sure how well my first would stand alone is the problem. But yes, I would like to finish off this series and move on to another idea I have for Asian based historical fantasy. So I guess it pens me in tight  like Ghostgirl!

Thanks Anna Marie - I had no idea that historical fantasy was hot. So glad to hear that!

Ghostgirl - I know what you mean, especially when you are talking of a period far back enough where the local populace actively believed in magic and the fantasy elements and it was all part of their daily belief systems.

And Cindy - you meant that you didn't write a historical fiction novel, right? And yeah, I will probably end up querying that many agents simply because I can't stand the quiet! I remember you telling me about the 2 agents that repped fantasy passing - but I wonder if they passed more because it was YA rather than the fantasy aspect of it? Also, I can't help but wonder if the Asian element was a harder sell for alot of these agents. Eh, I gotta stop obsessing!!!!

LIfeonmars- yes, thanks. I think that is exactly what I'm doing. I've got quite a few of those agents who say no fantasy but do have YA listed. It would cut my list down significantly not to query them.

Marissa - why do you think historical fantasy is hot in YA? I'm so glad to hear it, but am wondering what is making it hot. Is it romantic historical fantasy that is hot and not just all historical fantasy? Cause mine is a male MC with significant violence, death, martial arts, swordfights, wars, hunting, etc. No romance what so ever.

KMT and rab - when agents say "fantasy element" I'm really curious to know exactly what they mean. Fairies? Elves? Demons? Magic? What exactly do they mean and what about it will make it sell?
#10 - August 23, 2008, 08:22 PM
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In my case, the fantasy is (was?--I'm dreadfully stuck/blocked/on the verge of giving up) magic and divine beings.
#11 - August 24, 2008, 03:57 AM

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KMT and rab - when agents say "fantasy element" I'm really curious to know exactly what they mean. Fairies? Elves? Demons? Magic? What exactly do they mean and what about it will make it sell?

I wish they'd told me exactly what they meant. What a couple of them said was that historical fiction was a tight market and thus hard for them to sell, whereas if I had a fantasy element, it would be easier to sell. This should be good news for you!
#12 - August 24, 2008, 08:52 AM

ello, i meant that mine doesn't officialy
qualify as historical fantasy--as the story needs
to take place in a REAL time and PLACE of history
which spirit bound does not.

i merely use china as a frame and reference.
i never say they are in a particular dynasty or place, etc.
so that is why i called it a "china like" kingdom during
the query.

i'm a huge fan of straight historicals.
and i think that if that is the type of YA you want
to write, write it well and there will be an agent
and editor brave enough to break the current trends.

i had editors who bid on my novel tell me they
couldn't tell marketing what my book was like
(compared to those out on the market). which
was a risk, but i'm a firm believer about writing
what you're passionate about, despite market "trends".

good luck, ello!
#13 - August 24, 2008, 09:32 AM
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Thanks rab - I hope this is good luck for me!  :crossedfingers Good luck to you too!

KMT - that's like mine - magic and divne beings. Hopefully a good thing. here's to you getting unstuck soon!

Cindy - Aha! Got it! I forgot you said it was a china like kingdom!

Everytime I think of your query process and your determination, I am so in awe of you! You were great and you never gave up. So here's to me following in your footsteps!  :applause

And like you I have had alot of negative comments. Honestly, I can't let the nay sayers get to me. I've already had a few comments made to me that no one will buy a book about ancient Korea. Or, no one will be interested in a period of time that has no relatability to kids of today. Or my absolute favorite - a book like that will never be published in this marketplace because kids have no interest in ancient history, especially about korea - you'd have more luck if it was about Europe. I will refrain from typing my thoughts to this as it would be ugly.  :-X
But this was a fellow writer who said it so it is pretty easy to discount his ridiculousness. I just have to prove him wrong. I'm sure there is an agent out there who believes in my story as much as I do. Somewhere. Please? Pretty please?

#14 - August 24, 2008, 01:06 PM
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But this was a fellow writer who said it so it is pretty easy to discount his ridiculousness. I just have to prove him wrong.


um, what?

don't let the haters stop you, ello!

and yes, i had quite a few agents tell me my book
would never sell in today's YA market.

ALSO, an agent who said i was a good writer but
could i write something set in contemporary china instead?

 :boxing

QUERY AND CONQUER!!!
#15 - August 24, 2008, 03:13 PM
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I mulling over the idea of turning my WIP into something with a fantasy element, but I'm not sure. It's what I'd call "historical adventure." I don't know if I'd do fantasy well enough, unless it was something mystical or like Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days, which didn't strike me as fantasy until at the end, when I was like, "whoa!"
#16 - August 25, 2008, 10:52 AM
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Speaking of defining historlcal fantasy from other genres, I once had a short story (set in an historical setting with historical characters) refered to by a reviewer as "straight historical fiction," even though the antagonist was a spell-casting reincarnated king who took the form of a bird.  :gaah

(Does this worry anybody but me?)
#17 - August 25, 2008, 01:17 PM

Hey amberlough! Is historical adventure another genre itself? I think mystical and historical go very well together, but that is my opinion. It's just that historically, people were so superstitious that it was easy for them to believe in otherworldy or magical happenings. So adding a mystical element is perfect in historical fiction.

KMT - was the reviewer drunk? That just doesn't make any sense.
#18 - August 25, 2008, 04:50 PM
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mt --  :feelbad

haha! wt!

amber, write what comes naturally
to you. you can "define" it later.
#19 - August 26, 2008, 08:55 AM
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true, true, Xia0tien. (I feel weird calling you that, btw.)
#20 - August 26, 2008, 10:17 AM
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
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uh, call me cindy, silly.

haha!
#21 - August 26, 2008, 10:28 AM
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I'm just curious now: what do you define as historical "fantasy"? The WIP I'm working on currently is more steampunk/AU related; advanced techy creations during the Victorian era, a la Jules Verne. I have no faeries, witches, or magic of any kind, although one can say the tech can be seen as magical even though it's called science.
#22 - September 20, 2008, 06:14 PM
« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 06:44 PM by ladyeclectic »

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It sounds like you would just call your WIP steampunk...or alternate history, maybe?  It's a little hard to say, not knowing more.
#23 - September 20, 2008, 06:30 PM
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I'm just curious now: what do you define as historical "fantasy"? The WIP I'm working on currently is more steampunk/AU related; advanced techy creations during the Victorian era, a la Jules Verne. I have no faeries, witches, or magic of any kind, although one can say the tech can be seen as magical even though it's called science.

Sarah, we discuss that in this thread (ello's post before this one ;)): http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=30196.0
#24 - September 25, 2008, 01:40 PM

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