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Status of Historical Fiction

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sue

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Does anyone have any good news about the status of this genre. My agent has been trying to sell my historical fiction manuscript for almost a year and a half. Many publishers have expressed interest and have had good things to say, but no sale yet. My agent has suggested I try my hand at contemporary, which I am currently doing, but I can't muster much enthusiasm. I go to the store and all I see are contemporary. Am I whining yet??

Sue
#1 - March 14, 2008, 04:12 PM

Sue, I've heard a ton of people say that historicals are coming back. Trends tend to hit the adult market first (the surgence of chick-lit, vampires, etc) and then the YA market. I saw on both Kristen Nelson's blog and the Bookends blog say historicals are back (book ends said, "YOURE IN DEMAND AGAIN!").

I wouldn't write a book you dont want to write just for the market.
#2 - March 14, 2008, 04:31 PM
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PRADA & PREJUDICE
YOU WISH
BUT I LOVE HIM
RIPPLE
IN TOO DEEP
DANGEROUS BOY

Laurie

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I think they're picking up, too...though the ones I see selling frequently have a twist of magic or tie in with a trend, like Jane Austen. I think historicals without a hook are a harder sell. I love HF!


Laurie
#3 - March 14, 2008, 05:29 PM

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One of the reasons my ex-agent didn't want to represent me any longer was because she had no interest in repping the historical fiction I'd written.  I didn't quit writing it, even though she wanted me to, and I'm really glad I didn't stop.  I've seen several places that it is coming back, and my CP gave her agent a couple ideas (contemp dark comedy or historical fiction--both adult) and the agent said to work on the historical because she thought it was coming back because of The Other Boleyn Girl movie. 

I'm just hoping that more than a narrow range of historical fiction (Anglo historicals set in England or the Brisih Isles, perhaps France) becomes popular. 

anita
#4 - March 14, 2008, 05:48 PM

Steve

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that is WONDERFULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL news

 :typing
Steve
#5 - March 14, 2008, 06:22 PM

Laurie, do you know of another historical with a Jane Austen theme? I'm just curious if it was mine you were thinking of...since we read eachother's LJs. :-)


#6 - March 14, 2008, 08:20 PM
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PRADA & PREJUDICE
YOU WISH
BUT I LOVE HIM
RIPPLE
IN TOO DEEP
DANGEROUS BOY

gretchenlaskas

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Historical fiction is really about finding the right editor at the right moment.  You never quite know when the subject they're looking for is your manuscript. 
#7 - March 20, 2008, 02:58 PM

Laurie

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Oops, did I make you nervous, Ms. Panda? I wasn't thinking of any book in particular (tho yours sounds fab, of course). I just think the time period itself is something of a hook, since so many people are fascinated with it.  One of the books I was thinking of with a magical twist is Marissa Doyle's Bewitching Season, which I can't wait to read.

Laurie
#8 - March 20, 2008, 04:31 PM

Oops, did I make you nervous, Ms. Panda?
Laurie

Hehe, not nervous. I just make a point of trying to read books that may relate to mine in some way, so if you knew of something in particular I would go read it! :-).

And just because I like this guy:  :bunnyjump
#9 - March 21, 2008, 08:47 AM
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Yippee!!! I've been trying to sell my historical fiction for the past year. Same story as you, Sue. Lots of interest, no contract.

Historical isn't all I write, but I do love the genre. This thread gives me hope that my orphan train book will see the light of day soon!!
#10 - March 27, 2008, 04:23 PM

dianebailey

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A friend of mine on this board recently sold an upper MG HF, although it wasn't distantly historical, as I recall. Didn't I read somewhere that Enslow was putting out a special call for American HF?
#11 - March 27, 2008, 04:28 PM

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A friend of mine on this board recently sold an upper MG HF, although it wasn't distantly historical, as I recall. Didn't I read somewhere that Enslow was putting out a special call for American HF?

Yes, it's in the most recent SCBWI Bulletin.  I remarked on under Enslow within the historical fiction part of the blue board..

anita
#12 - March 27, 2008, 04:30 PM

Also just heard about a three books, starting with "THE SEASON", which is coming out in 2009 by Sara Maclean, set in regency england.

I definitely think there's interest! Especially with THE LUXE being pretty big.
#13 - March 27, 2008, 04:32 PM
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I was considering subbing to Enslow, but my MG is over the word count. More like almost double the word count.  :laugh   

I've always loved reading about different time periods. Castles, good. Covered wagons, bring it on.
#14 - March 28, 2008, 05:03 AM

I jsut noticed--the last THREE deals on PM were all historicals:

March 31, 2008 
 
   
  Children's:
Young Adult    Michelle Cooper's A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY, set in 1936, the story of a girl who lives with her royal cousin in a crumbling castle on the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray and witnesses the tide of history from Cromwell to Hitler, to Nancy Siscoe at Knopf Children's, in a two-book deal, for publication in Fall 2009, by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management, on behalf of Random House Australia (NA).
catherine@inkwellmanagement.com   
 
 March 30, 2008 
 
   
  Children's:
Young Adult    Janet Fox's debut FAITHFUL, in which a Newport, Rhode Island debutante moves to 1904 Yellowstone where she encounters romance with the guy she's not supposed to marry, a mystery surrounding her mother's disappearance, and a life-altering adventure, to Jennifer Bonnell at Puffin, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2009, by Alyssa Eisner Henkin at Trident Media Group (NA).   
 
 March 26, 2008 
 
   
  Children's:
Young Adult    Angie Frazier's EVERLASTING, a romantic, high-seas adventure pitched as A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY meets THE LUXE, to Jennifer Rees at Scholastic, in a six-figure deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Ted Malawer at Firebrand Literary.
ted@firebrandliterary.com 



So, I think that bodes well for historicals at this point in time.
#15 - April 01, 2008, 09:35 AM
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Great info! Thanks!
#16 - April 01, 2008, 03:10 PM
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I have a Civil War YA out with a small publisher now (they've had it for two years now).  I think I'll know something by the end of April.

BeeBee
#17 - April 01, 2008, 03:19 PM

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I am not sure that I buy the idea that historical fiction is "coming back"--because I don't think it's ever been "away"!

It's just not a big part of the market. There aren't that many publishers interested in it, and those that are focus on the quality end of the market. But it's a well established niche, and you see books like A Single Shard winning the Newbery, so it's also a respected niche.

But pick any year in, oh, the last 40, and you will find many more "contemporary" children's novels than historical fiction titles.

I love historical fiction. If you love writing it, you should keep at it. You just have to find the right editor--and perhaps the right agent, as this is simply not as lucrative a market as writing edgy paranormal tween chick-lit fantasy.....  :yup
#18 - April 01, 2008, 06:27 PM
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A friend of mine on this board recently sold an upper MG HF, although it wasn't distantly historical, as I recall. Didn't I read somewhere that Enslow was putting out a special call for American HF?

Yep, that's me. Historical upper MG sold Dec 07 to HarperCollins, and indeed very recent HF as in 1980's southeast Asia.
#19 - April 01, 2008, 06:46 PM
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dianebailey

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not as lucrative a market as writing edgy paranormal tween chick-lit fantasy..... 

And set THAT book 200 years ago. Voila!
#20 - April 01, 2008, 07:25 PM

I sure hope so seeing as my WIP is a historical fiction novel. One that comes to mind for me is Elijah of Buxton which I enjoyed very much.  Someone stated it before about it being more about finding the right editor at the right time and I completely agree.

 :goodluck

-L
#21 - April 01, 2008, 07:50 PM
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I am not sure that I buy the idea that historical fiction is "coming back"--because I don't think it's ever been "away"!


I agree, to a point. It was never totally gone. But less popular? Definitely. Look at Regency Romances-- 5-10 years ago, if you were a debut author, it was very tough. But in the last 6-9 months, editors/agents are clamoring for them again. Everything is cyclical.

I think there wasn't a lot of huge mainstream, commerically viable historicals, but with The Luxe, A great and terrible beauty, and some recent deals going on, we may see more popularity/viability of some major historical titles. At least, thats my hope.
#22 - April 01, 2008, 08:38 PM
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You just have to find the right editor--and perhaps the right agent, as this is simply not as lucrative a market as writing edgy paranormal tween chick-lit fantasy.....  :yup

I am absolutely finding this to be true. Historical fiction isn't all that I write, but the past year of querying agents-only for a HF has made me come up with this (somewhat frustrating  :crazy) conclusion.

On the flip side, I recent began to query publishers directly. Out of the 5 I've subbed, 4 have asked to see it. No sale yet, but this tells me I might have better luck selling it on my own.

#23 - April 02, 2008, 10:37 AM

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Taking a page from the supporting of Verla's soon-to-be possibly OP books, perhaps if each of us bought more historical fiction for young readers, we might make an impact on how editors/publishing accounting offices/agents view them?  Wishful thinking, in these days of text-messaging, blogs, and You-tube, probably....   :tornado
#24 - April 11, 2008, 07:41 AM
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FrannyC

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I really don't know much about the HF market per se, but my first MG coming out in '09 is historical fiction.  And I do believe that there was something about it that resonated with my particular editor - there was an emotional match, somehow.  I'm guessing an editor really has to fall hard for something in a historical fiction manuscript, whether it's the voice, subject matter, story, writing, hook, setting or whatever - because most of the time a historical isn't going to be a commercial blockbuster.  And without having ANY factual data to back this up, I'd also guess that much HF tends towards the literary.  So from an editor's perspective, it's published primarily for love, not money.  And so HF will probably never be THE soup de jour, but it will always be somewhere on the menu (sorry for that horrible analogy, but it's almost dinner time and I'm thinking we might have to go out to eat tonight!)
#25 - April 11, 2008, 02:22 PM

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Like other genres, I think historical fiction ebbs and flows but never disappears. And sometimes it's hot! Remember Dear America? Everybody wanted historical then.

I think historical has the following pluses: Lots of people say they love it, it can fit curriculum, it can present history painlessly, it can carry you away to new and different experiences (has some escape value, in other words), and we can't deny it wins awards. And to the extent it wins awards, some amount of money follows.

As for kids loving it, I think some do. And lots don't. I think a lot depends on whether they feel affinity with the character and see a great storyline first and foremost.

I love historical fiction as a reader, and I love research. In this genre I've published one MG novel and one YA bio, my WIP is historical, and my new ideas are -- yup, historical. I love this genre so I'll keep writing in it. To those who say it's tough, I've been hearing "It's tough" about every genre imaginable over the course of my writing life. It's all tough. We might as well write what we love. Most really successful writers say that's exactly what they do.
#26 - April 11, 2008, 05:59 PM
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I'm pretty new to HF, so mind if I ask a question?  What makes a story HF?  My current WIP is set in the mid 30s, but it is more about what happens to the character than the time period and what's happening historically.  What exactly gives it the HF label?  Is it anything that isn't contemporary?  Would Hattie Big Sky be classified as HF?

Thanks,
Sharon
#27 - June 13, 2008, 06:26 PM

Hattie big sky is definitely historical fiction. It doesn't mean the time period is the main focus-- but it means its set in a time period beyond our own decade. Something in the 30's is definitely historicla ficiton. THe norms, the customs, the culture, its all vastly different.

ANd FYI, my historical fiction, PRADA AND PREJUDICE, just sold after multiple offers 2 weeks ago. HIstoriicals are definitely in! :-)
#28 - June 13, 2008, 11:07 PM
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YOU WISH
BUT I LOVE HIM
RIPPLE
IN TOO DEEP
DANGEROUS BOY

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pandapotato,

Thanks for the clarification.  I thought that's probably what it was.  Some books just seem more 'period' heavy than others, and I wasn't sure how much had to be involved for it to be classified under that genre.

I read about your book elsewhere on the boards.  That's awesome!  Congrats, congrats!!!  It sounds great - can't wait to read it!

S.
#29 - June 14, 2008, 05:18 AM

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