The third of four days' of notes (retrieved from a misfiled notebook) from events from October 2010.
17th October 2010 – Historical Novel Society Conference 2010: Where next for historical fiction?
Chair: author Douglas Jackson (DJ), with literary agents Marcy Posner (MP) and Jim Gill (JG), and a question from author Robert Low (RL)
DJ: Historical fiction isn’t a single genre, but an amorphous mass, an explosion of genres.
JG: A recent rehabilitation of the historical novel. An out of the ghetto genre. But publishing is faddy, though some aspects are universal. There’s a greater focus on genre these days. The historical aspect is secondary to the need for a good novel. There’s a need to be aware of copycat fiction.
MP: There’s greater movement / growth in historical fiction aimed at women readers. The US is a different market altogether.
DJ: What do agents look for in a manuscript? Safety or a gamechanger?
JG: Historical accuracy, but you need license to tell a story. It’s an entertainment business.
DJ: Any new ideas? Settings, for example?
MP: No, it all goes back to story. Be great.
JG: Some may be less well known than others. Recent successes have correlated with vague understanding in popular culture.
DJ: Any no-go areas?
MP: Women and World War II in the US.
JG: Bad taste areas perhaps (though some people like bad taste!)
DJ: Have any periods been done to death?
MP: No, not even the Tudors.
JG: Both Roman and Tudor settings offer immediate visual cues to the potential reader to buy.
RL: Chart positions?
MP: You pay for chart position and for promotional space in-store.
DJ: What other roles are writers expected to perform?
MP: Marketing is up to the author. There’s some support but the onus is on the author.
JG: Listen to people in the industry. Not academics or arts professionals, but publishing professionals. It’s part of the job of the novelist to be out and about.
DJ: European markets?
MP: Germany is very strong.
DJ: Other issues?
JG: People need filters to help choose what to read. There’s a move back to using other people (online and offline) as filters.