OK – peeps far and wide,

Are you going to write? Or are you going to write and SELL?

Are you going to write? Or are you going to write and SELL?

It’s now time to get down to the brass tacks about why we were in Chicago. One of the workshops was an editors’ panel called “Selling Historical Fiction”. Our panelists were Shana Drehs, Senior Editor at Sourcebooks; Barbara Peters, Editor in Chief at Poisoned Pen Press; and Trish Todd, XX  at Touchstone/Simon & Schuster.

This discussion was on the topic of selling historical fiction, which let’s face it folks – a lot of us moan, groan and complain about. The market’s apparently too hard, unfair, biased against certain time periods, etc., etc.

While I for one am not buying it, let’s hear what the folks in the know – the folks who have a vested interest in getting books to sell – have to say about selling historical fiction. And since I spent a good amount of time at the conference “networking” at the bar, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email if there are any errors. Here we go:

  • Shana noted that Sourcebooks (an independent publisher) is looking for books for the passionate crowd. In general, small presses will incubate more new authors.
  • Barbara told us that the Poisoned Pen publishes mysteries only. They have a 100% review rate with Publisher’s Weekly (!!!). They are deliberately not looking for a 100,000 print run. They are looking for more intelligent, harder to read books.
  • Trish chimed in. Touchstone is also looking for smart, literate, entertaining books. But the book needs to be historical fiction that is convincing – readers read these books to be transported away from their everyday world (Dawna’s  personal note: this is exactly the reason I’m writing about barbarian hotness!)

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • The consumer is getting more segmented – they are used to being spoonfed what they want
  • Having trouble selling your historical fiction? Try putting a modern framework around the historical story (think Kate Mosse and the Labyrinth). This helps you capture a segment of the market you wouldn’t otherwise get.
  • Whining that nobody loves your era? It’s not about the timeframe – it’s about the story. So make it compelling!
  • When it comes time for you to be published, you can’t be shy. Be willing to ask everyone you ever knew for a favor (think reviews, contacts, recommendations, etc.)
  • Have a platform for your book, like a blog or a website? The big publishing house wants to know about it; this probably isn’t true for the smaller house.
  • Also, when you’re finally published, consider having a trade paperback published first (rather than hardcover). People are less and less willing to pay big money for a hardcover book written by an author they don’t know. Publish in trade paperback first to help build a relationship with your reader; then you can publish in hardcover later on.

Folks, some words of wisdom by people in the know, who just happen to be heavily invested in the success of the books they take on.

I’d like to add something else, if I may – and since it’s my blog, it’s my party.

Please decide whether you just want to write – or if you want to write and be published. Because if you want to write and be published, that means that your work is a commodity that must be sold, and YOU are it’s primary salesperson. So if you think salespeople are evil, if you think sales is evil, and if you think that working on commission is for the devil – well, I wonder if you’re really ready for the world of publishing.

I used to train salespeople. And one of my favorite sales gurus is a guy named Jeffrey Gitomer. I’ve linked to one of his FREE videos on YouTube about what it takes to be #1. I hope you’ll take the 4 minutes to listen to it. He’s talking about salespeople – but I wonder how many of these principles each of us follow. And I wonder if each one of us might be a better writer – or just a better person – if we DID follow them. 

I wonder if each one of us has what it takes to be #1 in our little market segment, our little corner of the world. And I wonder if each of us is the most passionate enthusiast, the most ardent supporter, of our own work. And if not, what are we doing about it?