2 Models for Selling Historical Fiction

The first main panel session of HNS London 2014 had the catchy title: SELLING HISTORICAL FICTION: THE CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS. Moderated by Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann, the panel included Matt Bates, Katie Bond, Nick Sayers, Simon Taylor and Susan Watt all discussing aspects of the market for historical fiction. Not surprisingly, most of the conversation centred on traditional publishing.

The takeaway for me is embodied in the following diagram:

Selling Historical FictionIn the traditional process shown on top, you can see 5 main selling steps:

  • (1) WRITER sells an agent on a book’s possibilities
  • (2) AGENT seeks and sells to an editor
  • (3) EDITOR sells internally to an editorial committee inside the publishing company she/he works for
  • (4) PUBLISHER sells to a select group of retailers
  • (5) RETAILER sells to consumers and entities such as libraries, businesses, schools

The arrow connecting writers directly to readers on the bottom is overly simplistic, however, what it suggests to me is the need for those of us who are self-publishing to find ways to differentiate our books for readers who are making a purchase decision. We need to provide readers with the same sort of confidence that comes from all the selling steps in the traditional model. More on that later.

As always, let me know what you think.

PS – as Tony Riches points out in his comment, the self-pub arrow needs elaboration. I will work on that and get back to you.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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7 Responses

  1. Hi Mary – I think many of us now use a ‘hybrid’ approach, as it’s almost impossible to ‘sell’ books to an international readership directly. A more useful diagram would have ‘bubbles’ for the 12 Amazon sites (it doesn’t seem long ago there were only four) then all the other outlets such as Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords etc., who do their fair share to help authors reach a wide readership. I’ll be interested to see how this debate develops! Regards, Tony.

  2. I found this the oddest and probably least helpful session of the conference! The panel were not only solidly into trad publishing but also print books (especially hardback). They scarcely mentioned ebooks at all until the question time. The issue of book cover design was spoken of most eloquently by the man who is the buyer for the WH Smiths chain for their airport books… hardly a target audience for most of us. Interesting, perhaps, but I didn’t find it very helpful as a session.

    1. Interesting perspective, Richard. Having done so much investigation with my survey, I wanted to interrupt on a few occasions to challenge one or other of the speakers. However, I decided that as a newcomer, I would remain silent. Thanks for your comment.

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