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Do you like your historical fiction centred on famous figures or fictional characters?

I asked this question in different ways on the 2015 reader survey – to authors, to readers and to publishing industry professionals. While I have only heard from 24 folks in the publishing industry – yes, I know this is a measly number and you might think they would be more interested in a reader survey (sorry for the rant) – I wanted to share a few comments from this group with you.

I don’t care whether a person existed or not, as long as the story is well told.


Everything is marketable if the story is strong. It is sometimes easier to attract a reader’s attention if there is a famous historical character involved, but that also can tie an author’s hands in terms of plotting and character development. Both options have their pros and cons, then.


In the youth market, I suspect that a real person as the protagonist allows the book to be read as a pseudo-biography, thus improving sales and making the marketing easier. Second best is a clear period/event that serves as the backdrop.


Hm. We’re talking about different audiences. Biographical HF vs I don’t know what we would call the other. To be honest, reading about the same historical figures gets old- and there are only so many of them. Fiction based on fictional characters within a historical setting may have more appeal.


Interestingly, survey responses to date suggest that over 60% of authors prefer to WRITE about fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events, while 85% of readers prefer to READ about fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events.

The survey runs until May 14 and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7 .