Alison Stuart, author of historical romance and the soon-to-release historical mystery, Singapore Sapphire, and three other authors—Lauren Willig, Deanna Raybourn, and Leanna Hieber—discussed the notion of carving out your niche in a crowded market. It was a lively session with lots of laughter.
Publishers and retailers love labels; but what do you do when what you write doesn’t fit neatly on the shelf …
Lauren Willig refers to her novels as “genre stew”, a combination of historical chick lit, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. Deanna Raybourn used the phrase “magpies of the writers world” to describe her novels which are Victorian, romance, mysteries. And Leanna Hieber has coined a new phrase for her novels—gaslight fantasy—to describe their blend of historical fantasy, mystery, and gothic.
The group shared stories about their obstacles to publishing. Deanna said that she originally “didn’t know what she wanted to write” and stumbled around for years trying to fit until her agent told her to spend a year reading rather than writing. What she discovered during that time was that the stories she loved to read all included mysteries, had women in the lead role, and featured romance. Two years later, she sold a series of six books in one deal, her Julia Grey series.
Lauren sold her first novel just when cross-genre stories “became a thing.” She then experienced a problem because the genre lines tightened again. Lauren has discovered that readers enjoy a “modern frame story”, which is what she writes. She also told the audience that her publisher changed the cover of one of her novels from a historical fiction look to a romance look, when romance was hot and historical fiction wasn’t.
According to the panel, we should realize that publishers are organized by genre.
Each panelist offered advice for other authors:
Leanna: say yes to every opportunity and say yes to your voice.
Deanna: choose fear … choose the project you’re afraid of
Lauren: be flexible when you go to market; remember that the market is a strange beast and changes on a dime.
Alison: understand what your core story is, understand the market for that core story, and pitch to the right market.
The group said that historical fiction seems to be booming. Positioning your novel is key. For example, “Kate Morton” read alikes are selling. You can also position a novel by using a combination such as: Jane Austen meets James Bond.
Other posts on HNS2019:
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.