Selling Historical Fiction – Part III

Turns out understanding the dynamics of selling historical fiction is full of complexities. In an earlier diagram I attempted to present a dichotomy between traditional publishing and self-publishing. However, we all know that our world is muddier than that. Ruth Hull Chatlien reminded me that many writers work with small publishers to bring their works to market. Tony Riches mentioned the need for a hybrid approach to reach international markets. And, of course, the roles of traditionally published authors are changing too.

As with my other posts, the following diagrams are works-in-process. In tomorrow’s post I’ve attempted some preliminary advice.


Modified traditional path

What’s different?

  • authors usually have to take care of their own platform. Often this involves blogging, being active on Facebook and Twitter, and interacting with readers.
  • readers expect to interact directly with writers (hence the double-headed arrow)
  • publishers are connecting with the ‘cloud’ of influencers, asking bloggers to review books, arranging author interviews, ensuring that their books are represented on Goodreads, traditional media’s online sites, and smaller book sites
  • readers interact with influencers by posting comments, participating in book chats, posting reviews on forums like Goodreads and Amazon, participating in online book clubs, posting on discussion boards, signing up for giveaways
  • readers themselves have become influencers
  • beyond what’s shown on this diagram are advertising campaigns, appearances at book stores, libraries, and other venues, interviews, and traditional reviews with various local and national papers


Indie model

What’s different?

  • indie writers often hire their own editor
  • indie writers often sell directly to a small press while some sell to an editor within a small press
  • readers expect to interact directly with authors and may have more opportunities to do so than with traditionally published writers
  • like the big publishing houses, small publishers sell to bookstores (although the type of bookstores and coverage within bookstores may be different) and use online retailers like Amazon, B&N and others to bring books to the reading public
  • indie authors interact directly with the cloud of influencers


Self-Pub Author

What’s different?

  • like indie authors, self-published authors often hire their own editor
  • a self-published author uses online retailers to bring their books to market; in general, they do not sell to online retailers
  • building awareness and selling to readers occurs primarily through the ‘cloud’ of influencers
  • readers have more of a buy relationship with online retailers, having made the choice to purchase based on the new ‘word-of-mouth’ environment offered through social media

Tomorrow, I’ll offer ten insights based on these recent posts about social readers and selling historical fiction (or any fiction for that matter).

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

No wonder writers have a problem

Michael Bourne wrote an interesting article about navigating the world of literary agents. No doubt others have already mentioned it and I’m late to the party, as they say. In his article Bourne says that one agency he spoke with receives more than 100,000 queries a year which translated into 200 queries a week for each agent in this particular agency or 10,000 queries a year assuming two weeks off for vacation.

When I sat down with another agent … as she read her slush pile, I watched her power through 19 query letters in 14 minutes, rejecting 18 of them and putting one aside for more consideration.

Yikes. Imagine that query letter you sweated hours over being glanced at for a mere 44 seconds.

BUT … agents have to earn money too. As does everyone else in the food chain connecting writers to readers. Just like other commodities – let’s face it, a book is a commodity – consumers exert pressure on the economics of publishing by demanding lower prices. Have a look at those shrinking $$$ in the diagram below.

What else has happened?

  • Writers are proliferating. More and more people are writing stories, self-help books, memoirs, non-fiction books, blogs, books based on blogs and so on. Many are writing for free, for the sheer pleasure of expressing themselves in a public forum.
  • Agencies are relatively small. Agencies are often one to five person outfits which means they don’t have scale to invest in technology, news ways to operate, extra manpower and so on. They only make money when they sell a writer to a publisher and subsequently when that writer sells sufficient books to payback the advance. They need a lot of writers to make sufficient income or a small number of authors who sell mega-quantitites of books. If they serve a lot of writers, they have to parcel out their time in small bits.
  • Publishers are taking fewer risks. Which means agents are taking few risks. Just like publishers, agents have an incentive to remain with the tried and true.
  • Retail is dominated by one very large outfit. Not only has Amazon rewritten the rules for book distribution, but it has opened its own author publishing platform. And the Kindle has changed the way readers experience books.
  • Readers can access writers from around the world, not merely their own locale. A writer from Australia can access a reader in Chicago almost as easily as a US-based writer can.
  • Writers are bypassing agents. Faced with an increasingly daunting path, writers are taking indie publishing and self-publishing models seriously. Writers have found that they can secure a larger portion of the revenue stream associated with book purchases using direct to reader mechanisms. And why not? Writers have already taken on roles like marketing, brand building, responding to readers, blogging on the side.

What does all this have to do with historical fiction? I suppose I just needed to rant!

Time is a Writer’s Most Critical Asset

The other day I wrote a guest post for the folks at Historical Tapestry who had asked me  whether insights from my historical fiction survey will change my writing plans. As I deliberated, one issue kept leaping of the page – MY MOST PRECIOUS COMMODITY IS TIME.

Of course, this statement is obvious and one that has come to mind before but the issue seems much more compelling since I launched A Writer of History and conducted a major survey. My ‘to do’ list is rather out of control these days leaving only dribbles of time for my novels.

I know I have bum glue. Every morning, coffee in hand, I check into my office around 8:30 and rarely stop until late afternoon. But now there are blog posts to write, interviews to organize, bitly links to tweet, Facebook and LinkedIn and Goodreads groups to check, comments to reply to, Twitter followers to check, emails from readers or other writers who have liked a particular post or have a question about survey results.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. In fact I’m quite excited about the activity level but I do need to think seriously about whether I am spending time on the right things because as far as I know, no one has invented more than 24 hours in a day.

And at the moment, I feel like a juggler spinning too many plates.