Top Historical Fiction Authors Talk about Branding

As James Patterson said in a quote I used several days ago: “Brands are nothing more than trust.”

I asked each of the top historical fiction authors I interviewed what brand they are trying to create for themselves and I thought it might be interesting to look at their responses collectively.

Do not think of myself as having a brand – Sharon Kay Penman and Hilary Mantel

Personal brand – Helen Hollick, CW Gortner and Deanna Raybourn

Series brand – Helen Hollick

Well-researched historical fiction from a less travelled point of view – Susan Higginbotham

Writer of famous women whose names have been obscured by history – Michelle Moran

Historical accuracy married to vivid story-telling that puts the reader there in the moment – Elizabeth Chadwick

Biographicals – Margaret George (something that evolved rather than a planned brand)

Bringing to life misunderstood or maligned characters or eras – CW Gortner refers to this as a possible future brand

Other than Chadwick, none of the authors mentioned great stories as part of their brand, however, since they are all recognized as great storytellers, I’m going to assume that they each would have added that to their brand statement.

Returning to the notion of trust, when we pick up a Margaret George book we know we’re in for a great fictionalized biography of people like Mary Magdalene or Helen of Troy; Susan Higginbotham will bring us lesser know figures from history like Kate Woodville, sister to Elizabeth or Bess de Montacute who marries Hugh le Despenser;  Michelle Moran gives us stories of Cleopatra’s Daughter and Nefertiti; and, Helen Hollick delivers another exciting story about her pirate, Jesemiah Acorne or another instalment in one of her series about King Arthur or King Harold. We trust them. After all, they’re our favourite authors.

So let’s switch to another favourite author, JK Rowling and her just released adult book, The Casual Vacancy. The Huffington Post offers a round-up of reviews with eight relatively negative and only two positive. Reading them, one has the impression that if Rowling was not already famous, she might not have made it past the agent stage.

And what’s my point? JK Rowling has a brand, a wonderful brand that has served her and her readers well for many years. She has abandoned that brand and broken trust with her readers. The jury is out on whether she will be able to establish a new brand.

Historical Novel Society Conference

The days are counting down to the Historical Novel Society conference in London which begins on Friday, September 28. I will be there – excitement enough given the potential to meet all sorts of historical fiction enthusiasts as well as listening to noted and celebrated authors like Emma Darwin, CW Gortner, Diana Gabaldon, Elizabeth Chadwick,  Margaret George, Philippa Gregory, Bernard Cornwell, Harry Sidebottom, Helen Hollick.

Already a shiver is going up and down my spine!

Tension elevates the excitement – tension from two different sources. One source is that I will be on a panel alongside Justin Neville, Harry Sidebottom and Emma Darwin. The topic, Reader Opinions Revealed, is based on the historical fiction survey I conducted last April and have written about in numerous blog posts.

The second source of tension is an opportunity to chat with an editor about my writing, a brief ‘pitch session’ but nonetheless guaranteed to create anxiety as the time approaches.

Advice, crossed fingers and good wishes welcome 🙂

Top Author and Top Blogger Series

I’m pleased to announce a series of interviews with top historical fiction authors and top historical fiction bloggers.

After musing on the historical fiction survey, I thought that a series of interviews with top historical fiction authors and top bloggers would provide interesting insights. I have developed a set of questions and secured the agreement of all four top bloggers as well as seven authors in the top 20 group. Responses will be posted beginning this week.

Questions for top authors include:

  • Do you have a particular approach to research and writing?
  • What ingredients do you think make for a top historical fiction author? Do you deliberately plan for these ingredients in your writing?
  • What brand are you trying to create for yourself?
  • What do you do to connect with readers?
  • What strategies have guided your writing career?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting again?
  • and several more…

Questions for top bloggers include:

  • What new trends are emerging in historical fiction?
  • Is historical fiction growing in popularity. If so, why?
  • What are your marketing strategies for your blog?
  • Why do you think so many people blog about historical fiction or participate in blogs about historical fiction?
  • What advice do you have for writers?
  • and several more…

Top authors who have agreed to participate are: Elizabeth Chadwick (3), CW Gortner (8), Margaret George (10), Michelle Moran (11), Susan Higginbotham (15), Deanna Raybourn ( 17) and Helen Hollick (19). I’ve listed them along with their top 20 position taking into account authors with the same popularity ranking.

The top HF bloggers are: Reading the Past, Passages to the Past, Historical Novel Society and Historical Tapestry.

It will be exciting to hear their responses and see if some patterns emerge. Stay tuned.