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.

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.