Calling all unusual historical authors

Hello all!

I’ve just volunteered to do an online workshop for the Hearts through History chapter on unusual historicals that I’m thinking of titling “Keeping Historicals Weird” — Don’t sue me Texas!

I wanted to sort of give a survey of the current market for them (highly colored by this author’s experience)  and wanted to get other authors’ experiences with publishing and selling unusual historicals — which typically mean historicals with characters or settings outside of Great Britain or America. It can be expanded to mean historicals in time periods not usually seen such as the 1920s even if it is set in G.B or America.

I’d also like to mention the historical paranormal or historical steampunk market as well, so that information is also welcome. My thesis being that the same “hard sell” stigma doesn’t necessarily apply to those markets and you may have higher demand there.

My focus is historical romance, of course, but straight historical fiction with romantic elements is also welcome. I will mention upmarket historical fiction for discussion as that is sometimes a consideration if you have an unusual historical manuscript.

My main focuses are:

1. Which publishers are buying it/pushing it

2. How are sales

3. What is the readership like

4. How did you promote/build readership

I’m especially interested in small press, epublishing, and self-publishing efforts. You can chime in here or e-mail me through the contact form.

Thanks much!


  1. Amy
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 17:08:08

    Wish there were more unusual historical. I love the not oft-written about setting and period of your books.

  2. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 17:11:11

    Thanks Amy! Room for many, many more authors in the Tang Dynasty era. Any takers? 🙂

  3. Richard Preti
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 17:44:10

    Here is a title that may satisfy your survey quest, and it has been newly published on Web-e-Books at:

    1.) The Kempei, by Richard M. Baker, Jr. – newly released Historical fiction for the adult market. An unrestrained, big rolling 1930’s war novel with character focus on a young Japanese rice farmer who’s indoctrination to the military police demands suppression of his natural goodness for an aggressiveness required to successfully invade and exploit Manchuria – the ultimate objective to rule all of East Asia.

    The novel was deeply researched for authenticity. It provides cinema-graphic and uncensored action and was masterfully written by a published author. We are just beginning to promote it. Two-thirds of sales from overseas (and it’s in English). North Americans should read this for a reality check on a period history that was intentionally white-washed, and to understand the psychology of soldiers and officers who become the pawns of aggressor nations. It’s a chilling and tough story – not for the faint of heart. Please read the disclaimers and user agreement. We have two-or-three others titles that may also be suitable for your survey.

  4. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 19:09:11

    Thanks Richard, however the novel mentioned does not appear to have any romantic element. The market for literary historical fiction is quite different from historical romances. I’ll be focusing on markets for romantic fiction-should have been more clear.

  5. Jo Bourne
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 19:25:58

    I dunnoh if Napoleonic France counts. It’s not really exotic, but it’s also not England or Scotland. I guess it’s sorta First Cousin to Unusuitorical.

    In 2008, when my agent was shopping the first story in the Spymaster series, I got turned down by [mumble mumble number] of publishing houses. There were a variety of reasons — (One nice editor asked, “Is this author’s first language English? There seem to be many grammar mistakes.”) — but a majority of publishers said something along the line of liking the book but they didn’t think a story set in France would sell.

    So I do think there may be a problem selling mss in even slightly exotic settings. Certainly there has been a perception that these don’t do well.

  6. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 19:31:59

    Thanks Joanna. I’ve heard similar about French settings from other authors. I think every setting outside of England and the US gets marked as unusual. Hopefully I can get a feel for the varying levels of receptiveness and discuss during the workshop.

  7. Susanna Fraser
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 01:32:32

    My first novel, The Sergeant’s Lady, I think would qualify as borderline unusual. It’s set in 1811-12, and the h/h are both British, but most of the story takes place in Spain and the hero is, well, a sergeant. Just a sergeant, not a long-lost duke’s heir or anything.

    I originally tried to find a publisher for it in 2006, and I had many rejections from editors who enjoyed the story but didn’t think it was a good fit for their lines. So I set it aside until 2010, when I’d just bought a Kindle and become an ebook reader myself, Carina was launched, and there were more epublishing options for non-erotic writers. Carina bought it, and here I am. At least for now, I’m happy to be with an epublisher, because I like the freedom to go off the beaten path. E.g. I’m thinking of following in Jo’s footsteps (Hi, Jo!) with Napoleonic France, or maybe Peninsular War in Spain but with a French hero.

  8. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 07:40:07

    Hello & thanks for the info Susanna. Carina is definitely one of the publishers who seem to be not only accepting, but pushing unusual settings and stories that color a bit outside the lines.

  9. Shiree McCarver
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 06:44:36

    Hello, great question. My name is Shiree McCarver and I was the first author to write an Elizabethan Romance featuring an African heroine and an English Nobleman as leading characters. I wrote it and it was published originally by New Concept Publishing, but the sales didn’t take off until after I self-published it through Lulu and it’s doing even better now that I have it offered on Amazon also. It sales better as a e-book than print I have found.
    I promote myself through my facebook, my readers yahoo group, mostly word of mouth. I have found that if you have a good book it pratically sales itself because readers like to recommend good books to other readers. But when it was first released I went in with a group of fellow authors and purchase a small spot in Romantic Times, but I didn’t see where that made a big difference so I stick with writing the best Interracial romances I can and let my readers get the word out for me. I also offer at least 2 to 3 sample chapters on my website.

    This will consist of a series of 4 books about female African Warrior Assassin women the second book I completed 2 years ago called The Prince and the Panther. The third I will release this year is to be called The Pirate and the Cobra.

  10. Victoria Dixon
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 08:14:47

    What a great discussion. The comments were as fascinating as the topic. I know Kay’s “Under Heaven” didn’t do as well as hoped, but honestly, what did over the past two years? Really love to see your results!

  11. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:57:05

    Thanks Shiree! That sounds like a fabulously interesting pairing for a romance. Wonderful to hear you were able to re-release it as a self-published work to greater success. Would love to hear the differences in the two experiences.

    Victoria – True, what hardcover release did do well over the last two years aside from the super blockbusters. But then again, if GGK can’t pull it off, who can? I’m only compiling anecdotal data, but I’ll definitely post my wild conjectures after the workshop. If nothing else, it might fuel some discussion.