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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:49 pm
Get Your Red-Hot Historical Fiction Here!
Posted by: Keir Graff

Sarah L. Johnson, Booklist reviewer, editor for the Historical Novels Review, and author of readers’ advisory books (Historical Fiction II: A Guide to the Genre, 2009), wrote to say, in effect, Historical novels not hot? Not! Which, you see, would be a double negative, meaning . . . meaning I’m getting a bit punchy, what with all the tweeting. At any rate, she says it much more nicely than that:

Historical fiction is most definitely still hot! It’s been a long time coming, but a sure sign of this–to me–is that publishers are (finally) getting around to labeling historical novels as such in catalogs and on the spines of paperback editions. The fact that it’s now a marketing category means that they’ve found a large audience out there to market to. I’ve also heard from a number of agents and editors who are actively soliciting historical novels . . . and Publishers Marketplace is full of new historical novel deals. Very popular now are those novels with crossover appeal (like The Given Day) as well as those based on real people’s lives and/or with strong female protagonists. Ditto for literary historicals with book club appeal. Anything Tudor-related is extra hot! The readership is there and eager for more. We do buy fiction here at EIU [Eastern Illinois University], and historical novels are circulating well among our students. 

I’d agree with Jen Baker about the need for librarians and booksellers to go the extra mile in promoting these titles since they’re usually interfiled with general fiction. My local B&N, for instance, has an eye-catching Historical Fiction table with everything from Toni Morrison’s A Mercy to Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy’s Diary. These displays are not only good for specific topics within the field, but they can also showcase the wide variety the genre has to offer.

2 Responses to “Get Your Red-Hot Historical Fiction Here!”
  1. Steph Says:

    I agree, it’s definitely hot. What better way to learn about history, about other people, other times, to explore worlds otherwise closed to us. I just finished one set in 1300′s Scotland (Blue Bells of Scotland) and it opened a whole new world I’d never heard of in school, one I never would have gone out looking for. Because of a well-written story, I now have an appreciation for a country, a history, great people I never would have know about in such detail, otherwise.

  2. Lucille Turner Says:

    Has anyone read Mr Darcy’s diary? Can anyone give me some feedback? I have seen quite a few P&P spin offs about. Which is best? If any?


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