I’d like to continue Diane’s discussion about Historical Romance. I’ve now been writing long enough that I have “survived” cycles. At least twice since I published my first novel (a historical romance!) the Historical has been declared dead. Vampires have been dead. (BWAHAHAHAHAAHAH! Ohmygod you have no idea how fun that was to write!) Westerns: Dead. Contemporary Romance: Dead. Romantic Suspense: Dead. Zombies: The Walking Dead.
What I have continued to hear throughout my writing life is that Regencies sell and sell a lot. You can’t sell Victorian! ::::Courtney Milan:::: You can’t sell Edwardian ::::Sherry Thomas:::: You can’t sell Georgian ::::Jo Beverly:::: No more Scotsmen! And for God’s sake, not Culloden! ::::Monica McCarty::::
For a long while, the Angsty Historical was IN IN IN!! Right now, they’re a hard sell. Oh my GOD!! Nobody tell Cecilia Grant! And what about lighthearted historical romances? Are they In or Out? The answer is yes.
Publishers will always buy more of what’s sold in the past, and they will keep doing that until 1) people stop buying them and/or 2) someone comes along with an extraordinary book that breaks with the past– because editors, while of course they buy what’s sold in the past, also, from time to time, buy a damn good book that isn’t like what’s popular. And should that damn good book break out, then of course publishers will buy more of that, too.
Now there’s self-publishing thrown in there. But first, what’s the one thing publishing DOESN’T do that every other company does? Yes. Market testing. Publishing doesn’t survey the end-user. They don’t focus group covers or (to my knowledge) A/B test anything. Publishers know next to nothing about what readers are inclined to buy. The traditional market, driven by middlemen who purchase for Big Stores, has removed publishers from the consumer who would, in the aggregate, buy more varied books except that the middleman (the stores who buy lots and lots of only a few books) has artificially whittled down the selection.
In other words, the genetic diversity required for a robust, healthy population withered away in the face of a dangerous inbreeding. The problem with limited diversity is you don’t realize it’s unhealthy until the offspring are dying. Or one of the studs or brood mares dies. In this somewhat tortured analogy, the offspring are the books, the studs and brood mares are the Big Chains.
One day, After All the Editors Went Home, the Slush Pile and an Abandoned Marketing Research Plan Partied Hard
Nine months later …..
They named it Self-publishing. But all its rowdy friends call it Indie for short.
Because, really, what is self-publishing but one big genetically diverse market test for publishers? Setting aside all the missteps so far, self-publishing is a crucible from which shiny new kinds of stories emerge market-tested. Traditional publishers can watch what catches on, and place their bets with greater confidence than before. 50 Shades proved there’s a bigger market for erotic romance than they knew. “New Adult” showed up in self-publishing first. If publishers manage to get their Beer Goggles off, they may find they’re in a good place.
Oh, Historical, Where Art Thou?
As the publishing ecosystem continues its transformation, we’ll see Indie authors do riskier things with their stories — and they can do it because they don’t have to listen to anyone tell them they can’t publish a story with THAT in it. They can write in the mid-Victorian period if they want. And maybe that story will crash and burn because (all other things being equal) what readers want is a Regency. Or a Vampire. Or something else. But there WILL be new and different historicals.
So. What do YOU think?