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.