The Historical is Dead

Two years ago, all I was hearing was how dead historicals were.  Historicals were dead, dead, dead.  They were going the way of the dodo and chick lit.  If you wanted to get published, you had to write vampires and werewolves–everyone knew that.

Today, I did a quick tally in my head of people I know–and by “know” I mean, have met in person and talked with–who have debut historical novels coming out from major New York houses in the upcoming year-or-something.  By my count, that number stands at eleven.

Here are the debut authors in that once-dead genre (note that release dates are tentative the farther you get out):

All that doom and gloom two years ago?  It turned out kinda like this:

19 thoughts on “The Historical is Dead

  1. I do remember the doom and gloom, and everyone saying you needed to add a ghost to your story. What an inspiring post! It is possible- and I am in the right company 😉

    I’m glad to see you are blogging so much!

  2. Leigh, you’re on my list of “people I expect to hear good things from soon.” It’s really amazing to me–that list used to be 20 people long, and now it’s only 15 people long–and the only reason it is not 9 people long is that I keep meeting more people!

  3. I was writing a vampire book last year and heard vampires were out, so i put mine aside. Then came twilight. Damn you twilight!

  4. Maybe the historical IS dead, and we’re all zombies. braaaaains…..

    j/k. Historicals are alive, kicking, and taking names. Yay! And I have a feeling that the economic climate will only boost historicals further – don’t people tend to feel more nostalgic for the olden days when modern day is a mess?

  5. I, too, remember quite clearly the doom and gloom around the historical market a few years ago. My, how times have changed! And it’s SO exciting to see that list of “people I knew ‘when'” grow and grow.

    My agent tells me that historical (particularly if it’s STEAMY) is still an incredibly hot market, even in the downturn. Editors are still asking her for it (which is why I know she *really* wants me to finish this proposal I’m working on, lol).

    And I agree with Tessa–historicals are probably likely to gain popularity in the current economic climate, although paranormals may, too. But I do think that the remarkable rise of the paranormal was caused by the same set of tastes/desires on the part of readers as what has always made historical popular–the fantasy/escape element is stronger. And boy, we could all use some escape/fantasy right now.

  6. Yes, but now contemps have taken over the “is dead” category. Soooner or later, that’ll turn around too. (And, yes, of course, I’m saying this purely for selfish reasons). *g*

  7. Elyssa, the other thing my agent swears editors are begging her for is good, strong contemporaries. So take that FWIW…

    And thanks for the tip, Courtney. Though I obviously have yet to implement it!

  8. Lori, Tessa, and Jackie–I think the moral of the story is, don’t chase the market! Because by the time you’ve caught up to where it was, it will be somewhere else.

    Likewise, Ely, I think I’m actually beginning to see signs of life in the contemporary market. Lisa Kleypas has started doing contemporaries; Victoria Dahl’s debut contemporary is both awesome and doing well, and I just finished Julia Harper’s FOR THE LOVE OF PETE and it was funny and fast-paced–and it sold pretty darned well on Bookscan, too. 🙂

    If we can get more awesome authors like those three out there, I’m sure the readers will follow–and I am sure that they are coming. I just bet a million dollars that the contemporary market is going to be bouncing back, and fast.

  9. Oh, that is good news, Jackie.

    Courtney, I’ve noticed that this year seems to have more contemp releases. I also think it’s a very strong, positive sign that Nora Roberts is releasing a “straight” trilogy, starting this April.

  10. Keira, you’re right that they never died–but it certainly seems like there was a stretch where it was very difficult to sell one. Good to know it hasn’t lasted.

  11. Perhaps historicals really ARE dead and we are the pallbearers in its procession. But hey, this is definitely the kind of funeral I don’t mind being a participant of.

  12. stopped by the website – do i take the possible covers to mean there could be an elephant in the debut novel? If yes, I’m so there – my protagonists have a lizard and a llama at their first meeting.

    While delighted for you historians, I’ll admit to a smidgeon of envy, being a chicklitter and all. I think I’m supposed to call myself a lite women’s fictioner now, or something.

  13. Maya,

    One extremely misleading way to describe my book is that it is an anthropological study of the primitive mating rituals of the men of the Carhart family, who, in engaging a woman’s affections, must provide her with an elephant of the not necessarily literal variety.

    Elephants of the not necessarily literal variety include figurative elephants, figurine elephants, and oranges. Literal oranges.

  14. “literal oranges” *snerk*

    ref: encouragement that chicklit will rise again – of that I have no doubt. What I’d like to know, though, NOW, is what it’s going to call itself at that time.

    I’m tempted to take the icon randomly assigned to my post by the universe (or was it???) with the little mad eyebrows and taped over mouth, as a sign…


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