Pub Rants

Editors Get Serious About Historical Romance

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STATUS: Feeling pretty good. Our new submission database is up and running—and smoothly to boot. No glitches have been discovered as of yet. I took my last two bins overflowing with paper down to recycling. It should be the last bunch—although there are a few paper sample pages request still out and about. Of course we’ll honor our request and read those submissions when they arrive. We do keep a log of requested material and cross-check with what arrives.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BE OUR GUEST from Disney’s Beauty and The Beast Soundtrack.

Now this is a sign that cannot be ignored.

First, an editor emailed me today and said she would be willing to cut off her left foot to get her hands on a good historical romance.

That’s serious folks.

Then not an hour later, I was having a phone chat with another editor at a completely different house who said, “I’m dying to see some historicals—but none of that drawing room chatty stuff. I like adventure with my romance.”

You heard it here folks. I’ve been telling you the tide is turning for this arena and editors are now getting serious about wanting to acquire historicals.

So hop to it.

46 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    In your experience does this kind of thing trickle down to YA and MG?

    We MG historical fiction people can’t catch a break right now, and it would be nice to know that in a few years the tide will turn again.

  2. Patrick McNamara said:

    I’ve got a historical romance WIP based on actual events, but I put it aside because I didn’t feel it had enough story. I guess I’ll have to get back to it.
    So far I’ve only got a partial chapter outline and the first chapter, so it’s still going to take some time to finish.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Oh, great. I was all set to Slash & Burn my near-future science fiction romance about iceworms morphing and devouring Alaska Native villagers. And now you’re saying I need to Slash & Burn my historical instead? Well, okay. I’ll just do both. But, I need to finish my Futuristic first.

  4. JC Madden said:


    I’m about to read the covers off of my Lisa Kleypas/Jude Deveraux/Catherine Coulter/Judith McNaught/Julie Garwoods.

    *sigh of happiness*

    I don’t suppose said editor happened to be looking for medievals?

  5. Anonymous said:

    But hasn’t this been the case for the last year? At Nationals, the editors were saying they wanted historicals! It sounded like then – and now – that agents were giving historicals the big R and were focused in on the hot thing: paranormals.

    I hope I’m wrong, but that’s been the feedback from those I know at every skill level, agented and not….

  6. Anonymous said:

    In lieu of it being “DELURKING” week (or so I’ve heard, over in blog land) You are supposed to comment on blogs you read all the time but never say anything.

    I have never commented, so, I wanted to take the time and let you know even though I don’t comment, I READ you all the time, and LOVE THIS BLOG! so, um, thanks.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Does anyone know the historical eras that have been done-to-death? Does anyone know which historical eras these editers are so desperate to get their hands on? It’d be nice to know before the Slash & Burn. It’s a pain to change eras during the Weed & Polish. Oh, dear, I just realized I’m babbling in my own made-up language again. Sorry!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Sigh. I found a form rejection from you this morning in my email for my historical romance.

    Either my query sux or the whole concept does. I’m so close to it now, I have no idea!

  9. Anonymous said:

    Okay, I nearly spewed coffee on my keyboard when I read Nephele’s comment!

    But for my own purposes I’ll just say “crap!” I don’t write historicals – not for lack of ideas, but because cos I’m too darned lazy to do all that research. This, however, has not stopped the idea fairy from smacking me upside the head with concepts for historicals. *sigh* It might be time to give it a go. Maybe there’s a starving college student I can hire to do start the research…

  10. Anonymous said:

    Well as for historicals, let’s have less of the generic “Sex in the City” in pretty dresses and more of the real thing. I’m an avid reader of historicals, as well as a writer,and the saminess and the stupid historical errors in the books have put me off reading them, as I know they have many others.
    The Regency romances I’ve read recently, with a few honourable exceptions, have been repetitive, and boring. Yes, bucks have flicked lint off their clothes, but do they have to do it in every book? Heroines run away and do inappropriate things, but in every book? It’s not that the Regency is mined out, it’s that the Imaginary Regency is mined out. Writers who have gone before created things that worked. Jo Beverley and her hawks and ravens, Mary Jo Putney and her lucifers and angels, worked beautifully at the time, but now other writers have picked up those ideas and run with them, they’re tedious cliches.
    This is mixed with inaccuracies that the newer writers just haven’t checked, introduced over the years by writers who thought the sexual tension was paramount and historical accuracies not important. So we get rakes uttering the very vulgar (ie working class) curse “bloody hell,” which in any case dates from around a century later), Earls who abandon the jobs they have been trained for all their lives and go and be spies, forming organisations that weren’t either useful or acceptable to the real Regency society, and other abominations. Add an ‘original’ quirk, like, say, archaeology, a touch of the paranormal or a physical disability, and the novel gets a twist. But we’ve all read them all before, and frankly, what was thrilling once is boring now.
    I’m guessing that new writers are reading a couple of books, a ton of novels, and letting the novels influence their writing. Not ‘doing their research from novels’ necessarily, but accepting the conventions of what has gone before, and building on that.
    My reading has changed drastically over the last year or so. I stick to the writers I know I can expect a good story from – Ms Beverley being a case in point, also writers like Julia Ross and Liz Carlyle. I read the premise of a book carefully, and if there is any mention of an aristocratic spy or a feisty red-headed heroine, the book goes back on the shelf, or, increasingly, the virtual shelf. I never used to come to instant conclusions like that, but I’ve had too many disappointments recently to really trust new writers. I listen to the opinions of readers whose opinions I can trust, and buy accordingly, and more carefully.
    There is a solution, for new writers to Regency romance. Start at the beginning. Do a lot of research, not just a bit. Love the research. Visit all the places you can (even in the States there are some places to visit), read straight history books, the ones with few or no pictures, read extensively in the period, not just Jane Austen (does Darcy ever flick a bit of lint off his sleeve?) but Monk Lewis, Mrs. Radcliffe, and the other writers popular at the time. Really study the costumes and details of the time, find out what it meant to get in and out of them. Read the newspapers, court reports, scandal sheets, magazines and essays of the time. Get the feel and work from the inside out.
    That’s why writers like Bernard Cornwell can still write original, compelling books set in the period, and others can’t. For this reader, aching for a really exciting new Regency romance, please do it!

  11. Kristin said:

    As an historical romance reader, this is nothing but good news! I’d love to read some new authors with a fresh take on this genre. Hooray!!!!!

  12. heidi said:

    Oh, bugger, bugger, bugger!

    I’ve got something that would suit, but it won’t be ready for another year and a half. (Another project that *might* suit has taken priority.)

    Le sigh.

    wordver cryptic clue: Journalist Republican

    woordver cryptic answer: apgop

  13. sally said:

    it’s nice to finally know what editors are looking for! if there’s ever any more advice like this I’d love to hear of it

  14. Anonymous said:

    Kristen, do you think any of the houses looking for historical romances are open to 1st person? Or is 3rd person still overwhelmingly preferred?


  15. Bernita said:

    It would be nice to know if these editors had an affection for a particular time period.
    Or if a time travel plot element was also of interest.

    Those ice-worms nesting again, Kimber An?

  16. Anonymous said:

    Oh, yes, Bernita. Haven’t decided what will make them morph. Lots of military bases up here in Alaska. Could have some nuclear waste dumped on a glacier, I suppose, but hasn’t that been done-to-death. I think the hardest part of writing a historical is keeping my characters from jumping into temporal vortexes! “Will you knock it off? No getting sucked down portals into alternate dimensions! Bad!” Sometimes, characters are more rebellious than children that way.

  17. Camilla said:

    I’ve seen a lot of upcoming medievals, and it seems that a few imprints are leaping onto the Victorian bandwagon(which I hate, because the Victorian era has such a different “feel” from Regency and a lot of authors don’t get it correctly), and Kensington/Zebra seems to buy lots of Westerns. In the end, I’m more interested in writing best possible late Victorian/Edwardian romances instead of worrying about what the “trend” is since I’ve been writing historical romances even when they were “dead”.

    And I second Lynne–if you don’t LOVE the period your writing in and don’t want to do the research that goes into writing a historical romance, I’m begging–please don’t write one until you get to the point where it’s in your blood. Otherwise we end up with bandwagon historical romances that more often than not, keep the genre in the quagmire.

  18. Anonymous said:

    Agent Kristin said:
    Also, what fun to hear a romance editor talking about wanting to see historical romance again. Let me tell you. It’s been a while since an editor has asked, “what do you have going on for historicals?”

    Could it be a turning trend? Too soon to tell.

    But she said it way back in July. Prescient?

  19. Anonymous said:

    As an author of historicals, this has me doing the happy dance! Now, if only I could make the damn query letter work for me… (I too suffered the dreaded form email rejection, *sigh*)

    Perhaps it’s a sign?

    However, I am in total agreement that an author should pick a time period they love, not one that they think will simply sell because that love will show through in the writing. Anyone can recite facts, etc., but you have to (IMHO) love the time you write about, or the story’s going to fall flat.

    Fortunately for me, I love several different eras. Unfortunately (or maybe not?) they are less popular. What is the rule on this right now? Do editors want odd or not? *double sigh*

    i’d kill for a crystal ball right about now 🙂

  20. Marguerite Arotin said:

    Okay so are we talking about Regency and Victorian historicals, or good ole Westerns and Americana? I cannot write a historical set on the other side of the pond to save my life. My voice is to down to Earth and smart aleky for that
    :-P. I’ve heard that Westerns have dead but I’ve never been one to follow the trends. But I do have enough work to keep me busy in my fantasy realm right now so maybe I’ll just stick there and see what happens with Westerns.

  21. Robin L said:

    Anonymous 1, I’m not Kristin, but I have a MG historical coming out this April. It’s set in London 1906 and includes some paranormal elements, but is still very historcal. Plus I just sold a sequel to that book, and my editor is very interested in a YA historical I’m working on. So whether that’s due to the elevated interest in the romance market or not, I can’t say. (altho I sold my first historical over a year ago). But there is hope!

    Actually, I think the books that opened up the possibilties for historical in YA were Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels. Terrific books!

  22. Melissa Marsh said:

    While I am THRILLED that historicals are on the upswing and making a comeback, I don’t know if that will transfer to the WW2 setting. I’ve already had a few agents tell me that it’s a hard sell. But I shall persevere.

  23. pennyoz said:

    I wonder what constitutes strict historical. I have a completed m/s pre-edit comedy/adventure/romance set in 1951

  24. Anonymous said:

    Very interesting, since I have a Medieval piece of commercial fiction in hand. I was standardly rejected by you and assumed it was because the book was too niche, being set in such a time. Must have been my synopsis, or lack thereof.

  25. Anonymous said:

    If I may make a suggestion: It would be helpful if you could name something in print which exemplifies what the lady is looking 4. New or old, it does not matter. That helps us get from universals to particulars.

    Cut her foot off? Does she consider Stephen King’s Misery to be an historical romance?

  26. Anonymous said:

    Check out ‘The Musician and Maria Salcoiati’ by Anthony David Morris. Published by Lindfield Press in London, England. The historical romance you are waiting for! Amazon have it or it can be sent out via Lindfield Press.

  27. Matelasse said:

    Dear Kristen,
    I have a great historical romance for you to read.I have gotten excellent reviews on it and I KNOW in my heart of hearts that you can do something profitable with my novel. The catch, it must be read from cover to cover.Not the first five pages not the first 50 pages but, the entire book.
    Furthermore, I will not send it to just anyone.I want to be represented by your agency.I believe you can do wonders.

  28. Kate Allan said:

    Great to hear editors are interested in historicals with adventures. I write high-adventure romances (e.g. The Lady Soldier by Jennifer Lindsay) and ended up having to be published in the UK with Robert Hale and DC Thomson because I’m heavy on adventure although the romance is important too.

  29. Anonymous said:

    But, really… I can’t help but wonder….why do you want her left foot?

    I hope there’s room for negotiation on that one!

    Good luck!


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  32. Anthony David Morris said:


    I am the author of “The Musician and Maria Salcoiati” about which I have noticed a comment by an anonymous blogger in your rant column. It is self-published under the the imprint Lindfield Press. It seems that the genre is becoming more popular in the US than it is in the UK. I am looking for some help with publishing in the US and securing a fim deal. The comments I have had from readers in the USA have beenn hugely positive. if you would like to know more, please email me at Thank you.

  33. ADM said:


    I am the author of “The Musician and Maria Salcoiati” about which I have noticed a comment by an anonymous blogger in your rant column. It is self-published under the the imprint Lindfield Press. It seems that the genre is becoming more popular in the US than it is in the UK. I am looking for some help with publishing in the US and securing a fim deal. The comments I have had from readers in the USA have beenn hugely positive. If you would like to know more, please email me at Thank you.

  34. harry said:

    Immigrants fill a vital role in society by undertaking all the shitty jobs that British people are too lazy/proud to do. I’m not saying that immigrants only do shitty jobs, of course not, my parents run their own company and many immigrants have professional jobs, but my point stands. People complain about immigrants but they’re not complaining when they get driven home by one on a Saturday night, having bought a kebab off one on the way. Again, I know these examples are somewhat cliched but I don’t have the time to think of better ones.