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Thread: historical fiction agents

  1. #1
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    historical fiction agents

    Looking through Writers Market, etc, I noticed that a lot of agents accept historical fiction. But do they necessarily take it seriously? I mean, they may put in their list of acceptable genres, but they might not be high on their list. They'd probably be much more likely to take a literary fiction or sci fi.

    That being said, are there good blogs from agents who represent a lot of historical fiction? I'd like to see what tips I could pick up.
    "Cotton. Cotton until Kingdom Come."

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  2. #2
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    historical fiction agents

    Great question Angeliz!

    That's just what I need, too. I've been through Query Tracker.net and selected out those agents (a) interested in hist fiction and (b) accepting unsolicited queries.

    Out of those, I narrowed the list down to about 15.

    Not sure this is the best approach.
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  3. #3
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Hist fiction agents

    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    Looking through Writers Market, etc, I noticed that a lot of agents accept historical fiction. But do they necessarily take it seriously? I mean, they may put in their list of acceptable genres, but they might not be high on their list. They'd probably be much more likely to take a literary fiction or sci fi.

    That being said, are there good blogs from agents who represent a lot of historical fiction? I'd like to see what tips I could pick up.
    As I said in earlier post, I have been using QueryTracker.net, which is a free database of agents cross-referenced with authors, genres etc.

    What is "Writers Market etc" ???????
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  4. #4
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    Try Agent Query. The site breaks down agents by genre.





    "Chronology is not destiny"
    Donald Michael Platt

    "If, as Napoleon said, History is a myth agreed upon, let mine be the definitive myth."
    Donald Michael Platt

    www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
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  5. #5
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Oooh, those are great. Query Tracker is a little frightening, I'm going to need to take some time to figure it out before it becomes less so. Agent Query isn't as frightening.

    I guess once I find an agent's name I can see if they have a blog. I'd love to see what these agents have to say/what they look for (though from reading on these boards I think I have a pretty good idea).

    I'm not just ready to send out queries, but I will soon. I'm SO anxious to do something with my story (see my very first posts on this board for a partial explanation as to why . . . ). The poor thing has been through quite the journey!

    Thanks.
    Liz
    "Cotton. Cotton until Kingdom Come."

    WIP 1: Britannia c.AD 60. Trunked.
    WIP 2: Paris, 1780s.
    WIP 3: Channing. Antebellum South, 1854 Now Being Repped by an agent!
    WIP 4: Novella. Civil War w/a hint of supernatural.
    WIP 5: The Cotton Wars [prequel].
    WIP 6: Sci-fi-ish. In progress.

    My Blog: MARIE ANTOINETTE'S DIAMONDS:

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW lkp's Avatar
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    The problem I discovered even when I used Agent Query was that many people may *say* they accept HF but not all of those have ever sold it. And of those who have sold it, many may only be interested in very particular places and times, like 20th century United States, or whatever. Once you have a list of agents to query from AQ or some other source, it is worth getting a subscription to Publisher's marketplace, even if only for one month, to check your list against a record of actual sales.

    I have often thought it might be useful to create our own HF thread on agents, so we could share experiences and information, because this really does seem to be a specialized field. I never actually did it, because I didn't really want what I said about different agents to be searchable all over the internet. But I do think a thread in which those of us who are agented or looking said, look this is who I queried and who asked for partials or fulls (and are therefore seriously interested in HF) would be very useful.

  7. #7
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lkp View Post
    The problem I discovered even when I used Agent Query was that many people may *say* they accept HF but not all of those have ever sold it. And of those who have sold it, many may only be interested in very particular places and times, like 20th century United States, or whatever. Once you have a list of agents to query from AQ or some other source, it is worth getting a subscription to Publisher's marketplace, even if only for one month, to check your list against a record of actual sales.

    I have often thought it might be useful to create our own HF thread on agents, so we could share experiences and information, because this really does seem to be a specialized field. I never actually did it, because I didn't really want what I said about different agents to be searchable all over the internet. But I do think a thread in which those of us who are agented or looking said, look this is who I queried and who asked for partials or fulls (and are therefore seriously interested in HF) would be very useful.
    I agree with the criticism. I have found more than a few who say they want HF specify after queries or even asking for partials they prefer HR or female MCs.





    "Chronology is not destiny"
    Donald Michael Platt

    "If, as Napoleon said, History is a myth agreed upon, let mine be the definitive myth."
    Donald Michael Platt

    www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6OtI&feature=channel_page

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Interesting... I've asked the same question before and the answers from published authors are "Go look for yourself."

    At the end of the day it is a tedious job. Query tracker and agentquery and Litmatch are getting you only that far. Good luck. Not easy. At all.
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

  9. #9
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Red face New Thread of HF Agent Responses

    Quote Originally Posted by lkp View Post
    I have often thought it might be useful to create our own HF thread on agents, so we could share experiences and information, because this really does seem to be a specialized field.
    Hi Lucy and Don,

    It seems both of you have been successful in finding agents in this field and actually getting onto the bookshelves ! Congratulations !

    I'm at the very start of this (daunting) journey with no idea whether I will make it to the end.

    If you did start a thread as suggested, Lucy, I for one, would be really interested. I have started sending out queries, and if I get any responses (big if !) I would be happy to share.

    Maybe if you don't want to post this sort of info in a public forum (and I can understand why), we could set up an email group or whatever for exchange of private messages. I know that I would certainly benefit from hearing something of your experiences, and as I said, I would happily share mine if and when I have any to share.

    PS I've noticed a definite bias towards female authors/subjects (and probably MC's) amongst the agencies that I have short-listed. Many agencies list "empowerment of women" or such-like as (one of) their mission(s) in life. Very discouraging for me, as I am male, my MC is male, and I have no feminist agenda. (Nothing against feminism, either)

    PPS Another area that worries me is the religious angle. Several agents seem committed Christians and see proselytising (had to look that up !) as a major mission, which is not my scene either.

    James (euclid)
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    I'm on Twitter @jjtoner_YA



  10. #10
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Maybe I could be so bold as to ask one question of any of you who have been published in this field:

    I have sent out 2 queries so far, and have identified about 12 more agents (a) who say they welcome HF and (b) who have web sites and email. My question is this:

    Can I query all of these at once, or do I have to take them one by one and wait for replies?

    One agency I found said something like: "If you are not sticking by the normal standard of exclusivity, then please just reject yourself."

    What is the normal standard?
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  11. #11
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    Send out plenty of simultaneous queries.

    If anyone wants an exclusive for partial or full, learn if they offer a reasonable time of X weeks/months to reply or respectfully decline.





    "Chronology is not destiny"
    Donald Michael Platt

    "If, as Napoleon said, History is a myth agreed upon, let mine be the definitive myth."
    Donald Michael Platt

    www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6OtI&feature=channel_page

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW funidream's Avatar
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    Getting an agent is hard - especially for an unpublished novelist. Your query will be rejected for a million different reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you, your story or the quality of your writing. It's not a matter of getting your query sent to 12 agents, it's getting your query to the 1 agent who happen to be looking for what you have to sell. That's tough.

    By my experience, you will do yourself a favor by casting your query net WIDE - and that includes agents who are not known for or who don't even say that they are interested in historical fiction. I did not ignore the agents who listed historical fiction as an area of interest, but I did not focus on them either. I queried reputable agents who repped fiction - LOTS of them.

    With a good query letter, you are just as likely to pique the interest of an agent looking to add a historical author to his list, as you are to gain the attention of an agent who, being known for repping historical fiction, is literally bombarded with it.

    Publishing is a subjective, subjective, weird, subjective business. One agent may only want Tudor England settings. Another may feel the market is saturated with Tudor and is looking for Feudal Japan - and oh, that agent, he just signed with a Fuedal Japan author, and now he thinks a Medeival Mystery author would be a good addition to his list because he likes to mix it up. These needs and desires are in a constant state of flux.

    And then there's the competition for attention.

    My agent (who maintains a list of varied genres) gets on average 300 to 600 queries per week - and she a pretty low key snail mail only agent - the biggies get way more. Out of 300 queries she might request five partials, of the five partials, maybe one full. She takes on about one new author per year.

    Th' odds are agin ye.

    But don't be dismayed. I was unpublished and with no writing cred whatsoever, yet it happened for me.

    My advice is grow a thick skin, then query your brains out and find that one agent who loves your stuff.

    I got to feeling all emoticonny there at the end, didn't I -
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  13. #13
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    Have you written...

    something specifically American that you seek an American agent?

    Ireland has some very good publishers and you are close to the UK with all their publishers and agents.

    American writers go for agents. It's the system. It isn't so much the system in the UK or Ireland.

    I'm busy as usual folks and keeping it simple. Don't spring in with all the reasons. Let's hear euclid's reasons for an agent, not ours.

    There is an e-mail group for historical writers which does talk about agents and where agents occasionally pop in to say...'looking for...' I belong and have posted two here on this board. It is a closed group but fairly easy to join.
    Last edited by pdr; 07-18-2008 at 12:10 PM.

  14. #14
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Cool Looking for an agent

    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    something specifically American that you seek an American agent?

    Ireland has some very good publishers and you are close to the UK with all their publishers and agents.

    There is an e-mail group for historical writers which does talk about agents and where agents occasionally pop in to say...'looking for...' I belong and have posted two here on this board. It is a closed group but fairly easy to join.
    When I hit "pay dirt" with an agent in USA, I thought why not an American agent? Unfortunately, he (Writers Literary Agency .com) turned out not to be quite what I was hoping for.

    I have tried UK and Irish agents before (like 10 years ago) and have a lot of rejection slips to prove it.

    I will certainly try that again.

    My stuff is somewhere close to Robert Harris's work, and his agent is in NY. This book is set during the First Crusade (1096-1098). My WIP is set in Berlin during WWII.

    I have no idea how to approach a UK or Irish publisher directly.

    Can I join that closed e-mail group? How?
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  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    I've asked an agent about WWII fiction and he advised that it's not considered historical in the publishing industry. Maybe because there are still people around who can tell their own stories.

    http://www.writersservices.com/agent/uk/agent_uk.htm

    for a list of UK agents. Go to their websites if they have got one. And... most of them prefer hard copies. Good luck.
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Doogs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by funidream View Post
    By my experience, you will do yourself a favor by casting your query net WIDE - and that includes agents who are not known for or who don't even say that they are interested in historical fiction. I did not ignore the agents who listed historical fiction as an area of interest, but I did not focus on them either. I queried reputable agents who repped fiction - LOTS of them.
    You know, that's a really good idea, especially considering that Barnes & Noble and Borders in the U.S., Chapters in Canada, et cetera, tend to shelve historicals with general fiction.
    The Scourge of Rome - Query hell
    Sons of the Republic - In planning
    De Bello Mortuo - Romans v. zombies (mental sorbet to cleanse the writing palate)

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW lkp's Avatar
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    I took a look at my old spreadsheet and here are some names and places I'd try if I were pitching a "guy-like" HF book. Some I queried, most not. The dots in the names are to avoid them turning up in Google alerts:

    Scott H.offman or Jeff K.leinmen at F.olio

    Jim M.cCarthy at D.ystel and G.oderich

    E.than E.llenberg at the agency of the same name

    S.imon L.ipskar or D.aniel L.azar at W.riters H.ouse

    Jim H.ornfischer, esp. for HF about the US, H.ornfischer Literary Management

    Jennifer J.oel at I.CM.

    N.icholas E,llison, eponymous

    Rob McQ.uilkin at Massie, Li.ppincott M.cQuilkin

    Joe V.eltre Artist' Literary Group

    Scott M.endel, Mendel Media Group

    Daniel M.andel, at Sandford Greenburger

    Jill G.rinberg, eponymous

    Charles Sc.hlessiger at Brandt and Hochman (may be esp. good for medievals, ancient world)

  18. #18
    Unpredictable preacher Minister's Avatar
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    I hadn't posted, but I'm watching this thread with interest. Thanks for the list!

    *goes off to see which, if any, have blogs*

  19. #19
    Almost competint newshirt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by funidream View Post
    Getting an agent is hard - especially for an unpublished novelist. Your query will be rejected for a million different reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you, your story or the quality of your writing. It's not a matter of getting your query sent to 12 agents, it's getting your query to the 1 agent who happen to be looking for what you have to sell. That's tough.
    Truth! I email-queried 150 agents who said they accepted emails and HF. The results were dismal. I've decided to POD the book.

    --ray

  20. #20
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Red face Genre bending

    Quote Originally Posted by murmel View Post
    I've asked an agent about WWII fiction and he advised that it's not considered historical in the publishing industry. Maybe because there are still people around who can tell their own stories.

    http://www.writersservices.com/agent/uk/agent_uk.htm

    for a list of UK agents. Go to their websites if they have got one. And... most of them prefer hard copies. Good luck.
    Thanks for that, Murmel, and thanks to Lucy too for her list of agents.

    Should I worry that my WWII WIP won't be classified as HF? Does that matter? Maybe I can just call it a thriller (if it's thrilling enough).
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  21. #21
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    Some say they handle historicals, but often their clients are UK authors who have books published there first.

    One agent, whose site said he took HF, read my full, praised it, and literally whined he had no idea where to place it.





    "Chronology is not destiny"
    Donald Michael Platt

    "If, as Napoleon said, History is a myth agreed upon, let mine be the definitive myth."
    Donald Michael Platt

    www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6OtI&feature=channel_page

  22. #22
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    Slow down...

    WW11 is regarded by the Historical Novel Society as historical. The books are reviewed in the HNS Review. The definition is that if the writer was not alive at the time and had to do serious research for WW11 then it is an historical novel.
    BUT
    publishers and agents are individuals with their own opinions hence the irritating number who declare that historicals are for women and should be romance!!!

    Euclid, you live in a country which gives tax havens and all sorts of honours and perks to writers. Being published in Ireland means your work is of interest to the big publishers elsewhere.

    Read the annual publishing book 'Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2008 published by A and C Black. ISBN: 978-0-7136-8371-4
    You should find it in your library. I recommend this one to start - I'll list the others later - because there are detailed chapters in the front half of the book about the whole publishing process and agents and querying. The information comes from the Society of Authors and agents and publishers and well published writers. It is a really valuable read because it will give you the basic knowledge of the publishing industry and how to query.


    funidream is spot on. There are publishers and agents who will take an historical because they love the story even if they don't say they take historicals.

    HistoricalNovelSociety@yahoogroups.com, is the group where agents drop in to request something. I have to say that it's been quiet agent wise for a while but Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwall and some other well published writers drop in and sometimes there are interesting discussions.



    .
    Last edited by pdr; 07-20-2008 at 09:03 AM.

  23. #23
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    World War II isn't considered "historical fiction" in the US market. I know things are different in Europe.

    So, euclid, I'd query more widely on that work in progress.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW lkp's Avatar
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    My agent spreadsheet has a total of 128 agents on it, each of whom I thought might be interested in my HF book for some reason. As I look through it, maybe 8 or so were bad choices (not scammers --- just not good fits for me or for HF), but that's still a lot of people to query with HF. Most were from the States, but I did scout out a handful of UK agents (though never queried any of them) and one Canadian.

    From two different agents, I understand that the UK market is esp. tight right now for fiction, esp. HF, even worse that the American market, if you can believe it.

  25. #25
    figuring it all out Viking's Avatar
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    Getting the agent is only the first high hurdle.

    I think there's a strong bias now to historical fiction-as-thrillers among editors. They want a new Alienist or something like The Interpretation of Murder (which was very weak on historical detail despite the author bragging he did "meticulous research") or The Anatomy of Deception. I've been disheartened that my agent has reported some editors would have preferred my novel retold in first person and with lots more action.

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