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1. Alternate Publishing: Historical Fiction

Continuing the series about Alternate Publishing. This is part 3 of 7.

Dodging Trends: Why I Turned to Self-Publishing

Guest Post by Chris Eboch

“If a book is good enough, it will find a home.” I’ve heard that a lot in the publishing industry, especially from editors and agents.

There’s just one problem. It’s not true.

After 15 years in this business, 12 traditionally published books, and years as a teacher through the Institute of Children’s Literature, writing organizations, and local colleges, I think I’m a pretty good judge of quality. And yet I’ve seen too many great manuscripts fail to sell. Maybe some authors just need to keep trying, but when multiple published authors say, “I can’t believe her novel hasn’t sold yet,” you have to acknowledge that the publishing business judges by standards other than quality.

That’s not to say you can sell a terrible book. Rather, a manuscript has to be great AND trendy, or at least something editors and marketing departments predict will sell enough copies to make money for the company. When vampires were selling big, publishers released more vampire books.

I happen to like historical fiction. My first middle grade novel, The Well of Sacrifice (Clarion Books), came out in 1999. It’s an adventure set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala, and because many schools teach the Maya in fourth grade, it’s still in print and I get a nice royalty check twice a year.

A few years ago, I wrote a mystery set in ancient Egypt. The Eyes of Pharaoh is better written than The Well of Sacrifice, since I’ve become a better writer. Yet wherever I sent it, I got one of two responses – “Historical fiction isn’t selling well these days” or “We already have an Egypt book.”

I do know writers who have sold historical fiction more recently—mainly literary novels set in America in the last 200 years. And a couple of young adult novels have touched on ancient Egypt (well, at least on Cleopatra, who isn’t all that ancient by Egyptian standards). But despite great feedback on my story, despite teachers telling me they wanted the book for their classroom, despite the l

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