Market Value?

2 Helen MediumDo welcome Helen Hollick to the blog! She’s a multi published author of historic fiction, with and without a touch of magic and fantasy. Her account of the period leading up to the Norman Conquest, Harold the King, is an authoritative, yet easy to read, and thoroughly recommended. Today, she takes a hard, controversial and personal look at the fiction market.

Apparently, no one is interested in reading pirate-based novels. Or so various publishers have informed me. If I recollect, the same was said about wizards and vampires – and even historical fiction, including all its varied sub-genres.

What they actually mean is, ‘we’re not sure how to market your book.’ Especially when the novel in question is cross-genre. My Sea Witch Voyages are nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy. They could be marketed under historical fiction, fantasy, adventure or any combination of these. As in ‘Indie’ author, though, I market them as darn good reads, incorporating any or all of the above depending where I’m situated at the time. I would not concentrate on the fantasy element on a nautical site, for instance, and the history element would come to the fore if I was in the Historical Novel Society Facebook group.


But that is one of the pitfalls of being a mainstream author, you are bound to the (often narrow) ideas of the big publishing houses’ marketing team. Most of whom (no disrespect intended here) are keen young people seeking to make their way up the very steep career ladder. As an author, particularly a new or lesser-known author, you are at their mercy. When I started out I relied on my UK mainstream publisher to promote my books, and to be fair this was quite a few years ago. (Although listening to some authors things have not changed much.) This was before the Internet. There was no Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Marketing consisted of reviews in magazines and newspapers, or radio interviews. I was lucky for my first novel The Kingmaking, the media picked up that I had received a huge advance for a trilogy; I had the media outside the front door, and an exclusive with the Evening Standard. I was featured on prime evening TV and on national radio as an half-hour long guest of Derek Jameson on his late night BBC Radio Two show.

I did tell everyone who asked that the advance was greatly exaggerated. No one listened. All good fun though, along with that exultant feeling of ‘Yes! I’ve made it to the Big Time as an author.’ The ‘made it’ was short-lived.

Book Two of the trilogy, Pendragon’s Banner, received very little marketing. ‘We’re going to have a big push when book three comes out,’ they said. Shadow of the King was published. No big push.

Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US), my story of the people and events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings, did better. The marketing assistant assigned to me was new and enthusiastic; I had several media interviews but after that, it was all downhill.

A Hollow Crown (titled The Forever Queen in the US) received no marketing whatsoever, and soon after the publisher (and my agent) dropped me. Undeterred, I went indie. Publishing your own books is not easy. A lot of things, from incorrect formatting to books disappearing from Amazon, can go wrong. Despite the ups and downs, being in control is good. (And we were able to pass on our experience together to up-and-coming indies from all this experience as we did at the 2015 Historical Novel Society conference. – Alison)

HNS2015_Indie panellists

Alison, Geri Clouston of IndieBRAG, Anna Belfrage, Helen, and Dan Willis, collectively speaking as the Indie panel at the 2015 HNS Conference in Denver, CO.

I am published mainstream in the US, and in translation in Turkey, Italy and soon Germany, but I am in charge of my marketing. Social media, whether you love or loath it, is the saviour of many an indie author, providing it is used sensibly. The quickest way to not sell a book is to bang on about ‘buy my book.’

My Facebook pages are my shop windows, Twitter is my coffee shop meeting place, my website is my Grand Store. To invite and welcome visitors I Tweet, Facebook and blog – which is why I am here waffling away as Alison’s guest. (Very pleased to have you here, Helen.)

Like any shop or store I want to entice you inside to browse, but there is no obligation to buy. Well, not as such. My idea of marketing value is the opportunity to meet people, and perhaps make friends. If after we’ve had a bit of a social media greeting, or you’ve browsed ‘the shelves’ to look at what I have on display, I would be highly delighted to wave you off on your way with at least one of my books tucked under your arm…

No obligation though. 😉


Helen Hollick’s latest release is On The Account, the fifth Sea Witch Voyage…
Captain Jesamiah Acorne is in trouble. Again. Arrested for treason and smuggling, believing his beloved ship, Sea Witch, lies wrecked on England’s North Devon coast, his only hope of escaping the noose is for someone to quash the charges. That someone turns out to be his ex-lover – but there’s a price to pay.

He needs to find a boy who has disappeared, and a valuable casket that more than one person wants to get their hands on. When people start getting murdered and Barbary pirates kidnap his wife, Tiola, his priorities rapidly change – but who is lying about what? Is returning to piracy a wise idea? Is Tiola having an affair with her mysterious Night-Walker ‘friend’?

Meanwhile, Tiola has her own battle to fight – keeping herself and Jesamiah alive!

Available from an Amazon store near you

1066 TUDAnd coming in August,  1066 Turned Upside Down (e-book)
Ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his place? What if a mysterious European political power (possibly Roma Nova 😉 had intervened? Then here is the perfect set of stories for you. ‘1066 Turned Upside Down’ explores a variety of ways in which the momentous year of 1066 could have played out differently. 

Written by nine well-known authors (including Helen and me!) to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the stories will take you on a journey through the wonderful ‘what ifs’ of the most famous year in England’s history.
More at

Connect with Helen:
Sea Witch Page:
Twitter: @HelenHollick

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