Reviewing Historical Fiction – what every Indie Writer Should Know

HISTORIC FICTIONHelen Hollick – author, editor of Historical Novel indie books and author of 3 B.R.A.G.Medallion Honorees- shares her wisdom with us!

It is all very well writing an historical novel – doing all that research, checking and re-checking to ensure no factual errors or anachronistic bloopers creep in, (like the narrative in a Medieval novel proudly announcing; “she froze, like a rabbit caught in the headlights,”) but what happens after you have finished the editing, sorted the formatting and finally got your book into print? You want it to sell, of course. The best way to do this is by word of mouth. Create a buzz, get people talking about your novel.

Easier said than done though!

A good way to get started is obtaining an Indie B.R.A.G medallion and gaining some genuine honest, reliable, reviews. Which is where I come in.

I am an author – traditionally published with my Historical Fiction in the US, but my nautical fantasy adventure series, the Sea Witch Voyages are Indie Published (and all have B.R.A.G. medallions). But for this article, my other role is the primary one: I am also the Historical Novel Society’s Managing Editor for Indie Reviews.

We welcome indie historical fiction and give good reviews to deserving novels, taking into account not just the writing style, plot, characterisation and all the things normally encountered in reviews, but additionally we look at the way the book is presented, at the quality of its production. Our aim within the HNS is to show that indie historical fiction is every bit as good as traditional mainstream.

It is as important when self-publishing to ensure the formatting is correct, the font is a comfortable reading experience size, there are no double-spaced line breaks between paragraphs etc. If in doubt compare your proof-copy layout, page by page, with a quality mainstream novel – almost a ‘spot the difference’ game!
Does your book have the first opening line of a chapter indented? Does a mainstream novel? (No, it doesn’t).
Is your left-hand margin straight or jagged? What are the margins like in a mainstream novel? Do yours match? What side – left or right – does a mainstream novel have the first page of an opening chapter? (No, I’m not telling you the answers – go and look!)

Do these things matter I hear you ask? Well no, I suppose they don’t if you do not want to be taken seriously as an author. But if you do want to be taken seriously then yes. They do. Very much so.

Editing, proof-reading to catch those irritating typos (by reading your final version, not just relying on a spellchecker which will miss things like here/hear see/sea deer/dear) is as essential. Look at it like this: your book is Cinderella. Do you want her to stay in the kitchen in her rags sweeping the cobwebs, or do you want her dressed in her finest gown going off to the ball looking her best and hoping to ctach the eye of a handsome prince? (Well OK, agent / publisher / reviewer…)
I know what I would rather choose to produce – and read!

The HNS Indie Review team select our Editor’s Choice books each quarter when the reviews are published online on the HNS website, and all our editor’s choice selections automatically go forward for longlisting for our annual HNS Indie Award.


So for you, the author, this means to get awarded an Indie B.R.A.G. medallion and a glowing review by the Historical Novel Society your novel could be one worth reading!

5 responses to “Reviewing Historical Fiction – what every Indie Writer Should Know”

  1. Geri says:

    I love thinking of our books as “going to the Ball”!
    It doesn’t matter how your book is published- it always has to be well written (this is an art!), properly edited, an engaging cover and a brilliant blurb. Without these things, your book isn’t worth a readers time and money. Writing a historic fiction requires research which matters to the reader. Helen and her team search for the books that meet all these requirements – not an easy job!

  2. Helen Hollick says:

    Thanks Geri – it amazes me how often indie writers go to all that trouble to write a book (and often pay a lot of money to get it published) yet skimp on the cover and don’t bother over-much with the initial editing and final proof-reading. Be PROUD of your book! Show it off in all its finery, not its tatty old torn jeans!

  3. Janet Oakley says:

    Proud of my indieBRAGG. Hope to see all at the conference.

  4. Elisabeth Marrion says:

    I am a big fan of Helen Hollick. And no , not because my books did get reviewed by the HNS, and one of them also made it to the shortlist of the 2015 HNS indie award. Plus, yes it got awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion this month. But the real reason I am a fan of Helen’s, I like her no-nonsense approach.. The good advise and many down to earth statements. Helen is aware, that English is not my first language so please apologise any mistakes here. When it comes to Publishing, I do this with the wonderful people from SilverWood

  5. Helen Hollick says:

    Thanks Elisabeth

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