One of the things all writers want is for their book to become a word of mouth success – not to be depedent on the vagaries of marketing and publicity but simply to have written a book so amazing that everybody is recommending it to their friends.
The internet, of course, means that there are other ways of generating a word of mouth success. Because I have a Google alert set up to tell me when anybody mentions my name online, I came across Fiction Forum on Amazon where people can share their favourites and their opinions with others and where people can ask questions about those of similar tastes. The page I was directed to was this one on 'time-slip' novels. Which, when I read the comments by Kesali and I Readalot, was a pleasant surprise.
Older, more traditional media are also getting in on the act. Mariella Frostrup hosts a Radio 4 programme called Open Book which has a section called The Reading Clinic. A couple of weeks ago a listener wrote in to say that he had very much enjoyed Ian Mortimer's A Time Traveller's Guide to the Middle Ages and would like to read fiction from the same period. Could Ms Frostrup's guests offer any advice?
Interestingly, from the point of view of somebody who has also read Mr Mortimer's excellent book (subtitled A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century) and who is writing a book very firmly based in the fourteenth century (ie me) there seemed to be little recommendable adult fiction set in the medieval period and written in English. Umberto Eco's novels were - of course – highly recommended (though it's astonishingly difficult to find the name/s of his highly talented translator/s) and I was introduced to the works of George Mackay Brown but, other than that, the novels the panel were keen on were mostly children's books by Kevin Crossley-Holland and German author Lilli Thal (whose work is translated by John Brownjon).
Looking at the list (follow the link above) I can't help wondering about the prejudices of the panellists. I mean, can you seriously make recommendations about current medieval fiction without even mentioning Karen Maitland's Company of Liars and Owl Killers?
Anyway, there are two ways of looking at the apparent dearth of medieval fiction from my point of view as the writer of a book set during in the Black Death.
One: Hooray! This is a niche that is crying out to be filled, bring it on!
Two: Bugger, there's no demand for fiction set in this period, I'm on to a loser.
Does anybody have any other recommendations or feelings about this market?
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After posting this, my lovely editor, Will, sent me a link to this article in the Telegraph. I think I know the answer - it's One above. Hooray!