Sunday 17 May 2015

How accurate does a Regency have to be?

I write at least three new Regency romantic adventures every year – sometimes four – as well as two mainstream historical novels set in World War II. Obviously with any books set in living memory it essential to get all historical details absolutely right so I tend to spend far longer on background reading and detailed research with these books than I do for my Regency romances.
One author, a friend who also writes Regency, said to me when I mentioned that she had made a couple of minor historical mistakes that as her books sold for less than £1 it didn't really matter. A reader would hardly expect a writer to spend as much time on these details if the book was going to be sold for so little.
What do you think? Is she right? Do readers get what they pay for and don't expect the same standard of historical accuracy in a less expensive book?
I think that every book, sold for whatever price, should be as well written and as accurate as the writer can make it. Of course, no reader was alive in the Regency and therefore less likely to be as knowledgeable about the period. However, many readers are fans of Jane Austen and will have gleaned a lot of accurate history from reading these books and watching TV and film versions.
I don't do as much research when writing a Regency story because my background knowledge is so extensive after having written more than thirty books in this genre.
What I do is check when I'm not sure – for instance I wanted to know what songs might have been sung around the piano at Christmas time. Hark the Herald Angel was written in the 1700s, so I used that, but I had to check online first.
I know that my books are more historically accurate nowadays than they were when I first started writing and I'm proud of that. I'm not talking about major anachronisms such as talking about turning on the tap or catching a bus which I've never done, but small details like using the word fiance, which wasn't around until much later.
What about covers? Not whether the picture on the front has the correct hair colouring as the heroine or hero, but whether the setting and costume are correct. In the cover on the right the girl looks exactly like my heroine – however, she wouldn't have worn a white dress with such a low back. I had to settle for a slight inaccuracy as it's almost impossible to get perfection if you use photographs rather than artwork for your covers.
 The cover on the left was for one of my early Regency novellas for My Weekly Pocket Novel. Need I say anymore?
A Runaway Bride is a recent book with a lovely cover from Jane Dixon-Smith and I thought it historically correct until a friend pointed out there was a zip running up the back which neither Jane nor I had noticed. Would you have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out to you? The MW PN cover is horrendous and totally misleading, however despite the minor inaccuracies, I think both the other covers give the feel of a Regency romance.
I've been told by some readers that too much "history" in a Regency spoils the romance and that as long as the setting and dialogue are reasonably correct, they don't even notice the details. The plot and character is what is important.
Do you agree? How much historical detail is too much and drowns the reader in unnecessary information? I'm not talking about a huge info dump – that's never a good idea. I like to put in details that bring the period to life and use the correct words when possible. If I call a bag a reticule then I make sure it's obvious from the context what it is.
I would be interested to hear your views.
Fenella J Miller

Saturday 2 May 2015

Price, cover or content?

I had raised the prices of all my mainstream, full length books to £2.99 -  they should have been £2.50  for me to keep the same royalty - and sales plummeted. I read somewhere that books should never be priced at £2.50 ( or anything £.50) which is why I made them £2.99.
I have now reduced the prices of all of them to £1.99 - and will  have to absorb the reduction in royalty of £0.40.
Original Cover.
People happily spend £3 on a coffee, but for some reason don't want to pay the same for a book which has taken months to produce.
How much does price influence you? I must admit I get the majority  of my books via KU nowadays, and would only spend more than £2.99 for a book from someone like Lee Child or Donna Leon.

Covers - how important are they to sales? I have changed the cover for Lady Emma's Revenge because several people said they looked as if they were asleep. Hadn't occurred to either Jane or I until then - but decided to have a new cover. Would the old cover have put you off buying the book? I know that I don't even look inside a book if I don't like the cover.
New cover.

What about content? Obviously the story is the crucial thing for any book - but if the price and cover are not right then readers don't even 'look inside.' What I'm asking about is the 'front matter'. I only have a title page, copyright stuff and acknowledgments  - my book list is at the end. Some books have pages of  information about family etc/book lists'historical notes and contents page before the book starts - would you persevere and read the excerpt or give up?
When  KU began and writers got paid if a reader read 10% of the book there were, I'm told, hundreds of very short books published where 10% of the book was just the 'front-matter'. not sure if this is true - but saw it on several loops.
For me it's cover, price and content -what about you?
Fenella J Miller

'Lady Emma's Revenge' will be published in June 2015.