If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of writing and publishing historical fiction it’s that historical fiction is a genre that many people love to read and even more people love to write. There is something satisfying about taking pieces from the past and weaving them into a story, part fiction and part fact, that helps us to understand that the more things change the more things stay the same. A great work of historical fiction shows the similarities between then and now, while detailing the differences in a creative way. For some writers writing historical fiction is a matter of taking their love for a particular time and place and sharing it with others.
One problem with writing historical fiction, as with writing most fiction, is finding paying markets to submit to. Submitting historical fiction can be more difficult for the obvious reason that not all journals publish it. There are several reasons why some publications do not publish historical fiction. Historical fiction is a much-loved genre among readers and writers, but there has still not been a definition of the genre that fits for everyone. The Historical Novel Society defines historical fiction as a work written by someone who was not alive when the events happened, but others would argue that historical fiction can be written about the past as recently as the Vietnam War if the writer uses facts from real-life events to illuminate the story. Historical fiction can be categorized under various names, sometimes era-specific such as Civil War fiction, sometimes under different genre labels such as romance fiction, inspirational fiction, or literary fiction.
Historical fiction can even cross boundaries between genres such as fantasy and mystery. There is also alternative historical fiction, which is written with a “What if?” premise: what if the South won the Civil War? There are so many ways to write historical fiction that sometimes it is hard to categorize.
Other editors simply don’t realize what a large market there is for historical fiction. The Copperfield Review, a journal for readers and writers of historical fiction, has averaged over 1000 visitors a month on its website for three years. A glance over the best-seller lists, amazon.com’s top sellers and even Oprah’s Book Club picks and one will see many historical novels in the line-up, but still some editors shy away from historical fiction with visions of 800-page detail-inflicted, plot-lacking tomes heavy in their minds.
Among those journals that do publish historical fiction not all of them are paying markets but if you are among the many writers of historical fiction who would like to be paid for your time and talent, here are nine paying markets for historical fiction. As with any submission, be sure to visit each journal’s website to see their specific writer’s guidelines. Some journals are very specific about the type of historical fiction they are willing to publish.
Solander is the literary journal from the excellent Historical Novel Society. For accepted stories they pay $150 in U.S. dollars and £100 in British pounds. Be sure to visit their guidelines (see link above) because they have a specific definition of historical fiction that their stories must adhere to.
2. The Gettysburg Review
The Gettysburg Review, published by Gettsburg College, accepts historical short stories and novel excerpts. They pay $30 per page.
3. The Seattle Review
The Seattle Review, published by the University of Washington, pays up to $100 for published pieces.
4. Virginia Quarterly Review
University of Virginia
One West Range
P.O. Box 400223
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4223
Virginia Quarterly Review accepts novel excerpts and they pay up to $100 a page.
6. Muzzle Blasts
National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association
P.O. Box 67
Friendship, IN 47021
This magazine is very specific in its scope and all stories must be related to muzzle loading rifles or the muzzle loading era of American history. See their website for more details. Pays $50-$300 for fiction.
7. Lighthouse Digest
P.O. Box 1690
Wells, ME 04090
Lighthouse Digest is another topic-specific magazine. Stories must be related to lighthouses and other aspects of maritime history. If you have a story idea for Lighthouse Digest, contact Timothy Harrison at timh (at) lhdigest.com.
Pays $75-$150 for fiction.
8. icada Magazine
Cricket Magazine Group
Writers of historical fiction should never forget the children’s market for their writing. Magazines such as Cicada use a lot of historical fiction to teach their young readers about the past, and historical fiction is a popular tool for teaching both language arts and history in elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms. For Cicada, the main protagonist should be 14 or older. Pays $0.25 a word.
To have the best luck finding paying markets for your historical fiction, have a clear vision of the audience for your work. Is your work going to appeal to Civil War enthusiasts? Is it an alternative history? Can it qualify as a historical/mystery crossover or a literary work? When looking for paying markets for your other stories, keep note of the types of stories that those journals publish. Journals that publish literary fiction may be interested in your literary historical story even if they don’t specifically publish historical fiction. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent was marketed as a literary novel rather than an historical novel even though it is very much an historical novel.
When submitting your work to paying markets, be careful not to fall into the trap that many writers of historical fiction fall into. Often writers of historical fiction submit chapters of their unpublished historical novels instead of submitting short stories written as independent pieces. With historical fiction, as with any type of fiction, the work the writer submits must have believable characters and meaningful dialogue that pushes the plot forward, a conflict that is somehow resolved, and an ending that brings the story together – in other words, everything the laws of drama dictate a well-written story should contain. Submitting several pages of historical research without intention or meaning will not go over well with any editor whether they publish historical fiction or not. That is not to say that you should avoid submitting novel excerpts, but if you are going to do so, be sure that the excerpt stands on its own as a complete short story.
There are paying markets that publish historical fiction, even well-paying markets. It is simply a matter of taking the time to do the research to find journals that are open to such submissions, finding exactly the right journals for your kind of historical fiction, and making sure that your historical story is as strong as it can be.
Meredith Allard is a writer and a teacher currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her work has appeared in journals such as The Northridge Review, Wild Mind, The Paumanok Review, Sonata, Moondance, and Muse Apprentice Guild. She is the executive editor of The Copperfield Review, a journal for readers and writers of historical fiction.
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