Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do reviews sell books?

I have Google alerts set up to email me with any mentions of the HNS or the Historical Novels Review, and this evening's mailing turned up an interesting link. Authors often wonder if reviews actually sell books, but the answer can be hard to quantify.

You may remember Jeri Westerson's appearance as a guest blogger here in early November. Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Literary Agency, Jeri's agent, recently looked at the difference in sales in the Boston and Richmond markets after positive reviews of Veil of Lies ran in the Boston Globe and Richmond Times-Dispatch. Then he reported the results on his blog.

Although the numbers don't seem to indicate an enormous increase in sales, every little bit helps, and that's 50-odd people who may not have heard of the author or title before the reviews appeared. Veil of Lies is a debut mystery, after all. Both papers post their book reviews online as well; this is convenient for people like me, for example, who used to live in the Boston area and still read the Globe via the web. So I would expect the word has gotten out more widely than just among the locals.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A visual preview of the summer season

In the past two weeks, I've had two computers crash (work and home), which meant getting them fixed/replaced... then the usual end-of-semester craziness happened, HNR reviews started pouring in, and my copyedited manuscript arrived, due back right after the holidays. I haven't had any time to blog. But I hope to make up for this long silence by providing a preview of some exciting-sounding forthcoming titles. Given that it's 20 degrees out with a sheet of ice coating the driveway, I figure this is the perfect time to look forward to next summer. Why not?

The following information comes from publishers' catalogs and from Amazon. Cover images and pub dates are subject to change, but this is the latest info I have. They're listed alphabetically by author.

Literary psychological suspense set in Edinburgh in 1763, in which John Boswell plots to take murderous revenge against his older brother, James, and Samuel Johnson, author of the famed dictionary, for presumed slights. Soho, May.

Literary Southern Gothic about a 19th-century Bostonian woman who finds mystery at her late grandmother's former home in Louisiana. Previously independently published in the US, this novel was released in 2006 by Snowbooks (UK) and will soon be available again for the American market. The Berkley catalog also indicates that her Sand Daughter, which sees the Crusades from the viewpoint of a young Bedouin woman, will be out in October (great news; it's an excellent novel). This one's out from Berkley, August.

A young married woman finds her life transformed after she's charged with ensuring proper conduct at the Egyptian belly dancing exhibition at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Berkley, July.

First in a new series of historical mysteries set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis, and featuring hardened crime reporter Hannah Vogel as detective. From Forge in May.

Two sisters of Syrian descent grow up in 1920s Cairo, a land rocked by violent anti-British demonstrations. Telegram, June.

Miss Susan Rose, a plucky lower-class woman in Victorian England, becomes a professional wet nurse and discovers her new employer's home harbors sinister secrets. Putnam, August.

Picks up the story of Lydia Ivanova, heroine of The Russian Concubine, in 1929, when she learns that her father--thought killed by the Bolsheviks--is imprisoned in Stalin-controlled Russia. Berkley, June.

A novel about Emily Brontë, her family, and her unconsummated romance with William Weightman, an idealistic clergyman who champions poor mill workers' rights. Norton, July.

A biographical saga about, you guessed it, John the Baptist, drawing on both ancient and modern sources. Literary historical fiction. From Norton, June.

Based on the title, I guessed the subject was Hatshepsut, but this is a biographical novel about Ankhesenamun, the newly widowed wife of the murdered Tutankhamun, who proves willing to marry her country’s ancient foe in order to save her crown. Kunati, May.

A woman who prefers to live a simple life in her small Puritan community in colonial Massachusetts finds that her beauty attracts attention from the town's wealthiest bachelor. Mitchell's Chateau of Echoes, about a widow who finds the journals of a 15th-century noblewoman after she purchases a chateau in Brittany, is well worth reading. Bethany House, June.

Biographical fiction about poet Elizabeth Barrett and her secret romance with Robert Browning. Though published by a Christian publishing house, Moser's novels aren't preachy and can easily be enjoyed by mainstream readers. Bethany House, June.

I've been waiting to read the next Silver Rush mystery ever since Iron Ties was published in 2006. No hint on the storyline yet, but these are meaty historical mysteries set in the silver mining boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, in the 1880s. Try them even if you think you don't like westerns. Poisoned Pen Press, July.

The long-awaited new historical novel from Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost (which I thought was brilliant). Another doorstopper at 880pp, Stone's Fall moves backward in time from 1909 London to 1867 Venice as it uncovers the mystery surrounding the death of a wealthy financier. Spiegel & Grau, May.

Pell, a young woman in 1850s rural England, flees her home on horseback on the day she’s to marry her childhood sweetheart, and heads for the Salisbury Fair. Viking, August.

The third of Scott's biographical novels about the mistresses of Charles II, each told in her own voice. This entry covers Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth. NAL, July.

Debut novel from a Woolf scholar that imagines the lifelong relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf from Vanessa's point of view. If you can't guess from the cover art, this is literary fiction. Houghton Mifflin, May.

The story of two ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I... Lady Katherine Grey (yep, Jane's younger sister) and Mistress Mary Rogers. The first mainstream historical in a while for Westin, whose most recent works have been Restoration-era romances (Lady Anne's Dangerous Man, etc). NAL, August.