HNS Conference 2014

This weekend I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference 2014 in London, something I’d been looking forward to immensely.  I knew from previous experience that the talks would be excellent and varied and I definitely wasn’t disappointed – the organisers, Charlie Farrow, Richard Lee and Jenny Barden had done a brilliant job!

The programme kicked off with a panel talk on the challenges and triumphs of selling historical fiction.  Chaired by the lovely Carole Blake, this was a wide-ranging discussion which concluded that in order to sell historical fiction you need a combination of paid advertising, social media networking and an absolutely fantastic cover design.  We were also told to be bold and use our passion to write the best possible story (without following trends) so that it has something very special to offer, but above all to enjoy writing it.

This was followed by the keynote speaker Conn Iggulden, best-selling author of action-packed adventure stories.  He was a fabulous speaker, very entertaining and amusing, and we could have listened to him for a lot longer!

There were some smaller break-out sessions and the one I attended was extremely interesting – how to make an attention-grabbing book trailer.   Filmmaker Philip Stevens of Urban Apache Films and best-selling author Giles Kristian told us how they went about creating the best possible trailers for Giles’ books.  Trailers that had a real impact on the viewer and instantly made you (a) grasp what the book was about and (b) made you want to go out and buy it.  They showed us the do’s and don’ts of trailer-making.  It should be a collaboration between the author and the filmmaker, and should capture the essence of your book.  It should inspire the audience to find out more about your book.

Unfortunately book trailers are not yet seen as a ‘must-have’ marketing tool by publishers, but Philip and Giles felt that they should be because people spend a lot of time online so this is a great way of making them aware of our books.  The only downside is that a really good trailer costs a lot of money so I’m going to have to start saving up I think!

The afternoon featured a fun session where five authors argued in favour of the particular eras they write about (‘My Era is Better than Your Era’) and somewhat surprisingly, I think the early Georgian won (?!), although to my mind you can’t beat the Vikings or the Civil War period.  Finally we had a wonderful interview with Lindsey Davis, who chatted to Jerome de Groot and gave us some great insights into her writing process and the inspiration behind her books – very enjoyable indeed!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to the Sunday morning sessions, but I understand they were all just as good.  Many thanks again to the organisers – I’m looking forward to the next conference already!

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