My manuscript is about a fictional murder/kidnapping case that takes place in 1932 New York City. And yes, I made sure the time period is a necessary element of the plot. The good news: publishers tell my agent they like my writing. The bad news: they claim there's no market for period mysteries like mine.
My first argument: publishing houses reprint dated fiction by authors from the 50s and 60s all the time. (I understand they many of them have name recognition and a track record of success that I don't have, but it's still period material.)
My second argument: The Emmy Awards this year are full of period fiction like Mad Men, Mildred Pierce, Boardwalk Empire, and so on. I know tv/cable is a different medium than publishing, but there seems to be an appetite for period fiction. What do all of you think?

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OK, I'm passing this on second hand from a friend who's a pretty successful writer.


He said you can't take anything seriously that agents and publishers tell you.  He mentioned an agent telling him nobody wants to buy series with the same hero anymore.

What he said was,  "When they say nobody wants vampire detectives or stories set in Norway or whatever, what they're really saying is that nobody told them it was OK and they don't have the ability to make the decision on their own".


And this:  think about it. Publishers telling an agent there is no market for something?  What does that mean?  They are either interested or they're not.  That's what they can say that makes sense:  I'll buy it, or not.

Agreed, Cammy. Thank you so much for the input.
I agree with your second point especially. Even though it is a different medium, there seems to be a lot of appeal for 1930s-set stories at the moment. I'm halfway through writing a novel set in 1930s New York myself. It's a fascinating period. The recession, the desperation that it led to, the political changes. Good luck to you.
Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate it.
The excuse publishers give one is not necessarily based on their actual reasons for rejecting one's work. They may already have something of that kind in the mill; they may not like one's writing style; they may see too many flaws; they may just be feeling too lazy to get involved; they may be averse to communicating with somebody they don't know.  That applies to agents, as well.  If the agent doesn't want to sell one's work, it may be for the reason they give; it may be for some other reason; it may be for no reason at all.  I don't know whether they go so far as to lie about the reason they can't sell it even if they have already agreed to try, but lying isn't uncommon in the world. So adjust to all possibilities, and either move to another agent or put that piece away and write something else.  After all, when you dig it out again, it will still be a period mystery.
I hope they're wrong, since I've written a crime novel set in Boston in 1970s. The main character is inspired by a real life detective who lived in that period and the crime is similar to a mob massacre that actually occurred in Boston on the 1970s. Seems to me that early Spencer novels are still selling and Baby Boomers (aka Seniors) easily recall the 70s (we don't all have dementia yet). Stick with your story.

Thanks, Steve. Sounds like a great story you have there. Best of luck.

I love period mysteries. 

I hope you find a publisher... I'd love to read it.

Thank you, Kathy. I appreciate it.


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