I was reading Romancing The Blog (yes I know I should be writing but...) anyway, there was a nice piece about pirates and someone had posted that an un-named historical author said the only thing editors were interested in these days was lords and ladies. They would NEVER buy pirates. Huh?
Nope, not my editors. They have been buying Roman set historicals from me and someone else. And funnily enough all my mss thus far have had something to do with pirates. The working title of my last one was The Pirate's Bargained Bride.
They are looking for strong early 20th century but haven't found it yet, and they want more ancient civilisations. They are receiving very few mss set in these time periods and barely none that show the writer has done any sort of research beyond watching a film on tv.
Because HM&B have enough Regency authors doing drawing room, they want something that is that little bit different. I think it would be harder to to sell a striaght Lords and Ladies than it would be to sell something different.
And if my experience with Gladiator's Honour is anything to go by, readers are thus far knock on wood, responding to the time period.
When I read editors are not buying this or that, I know what it probably means is that the individual story was probably not strong enough for an editor to take a chance.
The basic key ingredient to sell a mss is to have a strong story that fits within the guidelines of that particular publisher. It is the dream of every editor to find an author talented enough to deliver.