One of my fave workshops was the panel on Unusual Historical organised by my friend Carrie Lofty. Carrie has been a big moving factor behind upping the profile of historicals that are a little bit different. She is the main mover and driver behind the blog Unusual Historical for instance.
With this panel she assembled agent Kevan Lyon, Asian writer Jade Lee, paranormal historical writer Zoe Archer, and the winner of this year's Rita, Sherry Thomas as well as herself to answer questions. She also allowed me to give some input on the HH side of things as I have direct experience with them.
The turn out was average. It was late on Friday and the workshop was competing with the Harlequin series spotlight, several talks with agents about rejections and launching careers plus a PAN presentation by four booksellers. So it was great to see people there.
The good news is that UH is loosening. Berkley has bought Roman, Pocket has bought Carrie's Victorian set in South Africa, Avon has bought a Regency set in the Ottoman Empire. HH has bought Asian --Tang Dynasty (Jeannie Lin) and Medieval Japan (Ashley Grayson). HH particularly with its Undone is looking for new settings or new twists on old settings.
The bad news is that the bar is still set very high indeed. The unusualness of the setting must be off set by something. So make sure that your characters work very hard and the romance is top notch. Make sure that one of your characters is English. Maybe consider having them go back to England. Think about ways in which to get your reader hooked. When pitching, you might mention the setting at the end rather than at the beginning. Also if pitching something in a crowded field, think what is going to make your book stand out from the crowd.
There was a little discussion about research and how you go about it. Google Earth was mentioned. Anyone who knows me knows I love to go on book research expeditions. Also the growing genre of paranormal historical was touched on. Zoe Archer has a really exciting four book series coming out in the autumn.
The panelists did a good job. If you missed the workshop, I believe it was taped.