Writing historical novels takes time and motivation to research and study if you want to write something valuable and serious. Why are so many so-called "historical novels" with very little historical value published, and why there are others with real historical value struggling to get any attention?

  • 1
    Do people read books for education, or entertainment?
    – Alexander
    May 30, 2018 at 17:34
  • Why were penny dreadfuls so popular? May 30, 2018 at 17:59
  • You're assuming the labour theory of value, which isn't how capitalism works in practice.
    – J.G.
    Jun 1, 2018 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


It's most likely because the people who really care about historical value are reading non fiction primary, or secondary sources.

By their nature novels are works of fiction making them less valuable as a source of historical fact than a similarly researched non fiction work. While it'd be possible to fill a novel with footnotes citing sources that isn't necessary for the narrative and could become distracting depending on the number of sources cited.

Most authors writing historical fiction aren't writing research papers for a reason. They are writing works of fiction for an audience reading for recreation. They're going to be devoting their efforts to creating a compelling story with interesting characters. Unless a reader is extremely familiar with the time period in question a compelling story will cover for any historical failings much better than an accurate representation of history will cover for an abysmal story.


Historical Novels (like all novels) are read for many reasons, only one of which is their (historical) accuracy.

Some of the things that hook people into reading books/novels (including historical ones) are:

  1. Accuracy (historical or otherwise)
  2. Effective promotional/marketing campaign
  3. Known/favourite author
  4. Engaging plot
  5. Exciting action/content
  6. Likeable characters
  7. Interesting/relevant themes
  8. Tie-ins to contemporary world events
  9. Good cover with interesting bumph
  10. Gripping first paragraph
  11. And the list goes on ...

People naturally choose carefully the novel they spend their hard-earned cash on. If they want a combination of 4, 7 and 10 then they look for novels that give evidence of fulfilling those criteria. If this excludes 1 (historical accuracy) then that's their choice.

If a person were to be in the position of writing a novel (historical or otherwise) that only ticks box 1 and find that this novel is not selling like hot-cakes then perhaps one way forward would be to apply some focus to other areas, such as other items on the above list.

Good luck going forward, F. Lotito (and all authors who may (or may not) be in a similar position).

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