I had Scribes last Wednesday. One of our members brought in a newspaper article about Louisa May Alcott with a few lines highlighted to share. I never realized how hard Alcott had to work to make ends meet. “She taught school, went out in service, sewed, and most of all, wrote. She read all the magazines, figured out their style, and gave them what they wanted. She wrote thrillers and mysteries, sentimental romances, modern fairy tales, and Gothic horror.” (from Sarah Young’s column). And then Rachel smiled and asked the group, “Does this remind you of anyone?”
I’ve never sewn, but yes, I’ve written a lot of different kinds of fiction over time. And I appreciated Rachel’s compliment. I’ve written a short Christmas science fiction story for a newspaper tabloid, and they bought it, but accidentally published it under another author’s name. I’ve had short horror fiction in two anthologies. I’ve sold dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and short mysteries. And romances. I like playing with genres, but I’m glad to be working on a mystery again.
Since it’s been a while since I’ve written one, my hubby and I went to the bookstore to see what kinds of mysteries are out there. I read my old favorites, but they aren’t very helpful for research. They already have built-in audiences. They can break the rules and still sell books. I haven’t kept up with new writers in the field. I wanted to see who’s selling today and what they do. I asked my editor what mysteries he likes, and he sent me a stack of Kensington authors, most of whom he works with. They were all “niche” mysteries. Every book had a protagonist with a specialty of some kind–one runs a bakery and includes recipes in her books, one writes “clambake” mysteries and includes New England type recipes, another entered poodles in dog shows and gave details about that, and yet another runs an organic farm and spa.
At the bookstore, to my surprise, I found the rows of mysteries all clumped under the “mystery” title, but the first half of the shelves were filled with “niche” mysteries in alphabetical order, and the second half was filled with “serious” mysteries. The books were kept separate from one another. I’m assuming that means that readers who buy the niche, cozy-style mysteries rarely buy the heavier ones, and vice versa.
I’m writing the niche style. That’s what my editor likes. And yes, like Louisa May Alcott, I’m going to try to give him what he wants. That also means that my agent won’t have much luck if she ever tries to sell me to a bigger publisher. They want books with higher stakes, bigger themes, more drama–page turners. I’m okay with that. I like the idea I thought of for mysteries, and I’m having fun writing it.
In the meantime, Kensington sent me an AWESOME book cover for my sixth romance, due out in November. Thought I’d share, and whatever you’re working on, happy writing!