Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rich Variety of Crime Fiction

The rich variety of crime fiction

Last Saturday Northern California Sisters in Crime had our Fall Author showcase, with short readings by eight authors whose books have come out between last June and November 1. What struck me as I listened to each of them read was the incredible variety crime fiction offers.

There was a political thriller; a spine-tingling tale based on a true haunted story, a cozy—the kind of fireside story that is intriguing and entertaining without too much in the way of blood and guts; a piece of true noir fiction, a short story; a blood and guts medical thriller and a psychological thriller based on the experiences of the author, a police psychologist. In addition there were two authors who couldn’t make it, one why writes a humorous mystery and another who writes adventure mysteries. And that leaves out a dozen other sub-genres—international thrillers, spy thrillers, capers, small-town traditional mysteries, police procedurals, novels of suspense, female in jeopardy (fem-jep), romantic mysteries, private eye, literary mysteries, historical mysteries, etc.

It’s no wonder that writers submitting their work to agents and editors have trouble categorizing their work. And it’s understandable that that agents and editors tear their hair out wondering what category to dub books they are trying to find a publishing home for and that publicists despair of getting books to readers who will appreciate them. Pushing all these stories into the loose categories of thrillers vs mysteries doesn’t do them justice, and doesn’t help the reader pick out the kinds of books they like best.

It’s a wonderful smorgasbord for readers, but for writers trying to break in, it’s a conundrum. How do you describe your novel in such a way to not only intrigue and agent or editor, but give them some idea of how to market it. That’s a good reason to keep up with what’s selling. You may have written a perfectly wonderful female detective book, but if female detectives are not popular at the moment, you’re out of luck.

Unless, that is, you use creative labeling. If you know that the female private eye market is saturated, think of another aspect of the book that you can point to. Is there a romance in the book? Are romantic suspense novels all the rage? Call it romantic suspense. Spy novels dead in the water? Call it international suspense. Paranormal not selling? Emphasize the detective called in to solve it, and call it a police procedural.

This isn’t a way to cheat. It’s a way to help your agent or editor sell it to the decision-makers. And it’s a way to get your books to the readers who appreciate them. 

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