May 30, 2010

Give Readers Something More

Are you making happy readers?

Most writers are learning that they must also become marketing experts, and the key rule in marketing is to know your target audience.

Most readers have other interests and a good writer can tap into those. A lot of cosy mysteries are aimed at niche markets that are also interested in crafts and cooking. These clever writers have worked out their market - mostly women who like sew, cook, scrapbook or just like the idea of trying those activities.

I'd never tried one of these mysteries so I downloaded Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke:

What I found was initially exactly what you expect from a cosy-mystery: 

  • Friendly village/small town
  • Amateur detective with unusual skills (cookie baking)
  • Low levels of violence (even with a murder)
But also weaved through the story were several ultra-yummy sounding recipes! I'm pretty keen to try some of these with my kids. 

On the narrative side, I did find it a bit slow to start, it went way over the 10% mark before any of the 'mystery' started. This goes agains Michael Hauge's formula for fiction (you can see my earlier post Writing Novels - Formulas and Structure). The only other problem I had with the novel was some of the town's people were just 'super-nice' and the main character felt the need to over-explain their niceness. I'd rather nasty or pathetic characters, they're more fun. Other than that, it was an enjoyable read and I loved getting the recipes.

My kid's mystery, Dog Show Detective will hopefully eventuate into a series of mysteries surrounding pets and dog shows. I try to weave through my story, interesting facts for kids about dog showing or breeds of dogs.

If you'd like to find out more about this style of mystery you could visit:
If you have a favourite cosy/craft mystery, please share the title or perhaps you've seen another site or blog we can visit on this topic?


  1. A few cozy murder mystery series that come to mind are the Dead-End Job Mystery series by Elaine Viets, the culinary mystery series by Diane Mott Davidson, and the China Bayles Herbal Mystery series by Susan Witting Albert.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I agree. Nice characters make me yawn. It's the wicked ones that catch attention!
    Nice review, thanks! And I like your blog, my first visit here!

  3. I've never read a mystery before, but I can sort of understand how one can exceed the 10% limit before starting any real movement. She probably wanted to develop the characters properly first. but that's me saying so without having read it! LOL. why didn't you tell me you grabbed my button? I'm now grabbing yours ... xx

  4. Mason - I like the sound of the Herbal mystery.

    Lydia - Thanks for visiting, hope to see you in here again!

    Alliterative Allomorph - I'm collecting buttons now, going crazy with it ;-)

  5. Hi, Charmaine,

    The first Cozy mystery I read was Pretty Is as Pretty Dies. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth- her books and blog.

    First time here. I love it.

  6. Great post. I'm with you. I love the nasty and not-so-perfect characters. Adds spice to the mystery.

  7. Thanks for the mention on your site!

    I tend to like quirky characters that have some intriguing flaws. :)

    The DorothyL listserv and the Cozy Armchair group on Yahoo are both cozy-focused and have lots of great recommendations.

    Agatha Christie, of course, was the author who really got cozies rolling. My fave of hers was "And Then There Were None."

    Lots of good series out there. I like Jim and Joyce Lavene's Peggy Lee Gardening Series, and the authors on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen have got great cozy series which have won and been nominated for awards.

    There's a lot of us on the Inkspot blog, too:


  8. I'm familiar with Diane Mott Davidson. I'm sure I've read other cozy mystery writers, but their names aren't coming to me.

    I'm not a cook or a baker, but I still enjoy her writing. These books definitely fit a niche, and they also appeal to other readers.

  9. My favourite cosy author would have to be Agatha Christie - I devoured her books as a kid.

    Lillian Braun's The Cat... series is good too.

    I really enjoyed Elizabeth Craig's Pretty is as Pretty Dies too.

  10. Diane Mott-Davidson is definitely my favorite author as far as cooking series. Joanne Fluke is also a favorite, but I think starting that far back in the series might be a little confusing as far as long-time relationships go within the series.

    Other favorites of mine are Maggie Sefton (knitting), Cricket McRae (general crafts) and Tamar Myers (Amish cooking).

  11. I've actually been in process of trying to audition for a cozy mystery and I think it's REALLY true that the audience is very different and those of us who are used to the OTHER kink of mystery can be caught off guard.

    I like an 'almost cozy'--I love the HUMOR and amateur sleuth pieces of the cozy, but I like a little faster dive in, and and dislike some of the stuff that I can't quite take seriously I've seen in some--I will definitely write on the edge closer to traditional, while still hitting the cozy points.

  12. Wow! Charmaine, speaking as a novice writer who can hardly work out what I want, let alone some hypothetical and unlikely-ever-to-materialise target audience, I find the thought of this level of targeting a bit scary.

    You clearly know the market for cozy mysteries (btw does Caroline Graham's Midsomer Murders fit into that category?) but I wonder how many other genres would have such well-defined niches with predictable associated interests?

    On the other side of the coin, a couple of commenters mention Agatha Christie, but I don't recall much in the way of crafts or cooking in Poirot or Miss Marple. Is that maybe just a modern marketing phenomenon?

  13. I need to be taking notes. I've read most of the old ones. Time to try something new. And, yes, a quirky character in a mystery is a must!

  14. Great post. Very true about niche markets.

  15. Journaling Woman - Thanks for coming by, I've recently discovered your blog and am enjoying the posts.

    Lou - I like my characters and my friends flawed - the more the better ;-)

    Elizabeth Spann Craig - Thank you for the great information you always share on your blog, I'll check out midnight writers.

    Medeia - Cool, I'll check out her books.

    Jemi - I hadn't heard of the 'The Cat who...' series before, but it looks good, there's even a parody called 'The Cat who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun'.

    Janel - I like the sound of the 'Amish cooking'.

    Watery - I like your idea of blurring the boundary of the cozy mystery, a little touch of dark wouldn't go astray :-)

    Botanist - don't let cozy mystery marketing scare you - all styles have a market. You can appeal to a general audience but also get a big niche following as well. I think it's about writing something that interests you.
    'Midsomer Murders' has elements of the cozy, such as the sleepy English village, but usually cozies are solved by sleuths (like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple) and the murders are rather understated. Crime fiction has a touch more blood and/or sex.
    You're also right, Agatha didn't have the recipes or hobby instructions in her writing, this seems to be a recent trend and it has me intrigued. I guess another example of a different genre using this method would be if a fantasy novel about witches included spells to try at home - teen girls would love that! I think you made some good points in your comments so I'll post it into a blog post to share.

    Mary - it's amazing how a genre develops over time into something almost completely new.

    Sarahjayne - thanks, I'm finding new and clever niche markets writers are targeting all the time now.

  16. this one sounds really great and the cover is just so cute!
    thanks for stopping my blog 8D
    have a nice day