Crime and Mystery novels (including thrillers) generated more than $700 million in sales last year and were the second most popular category of books after Romance, according to Book Ad Report. So, what makes a great mystery novel? And what do readers expect inside those pages?
The answer varies depending on your subgenre. Subgenre is most easily defined as a smaller category inside a larger category. For example – Historical Mystery is a subgenre of Mystery. And subgenres can have sub-subgenres. Like Historical Cozy Mystery.
The most popular subgenres in the Crime and Mystery genres are:
- Detective Novels (follows a detective as he/she tries to follow clues and catch a villain)
- Cozy Mystery (amateur sleuth solves a crime, often with the help of friends. No gore, sex, or profanity)
- Police Procedural (the protagonist is a member of the police force and must solve a crime)
- Caper Stories (usually from the point of view of the criminal, and they sometimes have a humorous aspect)
These subgenres might sound similar, but if you read popular novels in each of them, you’ll quickly learn the styles and norms of each. In the most recent First Draft Friday, I invited two USA Today bestselling Cozy Mystery authors to share a behind-the-scenes look at the Cozy Mystery subgenre and how that subgenre dictates the author’s choices in plot, characters, settings, and storytelling.
We had a fascinating chat — check it our fun 30-minute chat above! Among the topics we touched on:
- The elements a Cozy Mystery cannot have
- How setting is often a character in itself
- How plot arcs unfold over several books
- The ways an amateur sleuth can continually find mysteries to solve
- How to plant clues without giving things away
- The different elements of a Cozy Mystery cover
Plus, we answered live questions from the audience. If you enjoyed the chat, please be sure to subscribe to our new First Draft Friday podcast or join our Facebook group for authors. And, if you’re now craving a good mystery, read samples and explore Sara and Tanya’s books here:
And please join us in our next First Draft Friday chat, with contemporary romance author Penny Reid, who will share her self-edit checklist for authors.