Marketing your Book: What Genre are you Writing, Who is Reading it and What do they Expect? Part 2 – Thrillers, Mysteries, and Crime


In this series I continue my survey of the most popular genres from the perspective of a debut novelist. Today is Part Two: Thrillers, Mysteries and Crime.

What is a Thriller/Mystery/Crime?

This is an interesting question. Thrillers tend to be highly male-dominated and full of explosions and fast-paced action, while Mysteries, at their core, are generally more gender-neutral and highly cerebral. The amount of reader crossover, however, demands that these genres be talked about together. Crime is the conglomeration of these two ends of the spectrum. Thrillers and Mysteries require thoroughly well-thought out plots designed to give the reader just enough to keep them in the moment, but continually trying to figure out what will happen next. 'Suspenseful' is the best word to describe these stories, and they both tend to be heavily plot-driven. Mysteries typically focus on the investigation of a crime while Thrillers focus on the action of finding the bad guy. The first aims to stimulate the brain, the second to stimulate the adrenal gland, but it's rare that one will not have elements of the other.

Who is Reading Crime?

Crime commands a market of $728.2 Million dollars a year, half that of the Romance genre, yet more readers read Crime than readers read Romance. The difference is their appetites: Romance readers consume multiple books per week, while your average Thriller or Mystery reader will pick up a new book far less often, accounting for the difference in market share. Long ago, men read Thrillers and women read Mysteries, but this stereotype is no longer true. Still, as far as raw numbers go, Crime has the largest readership with 47% of U.S. respondents saying they have read this genre in the past year.

A 2015 report by MarketingCharts showed female readers make up 57% of these genres' readership and the top sellers are split in half as far as the author's gender-although it's not always so apparent. While the reality of reader demographics in these genres has changed, the perception hasn't, and authors will often use a pen name to better meet reader's expectations. J.K. Rowling, for instance, writes Crime novels under the pen name Robert Galbraith, while Nora Roberts writes a bestselling series of Thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Nearly half, or 47%, of Mystery and Crime readers are over 55 years of age. 28% are over 65, and 13-29 year olds only represent 18% of this readership, making this a predominately older demographic. Your readers will have a wealth of life experience and will expect dynamic, interesting, and highly flawed characters that they can recognize as real people. The cookie-cutter Bella Swan that has no real personality or interests outside of the immediate needs of the plot, aren't going to cut it with this demographic.

What do Crime Readers Expect?

Crime readers expect to be told before purchasing if this story is based on an actual event, and if so to what extent. "Based on a True Story" implies a more accurate portrayal to the real event versus "Inspired by a True Story."

Crime readers, as they tend to be older and have decades of reading experience, will also expect a work to be well-edited. More than any other demographic besides English majors, these readers will recognize typos, errors in grammar and punctuation, as well as more easily identify plot holes that younger readers may miss or overlook. The flip side of this, of course, is that this demographic tends to make the best beta readers and are best suited to helping you refine your manuscript pre-publication.

There are a number of key phrases to keep in mind when you're writing your description, and readers will expect to see them if your story matches. A "Cozy Mystery" typically takes place in a small, tightly knit community with an amateur detective. Overall the book is PG rated with no graphic sex or violence and usually features a great deal of humor.

"Psychological" Thrillers or Mysteries are a subgenre that place most of the focus on the inner thoughts and motivations of the characters involved.

Highly graphic depictions of violence and torture is called "Torture Porn" and is a very popular sub-genre, although the book descriptions never use the phrase and instead scatter words like "blood," "nausea," "gore," "slash," "hack," "terrified" etc. throughout the description to get the point across to the reader.

"Police Procedure" is another subgenre that puts most of the focus on the way a crime is investigated. This subgenre has extremely high expectations for realism and usually requires the author to have an extensive background in police investigations, forensics, or other clear-cut credentials that will communicate to the reader what makes the author qualified to write it.

If your story occurs on the international scene, you will probably want to include the key words "Geopolitical" and/or "Espionage."

How to Market to Crime Readers:

Reach out. Simply reaching out and making connections with your potential readers can have a domino effect like you've never imagine. These older readers tend to have massive influence and large reaches within their communities, and if they like you and your work, their friends and colleagues will listen to them. Send polite emails to the communications department of police, FBI, retired military groups, and forensics companies, whatever best suits your story's subject, and ask for reviewers in exchange for free books. Most of these organizations have a newsletter that their retired personnel subscribe to. Provide a picture of your cover and your full description and email address. Maybe even the first chapter. Very important: Don't follow up on the initial email-that would be seen as pushy. You may be surprised at the number of volunteers who start filing your inbox. Thank them politely, give then their free book in whatever format agreed to, and tell them exactly what you want from them-honest reviews sent directly to you, for you to include in your marketing pre-publication, honest reviews posted to Amazon post-publication, help with proofreading if they're up for it, whatever. Most won't want to chit chat until after they read your book, but if they initiate it, by all means engage with your readers.

People over the age of 55 have recently flocked to Facebook in order to keep in contact with far-flung children and grandchildren and tend to be unexpectedly active on this particular social media platform.

Try to get your book into libraries. Offer to drop off or send a copy for free if they'll put it on the shelf. 19% of this demographic goes to the library to get their books, but if they like you they will seek you out online and will tell their friends about you. Especially if you have a few novels done and ready to offer, this is a good way to earn loyal customers.

If you're determined to reach younger readers, Wattpad is showing some promise with this genre, do some research and see if it's right for you. Otherwise, be sure to make your book available in physical form, as older readers are more accustomed to reading print books even if they have taken up reading on electronic devices. Even if they end up purchasing your ebook, seeing that a physical book is not available may be seen as 'amateurish' and act as a turn-off. 

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