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.