Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Niches Can Be Murder: A Mystery Marketing Mystery

by Steve Hockensmith

Seventy or so years ago, it seems to me, mysteries were pretty generic. Which isn't to say they were bland or boring. But there were really only two kinds.

#1: The ones where a brilliant sleuth uses logic and an eye for detail to crack a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

#2: The ones where a tough gumshoe uses street smarts and flying fists to pummel his way to justice.

(You could make the case that the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the rest of their clean-cut teen crew deserve their own category, but I just see them as a subset of #1 with a lot more "Jeepers!" and "Golly gee!" thrown in. And no bodies.)

Today, on the other hand, there's nothing generic about the mystery genre. In fact, it's become amazingly, almost insanely specific in an OCD, "everything in its own little box" kind of way.

We've got crafting mysteries and baking mysteries and quilting mysteries and gardening mysteries and psychic mysteries and vampire mysteries and home renovation mysteries and on and on and on. I've even contributed to the niche-ification myself, having written Sherlockian/Western mysteries and middle-grade/science mysteries and (coming soon to a bookstore near you!) tarot mysteries

In fact, the new tarot series came about because my friend Lisa Falco had a great idea -- she was going to write a novel about a tarot reader and her clients -- and I said, "You should make that a mystery. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing they're putting out these days." Lisa never got around to taking my sage advice, so eventually I talked her into letting me write the book. 

Alas, I don't have time to take every viable idea for a new mystery sub-sub-subgenre and whip it up into a novel. So I'm offering the following titles to my fellow writers gratis. Just give me a shout-out on the acknowledgments page. And maybe 5% of gross....

A Nice, Hot Cup of Murder: A Tea-Leaf Reading Mystery

Death Ahoy!: A Ship-in-a-Bottle Mystery

Gun Beats Everything: A Rock-Paper-Scissors Mystery

Black Masses Are Murder: A Satanist Mystery

Worst. Murder. Ever.: A Simpsons Fan Mystery

Live Long and Prosper...NOT!!!: A Trekkie Mystery

Murder Is Magic: A Brony Mystery

Can You See the MURDER?: An Eye Exam Mystery

Heartburn Is Murder: A White Castle Mystery

Don't Ask What's in the "Beef": A Taco Bell Mystery

Murder Can Be Murder: A Death Row Mystery

Death Wore Pumps: A Foot Fetishist Mystery

Spelling Is Rmudre: A Dyslexic Mystery

To claim your title, go to and leave me a message.

Happy writing!


Linda O. Johnston said...

Love all your ideas, Steve! Of course, I've written Pet Sitter and Pet Rescue mysteries and am now writing Superstition Mysteries. Plus, I'm always playing around with other themes, too!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for validating the Rock paper scissor mystery subgenre. My fifth short story in my Travis Eldritch PI series is a deadly game of rock paper scissors. Nothing tops Sherlock Western mysteries though. I am currently jumping on the Sherlock bandwagon through dear Dr. Watson.

Unknown said...

You've reminded me, Linda -- I didn't even get into all the different animal and/or pet mysteries. Maybe a new one could be "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Pet Rock Mystery."

I love the idea of "a deadly game of rock paper scissors," Jennifer! Is the game played with a real rock, a real pair of scissors and...well, I guess a real piece of paper wouldn't be very deadly. Unless you tried to kill someone with paper cuts, which might take a while....

Daisy Bateman said...

I love these! I've been trying to come up with one of my own, but I don't think I'm quite there yet:

Death Has Legs: A Vintage Prosthetics Collector Mystery

Muder Under the Heat Lamp: A Buffet Mystery (With recipes to feed 100+!)

Deadly Wind: A Gastroenterologist Msytery

Death Cap of Death: A Mushroom Hunter Mystery

Two-Buck Whacked: A Trader Joe's Mystery

Deathtime For Bozo: A Birthday Clown Mystery

Unknown said...

Nice ones, Daisy! I particularly like Death Has Legs and Murder Under the Heat Lamp. Look for a contract from Berkley Prime Crime to arrive any day now.

DeskDiva said...

I'm weak on titles, but great on character names:

Rhoda Dendron
Holly PiƱo
Rita Book
Justin Thyme (culinary mystery)
Gary Indiana (OK, I have to give old friends the credit on that one)
Hal Aluya

and so forth.