What’s Happening In The Mystery Market

Dec 10, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

This week we have an interview with Natalee Rosenstein, Vice President/Sr. Executive Editor of the Berkley Publishing Group, about what’s going on in the mystery market now and in the future. Information of interest to both mystery readers and writers.

Last week we celebrated books and coffee. This week, how about books and tea? If you’re into the cupcake, cookie shop or other sweet treat books, you might like a cup of Organic Vanilla Honeybush to celebrate the season, or Peppermint Herbal tea. If your days (and evenings) are hectic, maybe a cup of Mellow Moments tea – it’s new. Enjoy a cup while we chat with Natalee Rosenstein. Special discounts for KRL readers from Classical Coffee at the end of this article.

If you want to read a mystery:

Most publishers, authors and many readers worry that e-books will be the death of print books. Rosenstein said there is a definite rise in demand for e-books but so far, it’s unclear if this is at the cost of print books—some readers buy print for at home and e-books for travel or commutes.

Rosenstein looks for books that will make a good series. “Sometimes, we’ll buy a stand-alone,” she said. “At Prime Crime, cozies are by far the most popular among mystery books.” It’s hard to predict a trend like the cupcake mysteries for instance. It happens, but it’s what catches the fancy of the reader that makes the trend.

Berkley mystery publication

“We are buying as many books as ever. We publish eight mass market and usually three hard cover mysteries per month—overall, more than 100 mysteries per year,” she said. “We don’t give out individual sales figures but I will say that so far in 2011 we have had 11 Berkley Prime Crime mysteries on New York Times bestseller lists (printed and extended) including one on the printed hard cover list.” Berkley is ready to keep your TBR (to be read) stash at capacity. Expect more cozies to go on the market each month.

To see what’s coming, sign up for their newsletter (link at the end of the article).

If you want to write a mystery: The Q&A of it all

Sandra: What do you look for in a new writer?

Rosenstein: The whole package—strong voice, good characters, interesting plot and a good “hook.” While Berkley always looks for a new hook to intrigue readers, it’s the good writing, characters readers like to spend time with, a sense of setting and a good plot that sells the story. (Rosenstein looks for a strong, appealing voice.)

Sandra: How does a writer submit and when should they expect to hear if you like the book or not? Are there submission guidelines for a writer to follow or is an agent required?

Rosenstein: We only accept agented submissions; agents get to know what houses and which editors to submit to.

Sandra: Do you attend writer’s conferences to find new authors? Keep track of self-published e-books to see how the sales are for a particular book?

I only attend writers’ conferences occasionally although other editors may go more frequently. We will look at self-published numbers on a case by case basis, not as a general rule.

Sandra: What length book do you look for?

Rosenstein: It varies, usually for a category mystery they are between 75,000 and 85,000 words.

Sandra: How much author participation do you want for marketing the book since most big book signing tours are a thing of the past?

Rosenstein: Most authors actively participate through social media and other on-line marketing as well as by attending some mystery fan conventions.

Readers, for the coming year, expect more of what you already like in the way of cozy mysteries. To stay clued in with new mysteries coming out, sign up for Berkley Prime Crime’s newsletter on their website. You’ll be updated about authors, appearances, blogs, contests and extras.

Another Berkley Prime Crime book

Writers, find a good hook to start the mystery. Have intelligent, strong characters. A good plot is essential. Often, setting is another character and it’s not just where the story takes place. It’s gumbo in New Orleans, Appletinis in New York, toasted ravioli and bocci in St Louis. Write tight, don’t wander off the story. Write what you’d like to read.

Most of all, reader or writer: read. Read as many books as you can find the time for. Tell other people about them. Ask your library to carry new authors, not just the big names. There are mid-list authors who tell a good tale. Find them. Write to the publisher, write to the author. Give compliments.
After all, what would you do if your TBR stack got down to a manageable size?

Editor’s Note: Sandy’s short story Superstition is now available at the Untreed Reads store and on Amazon. It explores the difference between an old wives’ tale and an omen. A little spooky, a little odd, not enough to keep you awake at night but enough to make you wonder.

The teas mentioned above are available at Sandy’s Classical Coffee site. Leave a comment on this article; get 10% on the purchase of any Stash tea, sold by the box of 18 – 20 teabags each.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to rb@robinburcell.com or cindy@cindysamplebooks.com.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble.

1 Comment

  1. I really enjoy the articles you post for readers and writers!


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