Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Choosing Novel Categories: Is Hard-Boiled, Crime Fiction, Paranormal/Fantasy Mystery Too Much?

An incredibly complex task associated with writing books is determining under which categories–i.e. genres–to list them. Is it a Romance or a Thriller? It seems reductive to categorize any book in such a narrow way. Nonetheless, we must have labels, so we catalog and organize books into genres, subgenres, and sub-subgenres to help interested readers find the perfect read—and so certain giant online retailers can judge us by our genre.

I’m getting ready to publish a couple more books—and update others—and in the ‘Zon, you have to choose three categories under which they will list your book. The trick is to select at least one category that is specific enough to give you a shot at a good rating while still choosing the monster categories that might make your book visible to more people.

Let’s take Romance, for instance. It’s a massive genre. If you list your book as a straight romance, it might get lost among the heavy hitters. However, you still want those searching for Romance to have a chance at finding your book. If you narrow it down to a specific sub-genre like Paranormal Witch Romance, you’ll face less competition, and your target audience—lovers of amorous witches—will find you. Plus, you might even achieve best-seller status in that sub-genre, which can be a powerful promotional tool.

Are you an author friend or do you have an author friend and want a glimpse at one of the things that makes them nuts? Here’s a link to Amazon categories:Kindle Trends.

My next books are not in the Romance category but will fall into the next biggest genre—Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense. But what kind of mystery?

The categories I choose to list my book on Amazon and elsewhere must fit. Readers have some concrete ideas about what goes into what genre.

Let’s talk about cozy mysteries. These are generally gentle mysteries with little to no profanity. The sex and violence occur offstage. The story revolves around a plucky sleuth—official or unofficial—usually a lady—who follows the trail of breadcrumbs to solve the crime—usually a murder—aided by her entourage of friends and lovers. Cozy mysteries, in my opinion, run the risk of being totally formulaic. But here’s the thing: that’s exactly what cozy mystery readers want and expect. Understanding these reader expectations is crucial when choosing your book’s category.

I don’t write cozy mysteries.

My stuff has profanity—not much, but if the character is in a real world that requires cursing, then the character will curse. I don’t write a lot of explicit scenes of either sex or violence, but my characters may engage in either or both to some degree.

Lately, I’m happier writing love scenes that stop at the bedroom door—partly because I’m not so good at writing sex scenes and partly because reader’s imaginations are more vivid than I could write, and partly because I usually can’t think of a way an explicit sex scene furthers the plot. Zoraida Grey has one steamy sex scene, but after that, it’s just suggested, and I found I was much more comfortable writing that. So, while my characters may lust after one another and even get together at some point, we aren’t going to be with them when they do. Unless I change my mind.

Profanity is a different story.

I curse. Everyone I know curses in one way or another. No reason to hamstring yourself by eliminating valid words willy-nilly. I don’t put in profanity just to put in profanity. You may find a few f-bombs at the beginning and no more all the way to the end. It depends on what the character would say in the given situation. When I revise and talk with beta readers, I second guess most of the profanity to ensure it needs to be there.

While I don’t go too far with violence, I sometimes write action/fight scenes. I mean, that’s exciting, right? You have to see what the bad guy is capable of. You have to see how and why the MC reacts to that. If my MC walks into a murder scene to find blood and body parts scattered around the place, well, she’s going to react to that. And I want to give the reader all the info needed to understand that reaction.

In my books, you’ll never find an animal or child abused—maybe neglected—but everything will turn out okay for that kid or dog in the end.

So, no, I can’t qualify my writing as cozy.

My upcoming series is more of a hard-boiled detective series or hard-boiled crime fiction.

I think I may have to invent another genre—hard-boiled paranormal crime fiction—because I can’t get away from magic. One of these days, I have a witchy murder mystery planned, so let’s make one of those categories Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense > Mystery > Hardboiled > Paranormal/ Fantasy.

Sounds possible.

Stay tuned for more on the new trilogy. You’ll soon hear more than you want about it. I’m aiming for October, but I have a bunch of words to write and revise between now and then.

I’ll leave you with some fodder for your reading list.

Ten Cozy Mysteries to Die For
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Still Life by Louise Penny
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

Snarky, Noirish, Hard-Boiled Detectives

Hardboiled Detectives
The Detective's Daughter by Lesley Thomson
City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (translated by Reg Keeland)
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
The Reversal by Michael Connelly
Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley

Traditionally, hardboiled crime fiction has been filled with testosterone, but here are some ladies who made it easier for the rest of us.

  • Sara Paretsky – Author of the V.I. Warshawski series, featuring a tough Chicago private investigator.
  • Sue Grafton – Known for the Kinsey Millhone series, beginning with A is for Alibi.
  • Megan Abbott – Author of hard-boiled crime novels such as Queenpin and Dare Me.
  • Laura Lippman – Notable for her Tess Monaghan series and standalone hard-boiled crime novels like What the Dead Know.
  • Denise Mina – Known for her Glasgow-based crime novels, including the Alex Morrow series and standalone works like The Long Drop.
  • Tana French – While not strictly hard-boiled, her Dublin Murder Squad series often features gritty crime and complex characters.
  • Val McDermid – Known for the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series and standalone novels like The Mermaids Singing.
  • Megan Miranda – Author of psychological thrillers with hard-boiled elements, such as All the Missing Girls.
  • Lisa Gardner – Known for her crime thrillers featuring complex female protagonists and intense plots.
  • Karin Slaughter – Author of the Grant County and Will Trent series, known for their gritty and suspenseful storytelling.

Coming Attractions and The Latest Posts

Novel Magic will host a bunch of talented authors in the coming weeks– Erica Miner tells us about haunted operas in Novel Magic for April 8.

Join Candace Hardy as she discusses self-publishing for people with writer’s block, Laura Strickland, who explores the connection between fantasy and reality, and Barbara Lorens, who will detail the deadly business of investigative reporting—that’s just April!

Take a peek at recent Novel Magic posts

Pioneering Police Women in the 1960s by Dianne Scott

Scary Nightmarchers in Hawaii by Sarah Blanchard

And Find Out What’s in My Fevered Brain

Read my posts on Cursed Yard Sale Treasures and Psychic Sleuths. and speaking of categories–I’ll be talking about Fantasies next week.

NEW Stuff

I’m joining forces with Goddess Fish Promotions to bring more books in the genres we love–or as the ‘Zon called them, categories–to my Universe. Look for posts highlighting new or upcoming releases–along with contests and freebies–on Thursdays.

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