Am I Writing A Book That Won’t Sell?

I’ve written a cosy mystery. I started writing it around the time I read an article in The Guardian that said the cosy mystery was undergoing a renaissance. I liked the idea of writing a story that was a puzzle to be solved. A game for the reader, rather than a gritty police procedural, and with a sleuth who was an average person who could solve a crime.

I’ve always enjoyed reading cosy mysteries – golden age mysteries from Agatha Christie or Victoria Holt, and modern cosies such as the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris, and the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.

Unfortunately, the feedback I’ve had from some publishers and editors since I finished my manuscript is that the cosy mystery is not popular (unless you’re already an established author in the genre). An Australian publisher with two cosy mystery authors on their books told me that the print runs are small. Naturally, with two cosy mystery authors (and these are really good authors) on their books, they wouldn’t be looking to take on any more.

Crime fiction, however, of which cosy mystery is a sub-genre, is immensely popular and sells better than many other genres. I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to purchase or read a cosy mystery being that it is a sub-genre of crime fiction, but it appears that readers are more interested in books that are darker. Are cosy mysteries too whimsical, perhaps?

If I’ve written a book that publishers aren’t interested in because they don’t think it will sell, what can I do? Here are some of the options I could consider.

  • Keep writing cosy mysteries purely for my own personal satisfaction. However, as someone who writes stories, I would like to be able to share my stories with others (i.e. have someone read them and hopefully enjoy them!)
  • Self-publish. This would mean taking on the publication costs myself, and the likelihood that I would recoup the costs is minimal. However, lots of talented authors are self-publishing these days.
  • Give up. I wouldn’t be the first writer who has toyed with the idea of giving up when it all gets too hard.
  • Turf this manuscript and write another book in a different genre. I’ve started thinking about my next book, which is more of a thriller with a historical crime element. I briefly pitched the idea to a publisher, who said it might be something they’d be interested in (rather than the cosy mystery).
  • Rewrite the manuscript completely. I’ve engaged a professional editor who may be able to offer me a few suggestions on how to rewrite my cosy mystery into a thriller. I’ve read some really good thrillers of late, in particular by Heidi Perks and Nicola Moriarty. I enjoyed those books and would enjoy writing a book like that. If nothing else, rewriting my cosy mystery as a thriller would be a great learning exercise.

Would you buy a cosy mystery or would you be more interested in reading a thriller? Perhaps another genre entirely? Please let me know in the comments below.

27 thoughts on “Am I Writing A Book That Won’t Sell?

  1. I do love a cosy mystery and don’t think there are enough of them out there. Of course, the more you look, the more you find. A lot of ‘cosy’ indie authors out there are having great success, just not the ‘house-hold-name’ type success. But genre fiction always scares the trad publishers as they just don’t know how to market it. Which seems odd to me with the success of TV cosies such as Midsomer Murders, Murder She Wrote, Rosemary & Thyme being so popular.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jodi! I know, there’s so many TV shows – new ones even, like Miss Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, My Life is Murder, and Shakespeare and Hathaway. Heaps! They do seem to be more popular as books in the US and UK. Maybe the markets there are just bigger. Perhaps self-publishing is the answer!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would read either. I really enjoy mysteries which weave the domestic life of the protagonists into the mix – all their relationship dramas, conflicts etc. I also like the more gritty thrillers.

    It must be so frustrating to get this feedback. I still reckon if your novel is a gripping read, it will sell. Don’t give up, whatever you do!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I expect this particular publisher didn’t think my novel was gripping enough (not the first chapter, anyway) so for my next book, I’m going to start by focusing on the characters first and plot second. Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I think I got too caught up in making the mystery interesting and perhaps the characters weren’t as engaging as they should have been.


  3. Self publish. The stigma is gone. Give it a life as a Kindle book and build up an audience. Tons of people consume cozy mysteries and can’t get enough of them . Don’t give up on something you are passionate about to write something that is ‘marketable’. Your heart won’t be in it, and it will show in the story. Publish as an ebook first, and use it to build your audience. I know tons of folks who can’t get enough cozy mysteries. Don’t compromise on your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A tough choice, Alyssa. You need to go with your gut. I had the opposite feedback after pitching my first manuscript – it’s important and timely, but too dark to sell at the moment! I decided to write a new, more commercial novel. Time will tell if this one brings success, but I was ready to move on and enjoyed the challenge of writing in a new genre. Good luck with whichever path you choose.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like a good cozy mystery. I would read it. I suggest that you try a wider field of publishers and agents, especially overseas. If all that does not lead to a contract, then self publish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading my blog post and for your comment. I’m glad to hear that there are so many people out there who do love cozy mysteries. Thanks for your advice – it’s greatly appreciated.


  6. This sounds like a frustrating experience.

    I prefer cosy mysteries to other types of crime fiction. I had no idea it wasn’t more popular!

    No advice, but good luck with your decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lydia. It is a bit frustrating. Perhaps the market for cosy mysteries is very small and mine just isn’t good enough to make the cut. Maybe I need to work a bit harder to write one that really gets the interest of a publisher. Thanks for reading my post and for your comments!


  7. Authors certainly do write to trends although they may not admit it! Everybody has to survive, after all. But trends come and go. Writers have left YA in droves because sales are so bad. I have a good idea where my talents lie now – fantasy, mystery, myth, teen protagonists. I am yet to add romance to that mix but will cut my teeth on that next book. I guess what I’m saying is that it takes a few books to work out your strengths and interests and then you can go from there. If I were you, I would finish your cosy mystery and put it in the bottom drawer if it still hasn’t come back on trend – it will eventually. Then try something else. Maybe crime, if it is still in fashion. But if you’re sick to death of this book then move on. The first few books are just an apprenticeship anyway, published or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comments here are really resonating with me, Elizabeth. Especially what you’ve said about the first few books being just an apprenticeship. Everything I’ve been doing is all part of the learning, so I’m grateful for that! Thanks!


  8. Self-published cozies do very well. Like romances, they appeal to people who read voraciously, but don’t like to spend a lot of money on each book. Self-published cozy ebooks can sell much cheaper than traditionally published. It may be that the success of indie cozies are the reason trad pub can’t sell as many anymore.

    But you shouldn’t self-pub unless you have a series, and you should have several written before you publish.

    So if you think you’d rather write a thriller or police procedural, do. But keep that cozy on the back burner. It will sell eventually

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anne. Your thoughts here sound spot-on. It makes sense that the success of indie cozies would be a reason the traditional publisher may not be as willing to take them on. Your thoughts about not self-publishing until I’ve written a series is also excellent advice. Thank you so much!


  9. I also agree with Anne. I’ve written a cosy and got a zillion rejections from agents and publishers. I put it aside and am finishing the second one. I’ll still try and flog them, but won’t consider self publishing until I have a couple more.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Alyssa,

    It’s so frustrating and demoralising to be told you’ve written something that won’t sell. A few years ago I completed a novel I classed as romantic suspense because it had about a 50-50 split of romance to thriller. Several sources told me romantic suspense was hard to sell. Romance publishers think it too thrillery, and vice versa, plus bookshops aren’t sure which section to stock it in, thriller or romance.

    Like you, I love psychological thrillers, authors like Clare Mackintosh and Ruth Ware, so I tried to turn it into a straight thriller. I didn’t manage it yet, though I intend to go back to it. But I started a new novel, a straight thriller, SHIVER, and successfully found publishers.Since you enjoy reading thrillers, it sounds like you’d have a good prospect of writing one. Trends in fiction come and go, and cozies might come back on trend at any time, then you could return to subbing yours.

    Alternatively: did you try other markets, eg. the UK market? The Australian market is so small, with novelists often approaching publishers directly. The UK (and US) markets are much bigger, giving better sales potential. You’d need to approach agents there, not publishers. I’m an Australia based author but I approached UK agents and it wasn’t a problem that I didn’t live in the UK.

    Or you could of course self-publish. It depends what you want – if you relish or detest the idea of marketing it, if you’d like your writing to provide an income or just a hobby. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Allie, thanks so much for reading my blog post and for your comments. From what you’re saying, it definitely sounds like writers have a better chance of finding a publisher if the novel is easy to categorise and of course, is in a category that they think will sell. Fair enough, I suppose. They need to make money back – it’s expensive to publish books. I’ve definitely considered a UK or US agent but haven’t approached anyone yet. I think I will rework this novel into more of a psychological thriller and see what it looks like then. I’ll keep an eye out for your novel, Shiver! If it’s like Clare Mackintosh and Ruth Ware, then I’m sure I will love it.


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