I recently listened to a podcast about book marketing where the presenter said that to begin a successful marketing campaign, an author needs to believe deep down in their soul that everyone on the planet (within reason) would benefit by reading their book.
Hmm. That’s an interesting thought. Now, I could see that being true if I were writing non-fiction self-help, but what about cozy mystery? I asked myself if I really believed my books should be read by everyone.
To answer that question, I first had to dig down into what I perceive as the value my books offer a reader. The easy answer is entertainment. We all need to be entertained, right?
But I knew there had to be more. After all, entertainment comes in many forms. There are movies, TV shows, video games, sporting events, recreation, gambling, strip clubs, pornography, etc. That’s when I realized another facet of my books that make them worth reading. They are “clean.”
What do I mean by that? If they were movies, they would be G-rated and appear on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. As I age and grow more mellow, I’ve begun to believe in the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy. I try not to fill my mind with ideas and images that are crude and uninspiring. I want my books to reflect that same philosophy.
The internet is filled with inappropriate content. We all laugh when we see the video clip of a toddler dropping the f-bomb, but where did she hear that word in the first place? Where did that garbage come from? And what happens when that same girl uses that word in middle or high school? No one is laughing then.
Another quality that makes my books redeeming is the universal theme of “good winning out over evil.” I hope this isn’t a spoiler alert, but a key characteristic of a good cozy mystery is that the bad guy or gal is always brought to justice. My main characters are good people doing the right thing for the right reason. That’s a message I can be proud of as an author.
I also try to put something inspirational in all of my books. Whether it is a character helping the helpless or a model of good and loving marriage, it is important to me that the reader take away wholesome ideas. Yes, cozy mysteries tend to center around solving a mystery, but you can’t conquer evil if none is presented.
Another hallmark of a mystery, and cozies in particular, is the puzzle. Solving puzzles, whether they are crosswords, jigsaws, word finds, or mysteries, helps keep the mind active. Avid readers tend to be imaginative thinkers. As lifelong learners, we all know the value of creative, engaged thinking. I would much rather see a child reading a book than watching television. Wouldn’t you?
Now, back to entertainment. My cozy mysteries tend to be grounded in reality. There’s nothing wrong with stories that have talking cats and ghosts, but I find it easier to relate to people and situations where I could see myself as part of the story. Until I see an apparition in person or stumble upon a kitty conversation, I think I will stick to realism.
I try to make my characters flawed, just like people in real life. Those characters tend to create humorous situations. But like I used to tell my students when I taught high school English, literary humor is not like TV humor. Rarely will the reader fall out of their chair laughing. Literary humor tends to be more subtle. It was always a joy when a few of my more sophisticated students could see all the humor in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Yes, it contains lots of funny one-liners from Scout and comical situations.)
So in the end, I realize that my books are entertaining and inspirational. They are positive and squeaky clean. Maybe I’m biased, but it seems to me that we all could use more of that in this world.
If you haven’t read my books, please give them a try. I’m hoping you won’t be disappointed.