Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 3 of 8: Mystery/Thriller

Laura here—just a reminder that there’s an awesome contest still going strong over at last Friday’s post, in which readers have been contributing alternate titles to classics, and the rest of us have been trying to guess what the classics are (I have been failing miserably). Think you know what "Fear and Loathing in Denmark" is? Or "My Beautiful Ape"? Guess the most correctly by 11:59 p.m. Thursday night, and your genius will be recognized. And if you’ve submitted a title already, either post the right answer in the comments after the deadline Thursday night, or send the answer in an email to pimpmynovel (at) gmail (dot) com—I’m seriously stumped, and want to know the answers. And now: Eric with real information.

Mysteries. Thrillers. Suspense. What's the difference?

Well, Nathan has answered this before, but in short:

• Thrillers are action-oriented;
• Suspense novels are danger-oriented, but not necessarily action-oriented;
• Mysteries, are, well... mystery-oriented, regardless of whether there's any action or danger involved. Is there a riddle to be solved? A question to be answered? &c.

Hopefully all is clear now. Next piece of business: how is this genre selling?

If you're interested in the UK fiction market—which isn't really substantially different from the US market, at least in this category—things are looking up for mystery/thriller (at least, as of last year). As you can see here (scroll down), mystery sales account for almost a quarter of all adult sales (units), so as long as your writing is solid and you've got a more-or-less original idea, you should be okay. As I've already mentioned, escapist fiction is the ideal market right now, so mystery/thriller/suspense (including all its crossovers, such as sci-fi thriller and romantic suspense) is a great place to be in 2009. And honestly, from what I hear, it's also a great place to be over the next few years, so if you're writing in this genre: carry on.

So again, with all the usual disclaimers (not legal advice, no warranties, exchanges, refunds, substitutions, &c), my guess is that romantic suspense, police/procedural thriller, mystery/thriller/suspense with female protagonist/detective, sci-fi/military thriller, and historical mystery (mayhap steampunk?) will lead the pack, although I honestly expect the rest of the sub-genres to continue to do well. Anything with sci-fi/fantasy/romance crossover (to super capitalize on the escapist/happy ending fiction theory) is, I think, a good idea (provided your book is engaging and well-written).

Now: what's the average advance?

As we saw yesterday and the day before, it's difficult to pin this sort of thing down, but from what I've observed in national account adult sales, the average advance for mystery/thriller/suspense is roughly in line with the average adult novel advance, which is to say, around $10,000 or so (in my experience, closer to $8,000). You could make as little as $1,000 on your debut novel and as much as a couple million; it all depends. Again, if you have an agent, I'd certainly ask him or her about this.

Finally, one major caveat: if your mystery/suspense/thriller is coming out this September (particularly in the second half of the month), you might be a little overshadowed. Otherwise, though, you should be fine.



  1. This is the best freaking news I've heard in ages!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm going to link you on my Twitter page, you lucky devil you.;-)

  2. Sweet! This is my primary genre. Earning between $1,000 and several million, wouldn't it be cool to hit the mean on that spread?

    Thanks for this blog, your efforts are greatly appreciated.

  3. My genre is mystery/suspense, so this is good news to me.

  4. always nice to hear what is going on. i'm mostly done with book one of my two-part romantic/thriller/suspense novel (haha), a cross between Underworld, Blade Runner, and Momento, so i'm glad to hear that works in my area are doing well. i'm not so worried about an advance and all; just that i get to "published novel".

  5. Eric, I like you more every day! Thank you.

    I was expecting bad news. My novel is detective fiction but the protagonist is a guy. I guess that's OK for a detective.

    Here's something you might touch on someday. The pinking of publishing, as the guys in my writer groups call it. They're all quite anxious about guy novels selling. Do you have a break-down on that?

  6. OH MY GAH! Thank you so very much. You bring a girl hopes and dreams. I've been having this constant dilemma regarding whether I really could refer to my Sci Fi thriller as a Sci Fi thriller. And not only can I do that, you tell me they are *gasps* "IN"?????????

    Boy, that gives me renewed inspiration!

    I'll take it! I'm not sure how much marketing I could get done on $1,000, but I'll take it!


  7. This makes me very, very happy. I hope your projections are correct!

  8. Good news for my primary project - I'll include this data in my next query letter.
    Cheers - and I mean that literally - for a change,

  9. Excellent post! This is my genre, and I'm happy to hear it's doing well.

  10. I write paranomal mysteries. :D It sounds like I could print my own money...

  11. Good to know. Thanks.

    Word verification: rearlean = too many applications

  12. Thank you for the helpful and encouraging info.

  13. I echo everyone's "WHOO-FREAKIN'-HOO!" here. Thank you, Gods of Publishing. For once, you are kind.

  14. My genre, too. Great to hear it's the place to be right now.

  15. Good to see this assessment. I'm on my second Eco- thriller. The mean to high end would be a sweet spot for an advance. Broad appeal is the way to get there in my view.

  16. Thank you for imparting this article. It's very timely for the reason that I am myself trying pains of the kind, and also I'm really considering attempting it for myself.

  17. At Forte School of musical classes Sydney, Learning Music is FUN! Learn Piano, Guitar, Singing, Saxophone, Flute, Violin, Drums and More. Book a Free Lesson Online Today!

  18. This is very educational content and written well for a change. It’s nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post. Vintage Rugs

  19. idn poker situs judi online yang sudah bekerja sama dengan berbagai macam bank lokal yang ada di indonesia seperti Bank BCA, Bank BNI, Bank BRI, dan Bank Mandiri, anda juga bisa melakukan deposit menggunakan pulsa seperi XL dan Telkomsel, anda juga bisa dapat banyak bonus yang bisa anda dapatkan dengan mudah setiap hari, ayo klik link di bawah ini untuk bermain di idn poker.