Talk About A Targeted Audience–Booksellers, Please Weigh In

“My new favorite number: 17 — That’s where Sentenced to Death will hit on the NYTimes Bestsellers list for mass market paperbacks. And to make it just a little bit sweeter, it also hit #1 on Bookscan’s mass market mystery list. Yes! There’s a martini with my name on it.” This is the author Lorna Barrett in response from hearing about how well her new book is selling.

I was drawn to this because besides always liking when a mid-list author has success, her series is about a mystery bookstore owner. Biblio mysteries are very popular, at least to collectors, and I wonder if that has any part in the success–besides being a good book, of course, lol.

Ms. Barrett’s series is one in a whole slew of titles that seem to be almost dictated by the publisher to cover various hobby’s professions, skills, and tastes. Berkley, the publisher in question, has an output that staggers the brain!  When listed altogether, it’s surreal! Here goes:

Mystery bookstore,

cat in the stacks,

an artisens gallery,

knitting,

embroidery,

farmer’s market,

sewing circle,

cupcakes,

blueberry farm,

Manor House ,

books by the bayy,

donut shop,

cheese shop,

cookie cutter shop (now here’s one I know for certain couldn’t make a living just selling cookie cutters–I assume that’s just the name and they sell cookies, lol)  

a BEE mystery!,

plumber’s apprentice,

a haunted guesthouse,

a missing pieces mystery–your guess is as good as mine as to what that refers to,

a port mystery,

a ghostly graveyard,

a magical cat mystery,

a cats in trouble mystery,

a dollhouse or miniatures mystery,

a dog walker,

a flower shop,

a pet rescue mystery,

a decoupage mystery,

witchcraft,

museum,

antique print,

a library lover’s mystery,

a White House chef mystery,

OMG they go on and on—

White House garderner,

vintage magic,

ghost,

party planner,

renaissance mystery,

 orchard mystery,

pet psychic mystery,

domestic diva,

southern beauty shop–(as opposed to all the other areas of the US and their beauty shops I guess)

a haunted home renovation,

ice cream shop,

pizza shop,

plumber–did I already list that?

A maternal instinct mystery,

tea shop,

garden,

Memphis BBQ,

portrait of crime mystery,

threadville mystery?,

coffee shop,

a do-it-yourself,

bed and breakfast (however, this series has been around for a couple of decades and has obviously been slotted into this new marketing extravaganza, as well as the Aunt Dimity series and the bookstore–Death on Demand, one of the first series to feature owning a bookstore with a zillion titles–the author is deceased–a Victorian mystery also been around)

fashion,

antiques,

a home repair is homicide mystery,

psychic eye,

a piece of cake mystery,

cats and curios mystery,

and if I’m not mistaken, and boy, I really hope I am, there is–gourd as craft–mystery out there too.

I didn’t take the time to check which ones of these titles are stand alones, or if they alllllllll are series, meaning that there are many more mysteries with that specific a setting, character, and profession. I tip my hat to the authors, it must take some real imagination and ability to come up with reasonable reasons a cup cake store is plagued with murders, or how the hell any one could make it on to the White House lawn to die–they can’t all be insiders, can they–and as for the White House chef–maybe he caters.

I’m being a bit cynical because I don’t understand how this idea came about, and why it’s successful. There are gems of authors within the ranks here. And maybe every author’s work is stellar–I’m not trying to bash anyone’s work, but this has the feel of an assembly line, and it doesn’t feel right to me. When it has a theme so specific as to limit the possibilities, where does the character go from there? Or maybe, it’s not like that at all, maybe it’s a fantastic marketing ploy that takes all these dissimilar themes and ideas and instead of various publishers Berkley collected them all as a way to distinguish itself from the other original paperbacks out there–because these are all original paperbacks, which fairly or not, are dismissed by some as throwaways. Certainly Jim Thompson didn’t turn out to be trash, nor Laura Lippman, or many others who first found themselves in paper to latter graduate to hardcover, where all the money for authors is.

And my feeling is, many of the writers have nome de plumes and write as different people for different series, which could be completely wrong, and only a theory. I certainly know several writers of these titles, and more are facebook pals, so I could be crazy!

How do you as bookstore owners and sellers, find this kind of marketing? Is it good for sales to have a line of towns, professions, characters, hobbies etc., etc., to wade through and find the perfect fit?  Or does it tend to cheapen the overall product to have so many choices and such a huge output?

I’d love to hear from you regarding this. I never had to contend with this kind of publishing, and it makes me wonder how I would have dealt with it.

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