How to Write a Best-Selling Cozy Mystery

Cozy mysteries are a category of mystery that has been gaining a lot of traction over recent years. Rather than focusing on a brutal murder, they tend to focus more on the “why” of the crime. Some other common characteristics of cozies include:

  • No gore or obvious violence
  • No sex or descriptions of it (anything that happens is behind closed doors)
  • A regular cast of characters
  • Amateur detectives who usually “fall into” the mystery
  • Almost always a series

Due to these guidelines, it can be tough to know how to write a cozy mystery, especially if you’ve never written one before.

So for that reason, we’ve teamed up with Jen Pitts, a cozy mystery author most well known for her French Quarter Mystery series, in order to give some insight into how to write a cozy mystery, successfully.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our guide on how to write a cozy mystery!

Why a Reader Would Want to Read a Cozy Mystery

As we stated in our book marketing article, understanding the reader is the most important thing when it comes to success as an author. They’re the ones buying your books at the end of the day.

One of the reasons a reader would want to read a cozy mystery is that they enjoy the suspense, crime, and action of a traditional mystery, but don’t want to read the details of the violence or romance in the story.

Why an Author Would Want to Write a Cozy Mystery

As for the author’s incentive to write cozy mysteries, Jen mentions that for her, it’s all about creating the “why.”

What caused the character(s) to commit the crime or murder?

Setting up interesting plot lines around the why is what keeps Jen writing them.

Authors like to write about relatable things and turn people they’ve met in real life into fictional characters, and watch them grow. 

Lastly, Jen says that she writes them because they are a fun form of escape for readers who want books that are not too violent, crude, or inappropriate. No harm will ever happen to a minor or an animal inside a cozy mystery.

Types of Cozy Mysteries

Before we start writing our cozy mystery, it’s important to understand what genre our book will fall under. There are so many different types of stories that would fall under the category of cozy, and it can be hard to pin down exact genres. Below we’ll cover some of the main categories of cozies.

Cozy Culinary

Cozy culinaries are a popular genre of cozies in which the story takes place in a bakery, coffee shop, or another food-related business.

Often the books include a recipe for the readers to learn and try for themselves. Sometimes the book will launch with a cookbook to go along with it!

An example of this would be Scene of the Grind by Tonya Kappes which includes recipes for humans and even dogs.

Cozy Hobby and Craft

On a similar note to cozy culinaries, cozy hobbies and crafts are a type of cozy mystery in which the author includes an arts and crafts project or a hobby for the audience to try while reading the book.

An example of this would be Knit One Murder Two by Reagan Davis which includes a knitting pattern.

Cozy Animal

Cozy animals are genre that involves animals. As we said above in a cozy nothing crude would ever happen to an animal.

Cats and dogs are the most popular animals featured in cozies.

Sometimes the animals are tasked with solving a mystery or just provide support to the amateur sleuth. 

An example of this would be Littered with Trouble by Eryn Scott which includes a cat adoption agency in a bookstore.

Cozy Paranormal

Paranormal cozies are a genre that involves some magic or mystical element to them.

This can be anything from Harry Potter-type magic, to including witches and ghosts.

An example of this would be Downward Death by Stella Bixby whose amateur sleuth has magical powers.

Cozy Historical

Historical cozies are a genre in which the stories take place in a particular time period. The 1920s is a popular era for these types of books.

The attention to the details of the setting and era is important and the characters and mystery fit the time period.

An example of this would be Murder on the Front by Lynn Morrison which takes place in the 1920s in England.

Tips for Writing a Good Cozy Mystery

Next, we’re going to cover some of Jen’s best tips for writing a cozy mystery. 

Read in Your Genre

The first tip Jen gave in order to succeed in writing your cozy mystery is to read best sellers inside your genre. You’re not doing this to copy whatever other successful authors are doing, but instead to gain a better perspective on what works, and what doesn’t.

Know What Your Book is 

The next tip Jen gave was to know what your book is. You should write what works for you, but make sure you know what your book is so you know how to market it to the correct people.

It’s important to set expectations for readers before they dive into your book, ensuring they aren’t disappointed.

Have People Read Your Work

Another tip for writing a successful cozy mystery is to get as many eyes on your manuscript as possible. Having a second (or twenty) pairs of eyes on your book can help get you the feedback you need to make the best version of your nook. Consider finding BETA and ARC readers to help with this process.

Leave Clues

The next tip specifically related to cozy mysteries is to leave clues for the reader to guess who the criminal is as the story goes on. You don’t want to drop all the hints in the first chapter but spread them throughout the book. Also, plant some red herrings, don’t make it too easy on your readers to solve the mystery.

Make Relatable Characters

The last tip that Jen has for authors writing cozy mysteries is to make sure that you have relatable characters. It goes without saying you’ll want to make them interesting and fun but also make some characters that readers won’t like. 

What are the Best Ways to Market a Cozy Series?

Jen has had a lot of success using Facebook to market her books. More specifically, she’s utilized a Facebook Author Page, Facebook Ads, as well as Facebook Groups to increase her sales. We’ll go over each strategy.

When it comes to her Facebook Author Page, posting every single day with fun engaging content has worked wonders for her.

She answers all comments, thoughtfully, establishing relationships with her readers.

Jen also runs Facebook Ads for her series, focusing on her first book. The Key to Murder. Here’s an example of an ad that is doing well. It includes a section from her book that piques the viewer’s interest.

Jen also replies to all the comments on her ads and invites the people who have liked the ad to join her Facebook Group.

Cozy Mystery reader Facebook groups have also been a big success for Jen, She searched Facebook for cozy mystery reader groups and joined them. It’s important to follow the rules of each group.

Some do not allow promotions or only allow them on certain days. Jen noted it’s important to interact with readers and authors in the group. Don’t just lurk and only promote yourself.

A few other methods that have worked for Jen are selling in person at a community book event, author takeovers in Facebook groups, offering a free short story through Bookfunnel, website email opt-ins, and more!

Jen’s main piece of feedback is to pick a social media platform that you enjoy creating content on and create as much content as you can on that platform. This will yield way better results than a little bit on all platforms.

As far as the elements on the cover of a cozy mystery, you want to keep the images consistent with what a reader would expect from a cozy mystery. A knife would be a fair game to include on the cover, but if it was covered in blood then certainly not.

Book covers for Cozy Mysteries 

Jen says the most important thing is to pay for a professional to make your cover, assuming you’re not a graphic designer. 

The moment Jen hired a designer, her sales went through the roof. A talented designer will help your books stay on brand by keeping the imagery consistent.

In order to find a designer, you can do some research online as well as see who the artist is for the covers of books that you do like.

Examples of Successful Cozy Mysteries

Now that you have an idea of what cozy mysteries are exactly, and why someone would want to write one, let’s take a look at some successful cozy mysteries and see what they did well.

The first author and series we have to mention on this list is Agatha Christie. Jen went on to say that Agatha Christie is the godmother of cozy mysteries, and her book sales certainly reflect that. Her amateur sleuth Miss Marple and her village of St. Mary Mead are the perfect examples of important elements in cozy mysteries. 

Cozy mysteries are written by writers of all ages and backgrounds. If you look at the wide assortment of cozy mysteries available, it’s easy to see that series are some of the most popular books. Author Tonya Kappes has over ten cozy mystery series including the Campers & Criminals series and the Holiday Mystery series.

Jen has four books published in her French Quarter Mystery series with the next book coming out this winter. She is also working on a paranormal cozy mystery series that will also take place in New Orleans. Jen is also brainstorming ideas for additional cozy series based in New Orleans. 

Are Cozy Mysteries Just Now Getting Popular?

According to Google Trends, cozy mysteries have been on a steady rise in popularity over the years.

The main reasons Jen attributed this growth was due to more people at home reading during COVID lockdowns, independent authors getting better at marketing, and the community getting stronger boosting each other up.

Conclusion

Overall, cozy mysteries are a fun genre to write and most importantly read. There are some rules that you should follow when writing them, but at the same time, authors have the freedom to push the boundaries of cultural norms.

As we can see, from recent trends, cozy mysteries are growing at a rapid pace, and could be the perfect genre for you to write your first or next book about.

If you have any questions for the Booklinker team, or Jen, about writing a cozy mystery, feel free to leave a comment below!

Author

  • Jen Pitts

    Jen Pitts is a lifelong mystery reader who turned her obsession into writing cozy mysteries of her own. When she isn’t plotting fictional murder and mayhem, she’s chugging coffee, traveling, reading, and enjoying life with her husband, children, and two cats in the Pacific Northwest.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.