Beyond Writing

My Mystery Book Buying Binge

As I’m sure you all know, bookstores seem to be dropping like flies. That’s especially true where I live. We lost most of our large Borders stores, and I lost the only nearby Borders Express recently as well. Fortunately at least the smaller store was replaced by another bookstore chain, but that’s besides the point. Heck, we even lost a local-ish indie bookstore that I enjoyed.

During the big closing period, it looked like we would have no “new book” bookstores around anymore. So I figured I’d pop in and enjoy my possibly last in-person book buying session for a while. And boy, did I ever?

When all was said and done, I’d purchased approximately 60 new mysteries. Now only 40 or so were in these stores. The rest were ordered online to fill in the gaps when not all titles were available in person.

Now normally this isn’t the kind of thing I would do. I love mysteries as much as the next person, but there are only so many hours in a day. I had another reason for doing this in one big extended buying period though — it was market research.

I set up a database to evaluate as many mystery novels as possible, or at least those similar to the ones I’m working on writing. And there are things you can get out of in-person shopping that online research just can’t give you. For example, I learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in book spine design (what grabs attention, what fizzles, and what works to clearly differentiate series from one-off titles). Theoretically you could do the same at a library, so give it a shot. In my case it was important for my records that I see as many complete series as possible — something that doesn’t frequently occur at my library.

Will I ever get through all of these mysteries? I sure hope so, because in addition to the external factors being cataloged in the new market research database, I intend to equally document story and writing style factors to help me continually improve my own mystery writing. Besides, I have another 18 waiting to be ordered…. That’s the great thing, isn’t it? We seem to have an endless supply of mysteries and mayhem, even if the ways we get them might be changing.

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