Writing my First Cozy Mystery: The Long List of Things I Didn't Know

I wrote my first cozy mystery in about a year. It added up to seventy-eight thousand three hundred words, two hundred seventy-nine pages, twenty-three chapters and five original songs. It was fun but also hard work, and I was rather proud of myself when I finished.

I spent the next six months editing, revising, getting feedback, then revising and editing again, and again. 

In between all the editing and revising, I reached out to some fabulous musicians whose voices embodied my characters and they graciously agreed to make demo recordings of the songs I had written for the book. I embedded links to the demo recordings in the manuscript.

When I finally felt I was ready to submit the manuscript for consideration, I wrote a query letter, then revised and edited that a few times. My understanding was that the query letter was critical to the process. It might be the thing that decided whether my manuscript got read or tossed in the trash. I wanted my query letter to be the best it could be, so I submitted it to the Writer's Digest 2nd Draft Critique Service and a very nice man named Jack helped me buff it up to near perfection.

Jack said there was a pretty decent market for cozies, and he thought the music angle was good. I was encouraged.

As I steeled myself to begin the submission process, I remembered the dozens of rejection letters I received before I sold my children's stories, some thirty or so years ago. I knew there was a hard road ahead. I did not expect the job of finding an agent and a publisher to be an easy one.

Turns out there was some underestimation, on my part.

I did some research and made a short list of agents who had "cozy mystery" on the list of genres they were looking to represent. More research identified the Query Tracker and Query Manager websites as the place to start. I chose an agent for my first query and opened their submission form on Query Tracker.

Oh my. I had no idea.

I had a manuscript and a query letter. The electronic submission form had fields, many, many fields, asking for all kinds of things I did not have.

I backed out of that agent's submission form and checked another, and another, and another. I made a list of all the things they all were asking for that I did not have:

  1. A one- or two-page synopsis, or a plot summary
  2. A "Pitch" (a one sentence sum up of the story)
  3. An author's bio
  4. A summary of prior writing experience, published works
  5. A list of similar books by other authors
  6. A description of the book's target audience
  7. A marketing plan

A marketing plan? A one sentence summary of a two hundred-and seventy-nine-page book?

Oh my. I had no idea.

I pulled back to re-group. I wrote the synopsis (a one-page and a two-page) and the plot summary, the pitch and the author's bio. I made a list of my published works. I searched the internet for similar books - and found some with musical settings and musical characters - but none with original recorded music. I wrote a blurb about the target audience - maybe people who love original music would be interested, not just cozy fans? I did my best to come up with a marketing plan (I don't know why I thought that would be someone else's job).

I went back to the submission form with my newly minted required items, and I noticed something else. They were asking for my website, my twitter handle, and my Facebook page. Why? What did they expect to find there?

I went back to the on-line research and discovered that prospective agents and publishers who might pitch or publish a book want the author to have an established social media presence, as an author, even if said author has never been published before. 

I really had no idea.

So now I am working on another list that includes updating my website and growing traffic, increasing my Twitter and FB following, updating my FB music page to include writing. After that, more research. What about Instagram? TikTok? Does my Linked-in profile factor in?

Stay tuned.

You can help by stopping back here every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday to read a new blog post, following me on Twitter (@karenkamenetsky) and FB (KarenKamenetskyMusic) and signing up for my mailing list on this site.

Then, when I find an agent and a publisher, you can tell everyone, "I helped Karen get her first cozy mystery published!"

#cozymystery #writinglife #amquerying