Private Dicks

Dear Miss Snark,

At the risk of becoming the nitwit of the day, I have to ask a question. Forgive me if it seems so obvious from your post, but my little pea brain is fighting it. Since only one person commented on it, I must be in super denial mode. You said, "I can't sell private detective novels to save my life right now."

Is that market over saturated? Can you please give me some insight as to other markets that are over saturated from your stilettoed (is that a word?) vantage point? What about cozy mysteries or suspense?

I thought a good character, a good story, and good writing would win every time, but maybe I'm missing something here.

Many thanks--you give this stay-at-home mom of three who hopes to become published someday a break during the otherwise chaotic day.

First, let's all remember that if you want to write private detective novels, you should. Things go in and out of fashion and trying to write to the market is just nuts.

That said, I can't sell private detective novels right now. By private detective I mean things like Robert Crais' Elvis Cole series: a guy in an office solving cases. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not getting them in the slush pile much, and I'm not seeing new authors who write this on the shelves, and I'm not finding many editors who want the one I have.

I'm seeing a BOATload of weird ass amateur sleuth novels. Some of the listings on PM make me wonder what's going on over there at Berkley. It's like "What Color is Your Parachute" lists meets the cozy. This is not to say I think that's stupid, cause I don't. It's just unless you plan on having your heroine be a professional goat herder and harpist, they aren't going to buy it. (That example is just for you Bill E. cause I think you're quite the quadraped)

I need high concept stuff for other places, I need "sensual crime thrillers" for a new line over at Bantam; I need suspense in a bunch of places, but almost no one says "send me a private dick".

But, as sure as I post this, some of you are going to come out of the woodwork with examples to prove I'm a nitwit. Before the blood bath begins, any examples MUST be debut writers in 2004, 2005 or 2006. The protagonists must be private dicks, NOT crime fighting computer geniuses (like MonkeeWrench) or bounty hunters or ex cops turned lone wolf hero.

Have at it!


Anonymous said...

Hang in there "stay-at-home-mom" writer. I'm in the same boat. I agree with Miss Snark. Write what you love. It'll sell. It has to.

Cornelia Read said...

First one that comes to mind: Richard Hawke's excellent "debut," SPEAK OF THE DEVIL.

Linda Maye Adams said...

Just my two cents worth. Go back and look at the book again. I thought I had a good story, and I didn't. I got into a critique group and discovered what I thought was a fantastic book needed a whole lot of work.

Kat said...

First one that comes to mind: Richard Hawke's excellent "debut," SPEAK OF THE DEVIL.

You have no idea how stoked I am to hear you say that. He was the best man at my parents' wedding and a real nice guy besides, and it's good to see him getting recognition. ;) Haven't read the book yet because Mom is hogging our copy, but it looks fab.

Marcus Sakey said...

Funny--I was going to throw out Richard Hawke.

Which maybe proves Miss Snark's point.

Bernita said...

You mean there's hope for my sensual, time-travelling, forensic occultologist?

WagerWitch said...

Maybe if more agents, publishers, editors told writers what they wanted written, you'd have those types of selections.

I'm the type of writer, as I am sure a lot of you are, that can write in many different fashions or styles. I can create my own storyline, plot, etc.

However, I can also tailor my writing to suit the needs of others.

I can cross genre and I can interject humor or sadness, professional dryness or even insanity.

I think there should be a place that says exactly what you just said:

I need high concept stuff for other places, I need "sensual crime thrillers" for a new line over at Bantam; I need suspense in a bunch of places, but almost no one says "send me a private dick".

At least that way, we can write to market.

And although I realize that the market changes rapidly, I think having an idea of what is wanted "RIGHT NOW" would be excellent for writers to know.

Thank you, again.

Lady M

Anonymous said...

A quick search at Amazon turns up the following ...

Stories of Tim Stone Private Detective -- Paul McIntyre 6/30/2005
Still River: A Lee Henry Oswald Mystery -- Harry Hunsicker 5/1/2005
Some Danger Involved -- Will Thomas (Victorian era, don't know if that meets your qualifications) 5/18/2004
Tony Yaable Private Eye -- Henry Yarbrough 6/2005
Music Across the Wall -- Thomas J. Keevers

Anonymous said...

The private dick in a paranormal mystery is pretty common. You've got PI Wizards (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher) and PI Witches (The Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison), and a brand new vampire PI series started by debut author Mario Acevedo, with his first book released this month called NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS. I can't wait to read this one!

Anonymous said...

Michael Kortya's TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE and LITTLE GIRL LOST by Richard Aleas were debut novels both nominated for Edgars ('04 or '05, I forget). Classic gumshoe, too.

That being said, the private dick is definitely outweighed by the amateur and the cop.

Okay, back to work...

Jenna Black said...

I sold a novel with a PI heroine in 2005. Of course, it's not the kind of private dick story Miss Snark is talking about--it's actually a paranormal romance--but I just thought I'd throw that little tidbit in.

Anonymous said...

Almost no one says to me -
Send a private dick or three.

I want a book that tells it all -
One for Summer, Spring and Fall.

I want a book, that gives a clue -
About who is out there killing who.

I want a book with satire wit -
A couch to curl on so I can finish it.

I need a story and the main guy chases the skirt -
And always, always has a smile to with which to flirt.

A romance dick is what I say
So get busy and write it today!

WagerWitch said...

OK I've got a story about a Private Dick for ya.

I made it up on the spot.

When do you want it?


(And she thinks I'm kidding.)

Lady M

Mark Coggins said...

Here's a little more analysis on the state of the private eye novel: