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By John Reese, Apr 9 2017 11:52AM

There are a number of essential techniques a mystery writer must master if they ever want to top a bestsellers list. They are entrenched in the genre and the expectations of its readers and none more so than the ability to deliver genuine suspense.


For new or fledgling mystery writers a lack of suspense is often the proverbial kiss of death that will see a novel plummet to the depths of obscurity but get it right and readers will come in their droves. It sounds simple enough to achieve. A few stock tricks of the trade. A cliff-hanger moment, a cleverly contrived twist in the story and of course the all-important reveal but in employing this approach on its own far too many writers end up delivering a formulaic plot that leaves much to be desired. Don’t get us wrong, every genre has an element of formula, it’s what distinguishes one genre from the other but look to the best ever mystery writers and the one thing they have in common is that they have all created great characters. Stock tricks of the trade are great and employed properly showcase a writer's understanding of their craft, but writing a novel is first and foremost about engaging a reader's imagination and central to achieving this is the development of great characters. To really stand out from the pack mystery writers need to create characters that their readers genuinely care about and for better or worse have the innate power to move them.


In our ever more liberal world where we have, to some degree, become increasingly desensitised to violence there is a propensity in mystery novels towards ever more gratuitous levels of it. It does, however, need to be proportionate to the character and their response in the face of it must be never preclude the reader from being able to place themselves in the same situation and imagine what they would do in the same set of circumstances In doing this an author creates characters that live and breathe on a page, that readers become invested in and more importantly fearful for. The suspense becomes real because the reader cares and this is where the magic of genuine suspense is to be found.


Of course, as with anything, it takes time to hone and perfect a craft but with our above thoughts in mind we have put together our top 3 tips to get you underway.


1: To make your protagonist feel real give them a personal demon to confront as their story evolves. It could be a phobia or a seismic event in their back story. The important thing is to foreshadow the moment your protagonist is forced to confront it. Do it right and you will have your readers braced on the edge of their seat,


2: With TIP 1 in mind never forget that in real life there are always many things beyond our control and it should be the same for your protagonist. Life is often unpredictable and we don’t always get the desired outcome. Threats can materialise where we least expect them and whenever we are faced with personal danger the stakes are invariably high with potentially life changing consequences. Above all though, you need to keep it real and within the realms of possibility. Stretch the limits of credibility too far and many readers will disengage. It is all about striking the right balance.


3: Life is rarely easy and it shouldn’t be for your protagonist. It is often the struggle that defines the reward and this is something you should always keep in mind. Just as bad news will always attract more interest it is the perils and obstacles your character faces that will ultimately hold a reader’s attention. Make things too easy and you not only pass on golden opportunities for character development you will lose that all important air of authenticity which readers crave.


Now forgive us for repeating ourselves but as with anything, crafting a potentially bestselling and truly suspenseful mystery takes a lot of practice and few authors get it right first time but one author who has made a great start to her career is P J Mann with her debut novel A tale Of A Rough Diamond. You can find our review HERE




As we always say, any view is subjective and what we always aim to do with our blog posts is to provide a point of reference upon which you can build. We hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE



By John Reese, Mar 31 2017 01:21PM


Now there’s little point in taking on board the tips above, investing your time and money and then not tracking the results you’re getting. Building an instantly recognisable author brand takes time and you won't necessarily get it right first time. Keep on top of your results, be prepared to make refinements and in time you will develop an author brand and presence which will not only see your readership grow but markedly increase the number of books you sell.


As we always say, any view is subjective and what we always aim to do with our blog posts is to provide a point of reference upon which you can build. We hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE.


Branding is important in any business and whilst often overlooked by authors, particularly those who are self-publishing it is an essential element of any authors marketing strategy. Strong brands get noticed and for authors, this means selling more books. Most authors start out simply wanting to write but developing an author brand means having a clear idea of what you want to be known for. It’s critically important for an author to connect to their audience and branding must be consistent with marketing. Work your way through our tips below to ensure you have the right branding strategy in place.


1. Define Your Brand

First and foremost authors need to look to what their competitors are doing. Bestselling authors are very good at defining the USP’s (unique selling points) that make their books different and why readers should read them. Begin by writing down a few sentences which succinctly describes why your book is different from the others in your genre. It needs to be compelling and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from friends and other authors whom you respect.


2. Develop Your Messaging Strategy

Social media platforms and social messaging mediums can sometimes be overwhelming but there’s a reason why Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and Linkedin remain the most popular for authors. Together they literally reach billions of potential readers. Unfortunately, far too many authors fail to refine the messages they are promoting and in doing so fail to optimise their brand or zero in on their target audience. Above all, you must be consistent when it comes to developing your author brand.


3. Create A Logo And Tagline That Makes You Stand Out

It’s simple but incredibly effective. Create a tagline and logo for your books which is aimed wholly at your target audience. One that resonates with them and the genre in which you write. Working in tandem they will grab the attention of potential readers and provide a compelling reason to explore your books. In doing so refer back to TIP 1


4. Zero In On Your Marketing Strategy

Branding and marketing are intrinsically linked but ultimately it’s your marketing strategy that promotes your brand and books to the outside world. Sadly the days of reaching a critical mass of potential readers for free through social messaging platforms is fast receding into the past. More and more authors are turning to paid adverts through the likes of Facebook and Twitter and many are seeing impressive results but you have to be strategic about what you do and work to a strict budget. You don’t need to have a vast marketing budget to get your message out. You do need to be focused on your target readership and you have to connect with them. This is why branding is so important. Be strategic about what you do. Have a marketing plan in place and equally as important be clear about how you will measure your results.


5. Build a website

Too many authors get wrapped up in the immediacy of social media and neglect their websites. Your website is your shop window on the internet and you need to drive traffic to it. It’s the one place you control everything and it should not only be consistent with your author brand but the ultimate stop for readers who want to find out who you are and more about the books you write. When building your site always keep TIP1 foremost in mind


Rome wasn’t built in a day and developing an instantly recognisable author brand takes time. One author who continues to develop her brand and build an enthusiastic following is Sue Lilley. With a consistent marketing message, she is rapidly developing an author brand that readers can readily identify with. You can catch up with our review of her latest novel, High Hopes HERE.


Now there’s little point in taking on board the tips above, investing your time and money and then not tracking the results you’re getting. Building an instantly recognisable author brand takes time and you won't necessarily get it right first time. Keep on top of your results, be prepared to make refinements and in time you will develop an author brand and presence which will not only see your readership grow but markedly increase the number of books you sell.


As we always say, any view is subjective and what we always aim to do with our blog posts is to provide a point of reference upon which you can build. We hope we’ve given you something to reflect upon. Whatever your thoughts we are always open to comments and ideas and if you have a book you’d like to submit for review you can do so HERE.



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