Yesterday my son and I were browsing in the bookstore. He asked me why all Dick Francis novels have a picture of a horse on the cover.

“Because his stories are set around horseracing,” I said. “It’s his gimmick.”

“What’s your gimmick?” my son asked.

“I guess I don’t really have one.”

“You should make poker your gimmick.”

“Hmm. I guess I could have a character who’s a professional gambler, a guy who goes to all the big poker tournaments. Of course, it would take a lot of research. I would have to live that life for a while.”

He laughed. “Yeah, sure. Research. That’s what you could call it.”

See, my son thinks life on the road as a gambler sounds exciting and glamorous. I’m not so sure about that, but a poker theme for mysteries does sound like a decent gimmick.

So what’s your gimmick? Do you have one? Do series sell better with a gimmick?

Of course, at least one writer is already doing poker mysteries.

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Thanks, Linton. Maybe I should go ahead and get started on that research. :)
I'm going to do a sing-a-long musical mystery. The book comes with a CD, and certain at certain chapters will have to be sung by the reader to the tune of the music on the CD.

I'm going to call it: The Case of the Annoyed Reader & The Smashed CD.


But seriously, I think a gimmick can only work as long as it comes as a national progression from the story, and not a story being pasted onto a gimmick.
I agree in theory, D.R., although in practice I think the gimmick often comes first.
A lot of time, it's the publisher that comes up with the gimmick and then hires a new-and-promising author to write the books. Typically these are also romance-based mysteries such as: Home-renovation mysteries (because home-renovation TV shows are popular); hospital "Grey's Anatomy" mysteries; The Secret secret mysteries, etc.
I didn't know that, Grant. Very interesting...
A heap of us are writing mysteries and I think most of us understand that we need to stand out from the pack. An unusual setting, a peculiar protagonist, a weird plot--these are interesting to the writers and, we hope, to readers. This is what originality and creativity are all about, even if we do have one eye on the market. True, I suspect some writers go with "what's hot" and deliberately copy a best-selling work, and perhaps this is a successful strategy at times. But for long-run success, I think we each need to work with elements that we enjoy or we are obessessed with or for whatever reason we really WANT to write about. At least I'd like to think so. Ann Littlewood, author of the "zoo-dunnit" NIGHT KILL.
Zoo-dunnit. Very clever. I like that.
All this talk about gimmicks has given me the idea of a gimmick!

The perfect gimmick! One that will sell out and help me achieve my dreams of whoring my talent!

But I'm not telling until I got the first draft done.

Then I will conquer the book world


Okay, I confess, I got nuttin.

Thanks for the laugh, D.R. You almost made me believe that there is such a thing: the gimmick of gimmicks.
It's actually about a mystery writer who visits gimmick books by other writers and solves their crimes using other people's gimmicks.
A book should ideally have a quality that sets it apart. It is not enough for a writer to merely write English well, as this ability is widely distributed among the population. Engaging and intricate plots are equally desirable, but many serious writers realize them with relative ease. Writers can alternately distinguish their works by writing exceptionally compelling pieces, but this is very difficult to do. Thus a gimmick presents an attractive option. If steps are not taken to set a book apart from the multitude of published works, a writer effectively commends his or her chances to fate. And while nothing is ever guaranteed, there is nothing wrong with trying to improve your chances. I definitely recommend gimmicks as long as they are not unseemly or morally questionable.


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