How To Select a Publisher: Step One

In my fantasy world, mysterious messengers would deliver the news to publishers that my cozy monograph was done and ready to be presented to the world. I love the idea of going to answer the knock at the door and seeing a woman in a 1940s red bellhop costume begin to sing and dance, letting me know that the BEST publisher wanted my book, and here was a $100,000 advance. I’ve been told that this is, unfortunately, an unlikely occurrence. Somehow, I can’t expect a miracle to happen. I have to find the publishers to notify myself.

I actually started thinking about this process months, even years ago, and I knew that one of the traps to avoid was to send my query letter to any publisher or every publisher. Many novice writers make that mistake, so I knew not to do that. Don’t send your non-fiction cozy monograph to a publisher who only publishes fiction. Instead, I decided to marry two concepts together.

First, I would look for publishers who published non-fiction works on the mystery genre. That still meant looking through a great many publishers, so I decided to narrow this down a bit. There are two major awards in the mystery world: the Edgar Awards and the Agatha Awards. The Edgar is given by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and the Agatha is given by Malice Domestic, a mystery conference held in Maryland. The Agatha tends to be given for cozy and traditional novels, though many other subgenres are covered.

Both the Edgar and the Agatha have categories for Best First Novel and Best Contemporary, but for my purposes, I am happy to report that they also give awards for the best non-fiction work in the mystery genre. I made a list of the publishers of the books of both the award winners and those 5 or 6 books nominated each year in the category. I traced the awards back 10 years and created a substantial list of publishers, many of them repeats from year to year.

I added to this list books nominated and awarded by participants at Bouchercon, the largest mystery conference in the world. Bouchercon grants the Anthony Award, and it too has a non-fiction category. It was interesting to see that while there wasn’t that much cross-over between the Agatha and the Edgar, there was a quite a bit of crossing among the three.

Finally, I looked up who the key publishers of cozy novels were. These, of course, are for fictional works, so before I send my query letter, I’ll need to do some digging to see if any of these presses actually do print non-fiction. Still, if they even have only published one or two non-fiction books, it might be a good fit.

I’ve shared my list of publishers with my mystery writing friends. In another blog post, I’ll let you know what their verdict is.


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