Cozy Mystery Subcategories



Question: How many cozy mystery subcategories are there? 

Answer: More than you think and increasing all the time. 

There is a dizzying array of sub-genres within cozy mysteries (and sub-sub-genres within those).

The Amazon Kindle store, where indie cozy mystery authors sell the majority of their books, lists three sub-genre categories under their cozy mystery category. They are: 

Animal Cozies

Culinary Cozies

Craft & Hobby Cozies

 

I believe that two additional sub-genre categories are long overdue in the Kindle storefront: 

Paranormal Cozies

Historical Cozies

 

Very few cozy mysteries fall into just one of these major sub-categories. Many cozy mystery novels combine at least two sub-genres: take the typical paranormal cat cozy set in a bakery and throw in the added complication of it being 1927, and the sleuth knits, and you’ve managed to shoe-horn all the major sub-categories into a single series.

I’m not suggesting we should all be aiming for a flapper/baker/cat-lady/witch who knits as our protagonist, but when planning a new series, it can’t hurt to have a solid grasp on the popular sub-genres within cozies and consider incorporating elements to place our stories in at least two widely-read sub-categories.

So let’s dive into the major sub-categories one by one. Note: To view the books featured in this post, click on the cover images.

 

Animal Cozies

 



The most popular animal cozies, without a doubt, feature cats and dogs. At least half of paranormal cozies have a cat as a supporting character, and cats-who-live-in-bookstores are a close second. There are also the cats who live in bakeries, cats who live on farms, cats in the library, and cats who live a perfectly normal life in a domestic environment (if one discounts that their owner keeps getting caught up in unsolved murder cases).




Animal cozies featuring farm animals (farm cozies being a sub-sub-genre of their own) are quite popular. Much rarer are cozies featuring birds/reptiles/amphibians/exotic mammals but written by someone with adequate knowledge of their animal characters, there is no reason creatures besides cats/dogs/goats/cows couldn’t make for members of an intriguing supporting cast.



Sometimes, the sleuth is a pet-shop owner or vet, which means animals are heavily featured but may or may not be included as recurring characters in their own right.


Incorporating animals as permanent members of the supporting cast is a topic of its own. Read more here (link coming soon.)

 

Culinary Cozies

 

Culinary cozies are nearly always set in a restaurant, food truck, or bakery, although there’s the occasional diehard amateur baking enthusiast, food blogger, or restaurant critic.


Frequently, the sleuth in culinary cozies is the proprietress of a struggling foodservice establishment. Less often, she’s a culinary student or a restaurant employee.



Quite often, the sleuth in a culinary cozy has an animal sidekick with a large enough role to qualify the mystery for inclusion in the animal cozy category. It is not uncommon for paranormal cozies to be set in a bakery or tearoom.

Early on, in the evolution of the cozy genre, back when most were traditionally published, culinary cozies always included a recipe (or a few) that went along with the theme of the mystery. This is no longer an expectation, but if concocting recipes is your gift, including one or more at the end of the book is likely to please your readers.


When it comes to featured cuisines, standard American or English fare predominates (think burgers, cupcakes, scones, etc.), but other cuisines can be equally successful.

I suspect the lack of diversity amongst culinary cozies has more to do with the lack of diversity amongst the writers of them than it does with what culinary cozy readers are interested in reading about.



We write what we know, and food has deep ties to culture. Writing characters from a culture not one’s own is fraught with potential problems. Few writers want to get their portrayal of food culture and characters wrong and end up disrespectfully co-opting someone else’s culture to produce light entertainment. I suspect that’s part of the reason we’ve ended up with so many cupcake mysteries (I’m looking at myself here. I wrote some).


So please, if you are a writer who has the culinary knowledge, the cultural background, and/or the life experience to branch out from burgers, please do us all a favor and write about one of the many less-represented cuisines.



When considering themes for culinary cozies, don’t forget beverages: wine, tea, coffee, etc.

Incorporating food into your cozies can be a bitter business. I did a whole post on it here.


Craft and Hobby Cozies



 

Amazon has a “Crafts & Hobbies” sub-category within the cozy mystery section on their Kindle store. Quilting cozies sit cheek-by-jowl with bookstore cozies. It’s become a catch-all for anything that didn’t quite fit anywhere else, but there are a few reasonably popular sub-sub genres within it that are legitimate crafts and hobbies and worth considering if they overlap with your own interests.


Some of the more popular stand-outs that qualify as crafts/hobbies are knitting, quilting, sewing, book clubs, and gardening.



This category also often contains travel cozies, camping cozies, beach/seaside cozies, antique shop cozies, English village cozies, farm cozies, library/bookstore/book club cozies, regional cozies, etc.



Like all the other sub-sub genres, these cozies often overlap with culinary cozies, animal cozies, historical cozies, and/or paranormal cozies.


Historical Cozies

 


Historical cozies are exactly what they sound like. They are cozy mysteries set in some previous era. Historical cozies do veer toward the “traditional mystery” end of the spectrum. They adhere to cozy conventions like bloodless murders, mild if any sexual content, and no strong language. 


Historical cozies are still light and bright in tone but are not generally as quirky and tongue-in-cheek as most other cozies. Historical cozies tend to take themselves a bit more seriously.


For example, it’s uncommon to see a historical cozy with an outrageously tortured pun in the title. I love an outrageously tortured pun. Read more about cozy titles here.



A few years back, roaring twenties cozies were all the rage, and they still have a wide readership, but Regency, Victorian, and 1950s cozies are making inroads in this sub-sub-category.

More on historical cozies here (link coming soon).

 

Paranormal Cozies



Although they’ve been around for ages, paranormal cozies have had a big surge in popularity in the last couple of years. Perhaps, we’ve all been yearning for a magical fix to our problems.


Paranormal cozies most often feature a sleuth who is a benign witch (and more often than not has a feline sidekick) but can be centered around a “normal” in a setting with paranormal activity, a clairvoyant sleuth, or a fantasy setting filled with otherworldly creatures and a system of magic that governs the investigation into the crime and the administration of justice.


Paranormal cozies often overlap with animal cozies, culinary cozies, and library/bookshop cozies.

Paranormal cozies have very specific tropes and reader expectations attached to them. I’ve compiled a helpful list of resources written by paranormal cozy authors here.

 

Other Cozy Sub-Genres

 


Setting-centric Cozies

In some cozies, the setting plays such a large role in the story that these books could be considered as having their own sub-genre category. Examples: farm cozies, southern cozies, antique-store cozies, campground cozies, bed-and-breakfast cozies, pet store cozies, cruise ship cozies, English village cozies, travel cozies, beach/seaside cozies…I could go on.

These setting-centric cozies almost always overlap with at least one other sub-genre, usually culinary, animal, or historical.

I’ve written a post on cozy settings here.

 


Humorous Cozies

 All cozies are light-hearted, but overtly humorous cozies are a sub-genre of their own.

I’ve written a post about writing comic cozies here (link coming soon).

 


Holiday Cozies

Most often, these are centered around either Christmas or Halloween and are usually bonus additions (often novellas or short stories) to augment an established series.

They needn’t be. Full-length, stand-alone Christmas or Halloween-themed cozies have the potential to do well. Cozy readers love holiday-themed books. The problem is, they only love them seasonally. Many established cozy authors have figured out that it’s a better use of their time to write evergreen books that are read (and sold) all year long.

New authors have an opportunity to satisfy a hungry readership by providing them with seasonal stories (and hopefully gain new readers who will go on to read their other books throughout the rest of the year).

I’ve written a post about Christmas cozies here (link coming soon).

 


Christian Cozies

Many cozy readers are women of faith (although not necessarily Christian) as the content of cozy mysteries is generally consistent with the scruples of a devout person, so Christian cozies are a natural sub-genre to develop within the cozy category. There are not many authors writing these (Hope Callaghan is by far the most prolific indie author in this sub-genre) but based on the popularity of the books that are available, this could be a good cozy sub-genre for new or genre-hopping writers with a Christian background and genuine respect for that readership to pursue.

 

I’m going to conclude my list here. I’m sure there’s a sub-genre I haven’t mentioned. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments. What sub-genre are you thinking of writing in? Did you discover any new ones you hadn’t encountered before? 



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