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What does a Mystery Author do?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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A mystery author is a writer who specializes in books or short stories within the mystery genre. Mystery is a category of fiction which usually involves some sort of crime, most often murder or robbery, followed by a string of clues leading the reader to the culprit. Most mystery authors also include a primary hero who is responsible for solving the crime. Not all mysteries are crime stories, however. There is an array of sub-genres including suspense, thriller, science fiction, and horror; all of which may fall into the mystery genre.

The primary goal of the mystery author is to tell a story. While it’s true that many writers, primarily famous ones, also do public speaking engagements, book signings and other things related to the marketing of the work, his or her number one job is to tell a good story. Many times the mystery author will begin by writing the story as he or she thinks of it, only to go back and thoroughly edit it later.

Once a rough draft of the story is complete, the mystery author will go back and reread everything that has been written. Changes will likely be made, plot holes will be discovered, characters will be developed further, and sometimes the entire book will need to be rewritten or doctored before the author lets anyone else read it. After this stage is complete, the author may let a selected number of friends or colleagues read the manuscript for further editing advice.

Often, the book or story will need to be rewritten or edited several times. When it’s finally as good as the mystery author believes he or she can get it, the next step will depend on the author’s current professional status. Published authors may only need to send the book along to their current agent or editor. Beginning authors will have a lot more work ahead of them.

The unpublished mystery author has to do the work in finding a publisher to print his or her manuscript. This is done by sending the piece out to various editors and agents. In some cases, publishing houses may accept unsolicited work. Most times, the author must go through a literary agent in order to get his or her book read. If an agent likes the work, he may choose to represent the author. This means he will try and sell the book to a publisher.

In the event that the book is sold, the mystery author may be asked to find further edits to the work. Depending on how well the house predicts the book will be received, the author may then be asked to do book tours. These generally include public appearances like book readings and signings.

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