After a lively discussion on the DorothyL mystery list-serve, I decided to add a map and a list of characters to my Detective Jackson books. One person in the discussion said she would “never read a book” that included a list of characters, but so many others supported the idea that I knew I wanted to provide the information. Fortunately, my new publisher (Thomas & Mercer) was willing.
In today’s world of content marketing, interactive media, and bonus features, giving readers a little something extra seems like a good idea.
We placed the character list in the back of the books, so it’s there for people who want the reference, but it’s not up front where the connections might possibly spoil some of the surprises. And I was careful not to include descriptive phrases such as “sister of the killer” so the list shouldn’t be a spoiler even if readers see it first.
The map is just a bonus for people who like a visual orientation. We placed it in front, and it only includes a small portion of central Eugene. But at least readers will be able see where the police department is in relationship to the jail and the university, for example.
- Do you differentiate between real places and fictional places? What if your fictional hospital is located in the same place as a real hospital? (I told the proofreader to let it go, it’s a fictional map, not a real one.)
- What if the police department relocates, as ours has? Do you include both locations or just make a new map for later books when you finally start writing about the new address? I haven’t dealt with this issue yet, but in the next book I have to.
- What if the important places in each story—such as where the crime happened or the body was found—don’t show up on the map at all? A small map can only include so much information, and often the crimes occur outside central Eugene so I decided to leave these off. We’re using the same map for each book, so it has to be fairly generic.
What do you think? Are maps and character lists helpful? And does the medium—print or ebook—make a difference? What else should I include?
PS: If you haven't tried the series, I'm giving away the first book, The Sex Club, on Amazon today and tomorrow.