Why here, or there or that other place? Does setting affect readers’ preferences?

London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)


Does the setting for your story affect a book’s sales? Are readers influenced to read a book – or not to read it – by the location in which your crime story is set?

Victoria Square, in central Birmingham
Victoria Square, in central Birmingham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been tussling with the issue of where to set my protagonist’s world after getting feedback from some readers. For example it would be interesting to know from US writers/readers if people are more minded to read a crime novel set in NY or LA than say Chicago or Boston – or is there any city/town that is a turn-off.
UK crime writers often set their stories in London where the cop is from the Met although there are notable exceptions like Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh, Peter James’ Brighton, etc. My first crime novel is set in Birmingham, England – a great city that often gets a ‘bad press’. My next book – a thriller – I set the opening in London but then mainly Kiev. My next crime sequel is also set in ‘Brum’ (Birmingham).
Does this matter? And what about Australia – is Sydney ‘more readable’ than say ‘Melbourne’? And Scandinavia has become popular. Or is the quality of a story and the writing all that really matters? I once heard said that some US readers won’t open a book set outside their own country!
I suppose I could always move my cop to London or even New York – well, create a new cop. After all, a murder in England may be a homicide in the US – but cops, villains and victims are universal – well, aren’t they? Or is ‘place’ a significant ‘character’ in its own right; enough to make a reader ask: ‘Do I want to read a story set in this place?’ What do you think?

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