Tag Archives: indie publishing

The Death and Resurrection of the Horror Shelf

Guest Post by Annik Valkanberg

Starting in the late 1970’s, if you mentioned the word horror, people assumed you meant cheerleaders getting chopped up into kibbles by either a paranormal creature or a psychopath with an inordinate amount of hit points.

In fact, people were so used to Jason and Freddy that the reading public started to push back on the genre. Things got so bad that authors and publishers did strange things to say that their horror books were not horror…they were…ummm…thrillers! or suspense! Anything but the dreaded “H” word. Even retailers like Barnes and Noble, who once had several shelves labeled “Horror” which mostly meant “Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and a couple of others we accidentally picked up from the distributor”, began to pull those labels and switch it to Thriller! or Suspense! or even Cookbooks!

Those slasher movies were incredibly cheap to make, exploited partially-clad young women who would scream loudly when they met the antagonist, and made a boat-load of money in the theaters. The books weren’t as successful, which bled over into the other sub-genres of the horror market. Ghost stories, paranormal creatures who fell in love, apocalyptic zombie-fests were all tarred and feathered during the mid 80’s into the 90’s. The horror market collapsed, and the authors and publishers began to either publish titles under established categories like “thriller” or created new ones, such as “paranormal romance”. The latter didn’t even exist in the 1980’s, and now bookstores have whole sections dedicated to books such as Twilight. Amazon shows 18,834 ebooks in the Kindle Paranormal Romance category. It’s a huge market, and the romance crossover is bringing in people who didn’t read anything else but straight romance for years.

There are folks who do enjoy the slasher bloodfests, and whole sub-genres grew out of the grave of horror. Pioneers like John Skipp helped to create an even bloodier version of the slasher novel, and the Splatterpunk niche was born. Some authors combined some horror elements with bizarre, LSD flashback inspired bits and the Bizarro niche burst onto the scene. Carlton Mellick III’s novel The Haunted Vagina is an example which will make you wonder if the world isn’t ending tomorrow because now you’ve seen everything.

It’s been a couple of decades since the word “horror” was the proverbial kiss of death for a book. Self-published authors are poking their heads out of the shadows and using the word on their book covers. With the general acceptance of all of the new niches, especially paranormal romance, the publishing industry is including that word in the book descriptions and on dust jackets once again. It is important, however to always be vigilent about the book market. If something like the Great Horror Death ever happens again, you need to be aware of how the industry is reacting. It’s better to re-classify your book before the Big 5’s creaky machine gets around to it. Authors and small publishers need to keep on their toes, and that means reading what’s new and trending in the industry at least several times a week.

To risk getting caught twisting in the winds of market share just fills one with a sense of horror.

Celebrating a Launch

Set in Stone CoverBig magic.

Big adventure.

Lots of humor.

May 1st saw the release of Set in Stone in both hardcover and ebook format!

The release of Set in Stone was a long time in coming and a  huge milestone.  It kicked off the 8 books in 8 months publishing blitz I’m trying to do this year, and launched the Petralist series, a YA fantasy series that’s already being enjoyed by a wide audience, from middle-schoolers to adults.

Tomorrow, at sixteen, Connor will reveal his secret curse to the world and take his place as a guardian.

If he survives today.

When armies descend upon his peaceful village, led by superhuman Petralists and clever Builders, most people run and hide. Connor’s not that smart. He manages to get caught in the middle of the escalating conflict. Worse, he learns his curse is the rarest of powers, and both sides will do anything to control it and secure his loyalty. Connor is fast, but even he can’t outrun this avalanche.

Truths are sacrificed, loyalties are sundered, and dangerous girls twist his heart into knots.

That’s when things get complicated.

While his friends try to free the village under siege, Connor peels back layers of intrigue and half-truths to find secrets neither side wants him to know. Surrounded by deadly enemies that all claim to be his friends, Connor must choose a course with the lives of everyone he loves hanging in the balance.

His only hope is to gamble everything on a curse that could destroy them all unless his final choice is Set in Stone.

The book launch was a great experience.  In fact, I blogged about it here.

You can find Set in Stone at every ebook retailer.  Hardcovers are available online as well, or you can order signed copies directly from me.  I’ll have my website (www.frankmorin.org) updated soon with the shopping cart.  Until then, feel free to contact with requests.

The sequel, No Stone Unturned, is expected to be released in August.

#8books8months  #SetinStone

Not Another Edit!

EditsMost non-writers, and many new writers, have no idea that finishing that manuscript and typing END is anything but the end.  I know when I started writing, I couldn’t see beyond reaching that final scene.  Of course, that first novel was a 300,000 word monstrosity that took me over two years to complete, but the principle is universal.

The first draft is not the final draft.

That truth is even more daunting when we consider how few wannabe writers actually reach the end of their first draft.  Of those who do, many lack the determination to see the project to its full completion.

It’s easy to assume the tragic artiste pose and proclaim in an awful imitation of an accent from some European country, “This is my Art and the muse must be honored.  The words were given to me like this for a reason.”

Not if you want to sell it and actually have someone read it.

This becomes the dividing line between those who like dabbling in writing as an enjoyable hobby and those who are serious about becoming a Writer as a career.

Some first drafts are pretty good, but pretty good isn’t enough.  Every successful author I know recognizes they will need to make several editing passes through each novel before it’s ready.  One of the reasons we’re encouraged to write what we love is because if we don’t LOVE our stories enough to work through them at least half a dozen times, we’re going to HATE them before the process is complete.

Many new authors don’t understand this and unfortunately in today’s ebook world, it’s all too easy to complete that first draft and throw the book right up on Amazon.

I for one have read some of those stories.  After wading through the piles of novels that make me cringe when I look at the cover or read the first page, I’ve selected one that looked like it had real promise.  Many times those ebooks turn out to be pretty decent, maybe have a great concept and tons of potential, but where the author wasn’t patient enough to really finish the work.

I find it tragic when I complete an ebook like that.  When I think, “You know, that could have been a really good book.  But it was only about 90% finished and needed more polishing.”

What a waste.

Not only of my time, but of the author’s time.  They worked so hard bringing that novel to life, only to not put in the effort to get it that last 10%.  It’s like Frankenstein stitching together the perfect monster only to not bother raising it up on the platform during the lightning storm.  That last 10% is what infuses the story with it’s real life.

That’s one of my fears:  that my novels won’t be ready.

I cringe when I think back to my first monstrous novel.  With how little I knew about the industry, about editing, I was convinced it was a great work and totally ready to go.  Had the ebook revolution already been underway, I probably would have self-published it.

I would have destroyed that story.

I’m glad I didn’t have that option and that the dozens of rejection letters finally clued me in that there was something missing.  I’ve since thrown that novel away and rebuilt it from the ground up.  The resulting story is ten times better and is one of the eight books I’m preparing for publication in my upcoming “Eight Books in Eight Months” publishing blitz.

Before I pull the trigger on those novels though, I’ve dedicated the time to rewrites, I’ve gathered honest feedback from beta readers, and I’ve worked with professional editors (including Joshua Essoe and Evan Braun) to make sure they’re really ready.

Even so, I still have to wonder, are they really?

This time I feel a lot more justified in saying, “Yes.”

Dispelling the Myths, Part Two

A interview post with Jen Greyson.

Yesterday, I posted the first of my two sit-down posts with author Jen Greyson, author of Lightning Rider and Shadow BoxerHer publishing story began a couple of years ago upon selling her first novel to a publisher—and not just any publisher, but The Writer’s Coffee Shop, the company behind Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s the interview’s conclusion.

EB: What kind of marketing went into your book’s release?

JR: Press release and a blog tour, social media on launch day. I devoted a ton of time into finding bloggers to review/tour for this book, so both sides worked pretty hard on this launch. I also did a big launch party and the publisher sent me bookmarks and fliers for advertising.

EB: What were your biggest turnoffs in the traditional publishing experience?

JR: In a nutshell, I gave up a lot and got very little in return. I bought into the myth of traditional publishing (though I’m not sure if I can even call this a “traditional” deal, because they were basically a small-press). I figured once I had a contract I’d ‘made it’ and everything would be a piece of cake from there. Boy, was I wrong. I still had to devote a ton of time and energy into sales. As I did the math, it became obvious very early on that I could do the same amount of work as an indie and make a lot more money. (This was a royalty-only deal.)

At the time I released Lightning Rider, NA (new adult) was really gaining traction and the publisher didn’t know how to market NA (or fantasy) because they’d never had one. They were really open to my suggestions, and that was great, but I’d chosen them because I thought they had some marketing “secret.” In the end, I picked a publisher that was a bad fit for my book, but I wanted to be published so badly that I overlooked a lot of red flags.

EB: After the release, how were your sales?

JR: Sales were nowhere near the Fifty Shades numbers I’d hoped for! 🙂 That ended up working in my favor, though, because of a clause I negotiated that specified that if I didn’t sell a certain number of books within the first six months, the contract could be terminated.

EB: Did you take any “missteps” along the way that you would caution other writers about?

JR: Don’t be so eager to get published in the short-term that you overlook the long-term. One book is nothing in terms of a writer’s career. (I’m hoping for another thirty-five years!) It was really hard for me to be unbiased about the deal, and if I’m truly honest, I don’t think anyone could have talked me out of signing with them. I wanted to be published. And because of that craving/desire/crippling need, I wasn’t as smart as I should have been. I wasn’t realistic about what a first book by a first-time author was going to do. I believed I was the exception to the rule.

EB: After having pursued traditional publishing, what are you doing now? How has the experience influenced your career path?

JR: Right now, I’m self-pubbing all my titles, and that’s probably the plan for 2014. Interestingly, the workload hasn’t changed, but my royalty checks have! And because I’m trying to expose myself to readers in a genre dominated by indies (NA), I need to be able to drop titles every three months. I can’t afford to wait eighteen months for a traditional deal—not right now, and not with my NA titles.

I’m definitely not opposed to doing a traditional deal in the future, but now that I’m out from under the myth of traditional publishing I think I can make a much more educated decision. I also have a better understanding of what goes into getting each book into readers’ hands, and I know how to budget and value my own time in the equation.

My path isn’t necessarily what’s right for anyone else. Writers need to do their homework. Talk to other authors who’ve been there, seek counsel, be smart. And in the wise, wise words of James Owen: “Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most, for what you want the most at that moment.”

Jen Greyson picGuest Bio:
From the moment she decided on a degree in Equestrian Studies, Jen Greyson’s life has been one unscripted adventure after another. Leaving the cowboy state of Wyoming to train show horses in France, Switzerland, and Germany, she’s lived life without much of a plan, but always a book in her suitcase. Now a wife and mom to two young boys, she relies on her adventurous, passionate characters to be the risk-takers. Jen also writes university courses and corporate training material when she’s not enjoying the wilds of the west via wakeboard or snowmobile.