Dear Horror Readers
Dear Horror Readers,
It’s me, an old horror fan from a generation that grew up pre-internet, pre-Netflix – in other words, the stone age!
I was around when Stephen King first wrote Carrie, and got to marvel at that handful of dark, wonderful gems he wrote as they were first published. It was an amazing time to be a horror reader. There were lots a great horror movies, too – but that’s another post. There were other great writers that came out of that time – Robert McCammon, Dennis Etchison, Michael McDowell, to name just a few. Horror was hugely popular in print and on the screen – it was a great time to be a fan!
Discovering new authors back then was a matter of how stocked your local bookstore’s horror section was. I grew up in a small town that didn’t have a bookstore, so I relied on the small section of trade paperbacks in the drugstore, or the public library. There was a Waldenbooks (remember those, anyone?) about thirty miles away, but I didn’t get there often. Still, the reading life for this horror fan was one of few complaints. The books I could get my hands on were mostly solid to downright phenomenal.
As time passed and the publishing houses started closing their horror imprints, I began to get discouraged. I was growing disappointed with Stephen King’s work, and new works from the other authors I liked were getting increasingly harder to find. As a result, my enthusiasm for reading horror fell off.
Boy, did I miss it! I was also into the noir genre, so I pacified myself with classics by Chandler and Spillane, and a relatively new writer at the time named Lee Child, but I missed horror. There were occasional books by Stephen King that captured my interest, and while his prose was always terrific, in my opinion his work was becoming too bloated, too wordy. The magic of early King just wasn’t there anymore.
To be fair, it’s rare that any artist maintains that level of greatness associated with their early work throughout their career. Hell, most writers would kill for a fraction of the success King enjoyed. And it wasn’t the man’s fault he became a pop culture icon. I can’t even imagine functioning as a human being in such an intense spotlight as that, let alone write!
From a technology standpoint, I’m several years behind the times. I wasn’t exactly the first kid on the block to have a computer – let alone the internet. Even after I got all that stuff, my PC was slow, and my dial-up connection was already a dinosaur compared to the more powerful desktops and the high-speed broadband that was now available. And the Kindle had been out awhile before I finally got one.
Once I did get a Kindle, my reading world opened up considerably. Sure – a lot of the horror offerings were terrible. Self-publishing was upon us, and with few publishers available to them, writers were taking their work directly to the readers for as little as a buck or two, and oftentimes free. Sadly, much of the work I was discovering was poorly edited (if edited at all) and I found myself disappointed and skeptical of anything not written by known authors.
I was mired in a rut of familiarity. While it was great discovering work by my favorite authors that was either new or ‘new to me,’ I realized I was getting boxed-in by not exploring the genre more. Besides, I’m one of the many unknown indie authors out there! By not exploring the work of these fellow authors, I was not only shutting myself off from undiscovered gems, I was making a choice not to support someone in the same boat as me! I couldn’t live with that.
So again, I waded into the vast ocean of indie books. Social media introduced me to many authors that were enjoying success in the horror genre, including John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, John Foster, Ania Ahlborn, Rhoads Brazos, among others.
There were some great small publishers I found along the way. Publishers who specialized in bringing high quality horror fiction to the world, and who were open to working with new voices. Grey Matter Press, Crystal Lake Publishing, Sinister Grin, Cutting Block Press, Postmortem Press, and Permuted Press are among the best small publishers out there. Pick any of their books – you really cannot go wrong.
Of course, there are also some authors out there who are truly independent and either work sporadically with various small presses or exclusively self-publish. The best of them will match the quality of the small presses, with terrific covers and interior design, as well as solid formatting and professional editing. Some of my favorites are Rebecca Besser (@BeccaBesser), Latashia Figueroa (@LatashFigueroa), Isaac Thorne (@isaacrthorne), Israel Finn (@Israel_Finn), I encourage you to not only read the work these fine authors have available, but discover new authors as well. Feel free to share those author’s names in the comments section below!
To help you discover those next great voices in horror, I suggest visiting some fantastic book sites and blogs such as GoodReads, Shotgun Logic (shotgunlogic.com), The Horror Bookshelf (thehorrorbookshelf.com), The Scary Reviews (thescaryreviews.com) or by joining one or more of the many fine book review groups on Facebook. As a member of those groups, you can usually post your own reviews – which really helps the authors spread the word about their books.
The point of this open letter is simple: don’t be afraid to explore the indie world. The small presses mentioned above are a great place to start your journey, but don’t let the fact that an author who self-publishes means they are somehow not “legit.”
Most small presses and self-published authors spend thousands of dollars and weeks, if not years of their time perfecting and marketing their books. Rarely is this endeavor profitable. They write and publish not just for money (though money certainly helps!) but because they love the craft, and want their readers to have the same experience they’d get from a major publisher.
Indie authors not only love readers’ feedback, they absolutely depend on your reviews for survival, particularly on Amazon. It has nothing to do with ego. Whether it’s three words or three hundred – reviews trigger Amazon’s algorithms to recommend the author’s books to shoppers.
As I discover new voices in the horror genre that I like, I’ll be sure to feature them on the Deadsville After Dark blog, so be sure to visit again soon!
Before you go, allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion. Right here on the website you’ll find information and links to the Deadsville anthology I wrote with T.D. (Terry) Trask. Give it a look-see while you’re in the neighborhood, and feel free to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks for reading, Deadies!
Yours in Horror,
Dale Elster (@DaleElster)
PS – Follow Terry on Twitter – @tdtrask