It’s a Great Time To Be a Horror Writer!

Bestselling author discusses how the current state of the horror market is improving

By KC Grifant and Alexandra Neumeister


220px-Jonathan_Maberry_and_Rosie“Oh, you write horror?”

Many genre writers are all too familiar with the reaction: maybe a wrinkled nose, a note of confusion or even outright condensation at the mention of genre writing. Publishers, sellers, readers and even other writers often stereotype categories like romance, sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Others sometimes unfairly view these subtypes as being of lesser quality than literary fiction or not really a legitimate art.

New York Times bestselling author and 5-time Bram Stoker winner Jonathan Maberry explained how, finally the tides may be turning on the current state of the horror market at the San Diego HWA meeting in January 2017. He explains:

“In the past horror wasn’t that well respected in the publishing world, mainly because of horror movies. Unfortunately, more people see movies than read books, and horror movies are heavily represented by slasher films and torture porn so horror became associated with shock value, gratuitous violence and lack of original storytelling. Books by famous horror writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice weren’t referred to as horror, they were called suspense or fiction. Horror became a bad word, which was unfortunate for horror writers. The side effect was that most people didn’t understand what range horror had as a genre.”

Now publishers seem to be taking notice of the horror genre, with some even calling it a new (!) genre, even though it’s been around for decades. “Authors and editors know horror has been around a long time, but from a publishing perspective there’s rarely been a successful book with horror on the label,” Maberry says. “Works like The Passage, The Strain trilogy, and the writings of Joe Hill have horror elements and are selling well, even being referred to by reviewers as horror. Booksellers haven’t called them horror, though, because publishers haven’t.”

Maberry attributes the rising interest in horror fiction in part to the popularity of TV shows like Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Grimm, and other films with horror and dark fantasy elements.

Digital publishing and the rise of new markets have also helped bolster genre storytelling. Short story markets such as e-zines are in the market for horror, as is the dramatically growing audio world, thanks to streaming and digital downloads. Comics and graphic novels are growing as well and have an interest in horror. Maberry advises writers to consider selling a variety of products: short stories, novels, comics, novellas and audiobooks to find more success.

“The horror market is actually in a growth spurt, you don’t have to be embarrassed anymore,” says Maberry. “Publishers now want to take control of this ‘new’ brand and are starting to realize there are horror writers already out there.”

Finally, Maberry offers this advice to aspiring writers of any genre:

“Writing is an art. Publishing is a business selling copies of art. Commercial success and artistic integrity are not antithetical, but being a good writer is only a third of being an author. An author needs to be a good businessperson and have a good social media presence, otherwise writing is just a hobby. Business savvy matters if you want to go from hobbyist to pro.”

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