Author Topic: Market for horror?  (Read 1918 times)  

Offline JCon

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Market for horror?
« on: April 10, 2017, 08:52:28 PM »
In anyone's experience, is there a market for self published horror?

Offline Queen_of_Shorts

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2017, 09:33:18 PM »

  The more important question - "is there a market for you?"

  Can you write compelling stories that enough people love and buy to satisfy you and make you feel its worth it?

  The only way to find out is to write and see.

  I am writing a short ghost story this week because I love ghost stories. I know there are other people who love them, too. Will I get rich? Only time will tell, but I love ghost stories so I'll write them anyway!

   I'm sure if enough other authors respond here you'll get some who say they do/have written horror and done quite well for themselves. While others will say they tried it and hardly made anything, so they switched to something else.

   Success varies for everyone. You won't know how the genre will do for you until you dip your toes into the bloody cauldron. :D

Offline Doglover

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2017, 11:18:11 PM »
The question should surely be: 'is there a market for horror?' The general reading public neither know nor care whether it's self published. In fact, the general reading public don't even know there is such a thing as self published. But, I think it is quite hard to categorise horror these days. What used to be horror in the shape of vampire stories and werewolf stories, are now categorised as urban fantasy. I wouldn't call Anne Rice's vampires any sort of fantasy. Then again, look at the competition. Can you compete with Stephen King? James Herbert?

I love good horror, but I detest zombies and shapeshifters. I'm quite fond of vampires, but as I said, where do they fit now? One of my favourites is Stephen King's The Stand. Another is his Pet Cemetery. There is so much to explore with horror, but blood and guts? No.


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Offline tlbodine

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2017, 11:20:30 PM »
Following with interest, as horror is my deepest literary passion.

Some miscellaneous thoughts I've had while pondering the state of the genre as it relates to indie publishing:

- The horror lists seem to have a tremendous amount of overlap from other genres, notably thriller and paranormal/urban fantasy. Quite a few of the horror best sellers don't seem to be horror at all, which is frustrating from a reader perspective.

- I suspect a good portion of the reason for this is that horror does not serialize well, and the current trend in publishing (particularly among indies) is series. One-shot horror novels would have the same discoverability problem as any other type of one-shot story by an unknown.

- That said, I KNOW that there is a hungry audience out there. Creepypasta is hugely popular and widely read. There are a great many writers on Tumblr and Reddit doing really interesting short-form horror stories; check Unsettling Stories, Sixpenceee, the entirety of the r/nosleep subreddit. Lots of cool stuff happening out there. On Wattpad, it seems like horror is one of the more popular genres, coming in behind romance but seeming to keep pace with or outstrip fantasy and sci-fi.

- I suspect a big part of that is the millennial generation. There's a whole group of us who grew up reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, graduating to Stephen King in our teens and who are hungry for more scares. Add to that the pervasive spread of anxiety (and anxious people frequently LOVE horror stories) in our modern lives, and I personally think we are poised for a horror renaissance.

Is that a wish fulfillment fantasy on my part? Well, maybe. I just know I would LOVE to see more true horror on the page, and I really hope I'm not the only one!

One thing I can confirm: the horror fandom, in my experience, tends to be much more closely knit, loyal, and passionate than other genres. Horror fans love horror in a way that readers of other types of stories often don't; horror forms a greater part of a fan's identity than you see in other types of media.

All of which is to say: I think there is a tremendous amount of potential in the horror niche right now that has not been fully tapped, but it's going to require some creativity to solve the discoverability problem.

Offline ShaneJeffery

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 02:10:02 AM »

- I suspect a big part of that is the millennial generation. There's a whole group of us who grew up reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, graduating to Stephen King in our teens and who are hungry for more scares. Add to that the pervasive spread of anxiety (and anxious people frequently LOVE horror stories) in our modern lives, and I personally think we are poised for a horror renaissance.


Gees that is me. RL Stine to Christopher Pike to Stephen King, in that order.

The top 100 lists for horror have been hijacked by other genres it's true - and one reason is because Amazon classifies Dark Fantasy as a subgenre of horror (it's not).

There are other ways to find true horror authors though, and usually you start with the actual real horror books that are charting, check out their also boughts, and then check out the also boughts of those books. Real horror books are out there and being written by indies, and some of them are selling too.

In terms of visibility I guess real horror is competing with urban fantasy etc. but we're not competing for readers because no one goes to the horror lists to find urban fantasy.

So there is a market out there (on Amazon) and it's under served, for how wide the potential net is. More people writing horror might eventually bring more people to reading it.

Offline Flopstick

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 05:09:11 AM »
All of which is to say: I think there is a tremendous amount of potential in the horror niche right now that has not been fully tapped, but it's going to require some creativity to solve the discoverability problem.

Word. That's the crux of it, imo.

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2017, 06:04:35 AM »
- The horror lists seem to have a tremendous amount of overlap from other genres, notably thriller and paranormal/urban fantasy.
Don't confuse what appears on the bestseller lists with "overlap." 80% of it is simply miscategorization. Horror as a genre has been abused by both trade publishers and indies who have no patience to bother learning what horror actually is nor do they seem to care. People put their paranormal romances under horror because they include shifters and vampires. "But there are scary scenes in my book, so it is horror okay?" NO. a few scary scenes no more make a book horror than a few kisses makes a book a romance.

So people put their romances or urban fantasies or cozy mysteries with witches under HORROR. Because, gee, if it has witches in it is has to be horror, right? And because Amazon doesn't have a clue what the word genre actually means, it just calculates rank based on sales and doesn't actually realize these books don't belong in horror. Which exasperates the problem because then the algorithms send emails to horror readers like me recommending these non-horror books as horror because I told Amazon I like horror...

Sorry, a sensitive topic for me.

Quote
- I suspect a good portion of the reason for this is that horror does not serialize well, and the current trend in publishing (particularly among indies) is series. One-shot horror novels would have the same discoverability problem as any other type of one-shot story by an unknown.

It is only a problem if you are dependent on Amazon for discoverability in the first place and you have no clue where your target audience is. Serialization discoverability is a specific marketing technique that works on Amazon, but it is not the only marketing technique on the planet and has never been the best marketing technique for a great many genres (horror among them).

Quote
- That said, I KNOW that there is a hungry audience out there.

And they are rabid and loyal. You just have to go where they live and not expect them to come to you. Most horror readers I know don't bother with Amazon unless they are looking for a specific title in print (then they go to Amazon to buy what they already know that they want). But they aren't "discovering" new horror on Amazon because Amazon sucks for horror. They are reading horror zines and hanging out on horror forums or attending horror conventions. So if you are writing horror, those are the places you need to be.

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Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2017, 06:07:37 AM »
I started with King! No wonder I'm warped.


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Offline KateDanley

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2017, 01:22:23 PM »
What I've heard is that horror is one of the smaller demographics in publishing, so not only do horror authors have to fight for visibility, they have to fight for visibility in a smaller pool of potential buyers.  Publishers Weekly said that horror sales decreased in 2015 by 33% and decreased by 26% in 2014, buuuut...

Horror was up by 7% in 2016 (reported January 2017).  Furthermore, BookBub says they have over 1.1M subscribers for horror (https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing). 

I went over to the Amazon Top 100 Horror bestselling list.  Good news!  #1 in the horror category is #9 in the entire store!  Except... it looks like there might be some strong UF crossover... #2 in the list is a total UF book...  Stephan King is #3...   Some more UF...  *scrolling down the list*

The first "strictly horror" book that seems to be on the list is #10 - Cold Lake by Jeff Carson.  It is #508 in the entire store.

If I scroll down to #99 on the Top 100 Horror Bestsellers, the book ranks #3103 in the entire Amazon store.

That suggests that you only have to hit #3000-ish in order to have visibility on the Top 100 Horror Bestseller list.  That's great!  It means there is a steady group of horror readers.  If #99 on the Top 100 Horror Bestsellers list was sitting at #60,000 in the overall store, that would mean there wasn't a solid base of buyers.

But the Top 100 Overall list also suggests that the horror market isn't going to support a pure horror book much above #500 in the entire store (unless you're Stephen King or can crossover into UF.)

So, I guess the upshot is that if there is a horror story burning in your brain, write it!  You probably won't hit USA Today or the Top 100 Overall without a traditional publisher and their marketing machine.  But it looks like there are enough readers to give you a solid base and a nice midlist career.
 
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Offline MattGodbey

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2017, 06:50:02 PM »
The first "strictly horror" book that seems to be on the list is #10 - Cold Lake by Jeff Carson.  It is #508 in the entire store.

That doesn't seem to be a "horror" book, or am I missing something?

Offline ShaneJeffery

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2017, 07:02:48 PM »
That doesn't seem to be a "horror" book, or am I missing something?

I agree. Cold Lake is Mystery / Thriller not Horror.

The first real horror book on the list (excluding IT) is The Haunting of Winchester Mansion: Book 1 ranked at #437.

Offline Graeme Hague

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2017, 04:27:31 AM »
I spent some time as a trad-published, midlist author in Australia publishing four horror books through Pan (before suffering the fate of many midlist writers). Those same books are now available through a digital publisher. At the same time I'm self-publishing more novels/novellas that aren't a series as such, but clearly branded as connected ( have a look http://graemehague.com.au/the-horror-story-volumes/ ). I'm not making a million. These are "classic" stories of ghosts and ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. There's not a chainsaw in sight.

It's a frustrating dichotomy. As others have said, horror readers are very keen to find the kind of stories they like, yet it's difficult to reach those readers. True horror is buried under UF, vampire romances and werewolf/bearwolf erotica (to name but a few). I'm not complaining about overlap and cross-genre titles, it's unavoidable - only that it's a real puzzle that genuine horror writing has a clear niche and dedicated audience, so you'd expect authors could precisely target them in promotions and such, but it doesn't work out that way. Exactly why, I haven't figured out yet. Probably Jules has got the best handle on it.

There is a market, and there is a readership. But for me, reaching them is an unexpected challenge. I'm keen to get involved in any discussion about it. 
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Offline KateDanley

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2017, 02:34:03 PM »
The first real horror book on the list (excluding IT) is The Haunting of Winchester Mansion: Book 1 ranked at #437.

#437 is even better news!  To the OP, I would recommend stalking the Top 100 Horror list for two weeks.  Note the top indie horror book, note where it is in the overall bestseller list, and note how volatile the list is.  Is the #1 book only hitting the list for a day or two and then disappearing?  Does it hang around?  Every book is different, every indie author is running a different marketing machine, but volatility of that list can be a good indicator as to how hard you're going to have to work to maintain visibility. 
 
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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2017, 02:44:07 PM »
Don't confuse what appears on the bestseller lists with "overlap." 80% of it is simply miscategorization. Horror as a genre has been abused by both trade publishers and indies who have no patience to bother learning what horror actually is nor do they seem to care. People put their paranormal romances under horror because they include shifters and vampires. "But there are scary scenes in my book, so it is horror okay?" NO. a few scary scenes no more make a book horror than a few kisses makes a book a romance.


If I look at the Horror Bestsellers I must say Urban Fantasy has pretty much taken over the genre:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Horror/zgbs/digital-text/157060011

Offline Harvey Click

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2017, 03:59:07 PM »
For several years I had a hard time getting any traction with my horror novels, but the collection of horror short stories (Night Conjurings) that I published back in October has done a little better. It has managed to stay under 100K for six months, with little marketing, and for the first four months or so it generally stayed under 20K. That's still very prawny, but I think it suggests that readers of my novels have slowly accumulated into a small but reliable fan base. I think if I had known anything about marketing when I published my novels, they would have done better when they appeared, but as an inept marketer (I don't have a website or mailing list) I'm beginning to believe that horror fans tend to stick with writers they like.

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Offline Guy Riessen

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2017, 04:25:31 PM »
If I look at the Horror Bestsellers I must say Urban Fanta.sy has pretty much taken over the genre:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Horror/zgbs/digital-text/157060011

To clarify, it has in no way taken over the genre. Horror readers are not reading urban fantasy instead of horror. Amazon is simply listing UF as horror. If you go to other places that don't use an algorithm to categorize you'll find actual horror in lists of top horror.

How can you use Amazon for discoverability anyway? Well, for a new author it will be difficult. Once you begin to show up in other horror authors' also-boughts, you'll pick up readers. And as mentioned above, horror readers are extremely loyal and don't require, or perhaps even want, series exactly. But you can tie novels together by using cross-over characters or world-building or investigative departments/leads etc. You can look at horror movies to understand how it is possible to tie horror novels together.

For Amazon discoverability, you might consider making use of AMS. I'm no expert by any stretch, but you can gain a touch of the 'also-bought' crowd by hunting authors who write similar horror and then sticking their titles and their names into your AMS campaign keywords. With a high enough bid, you should start to appear in many searches in the "sponsored products" section below the also-boughts.

And of course, make sure your cover kicks-ass at thumbnail size compared to other top-ranked horror. And if your writing isn't tense, scary, and full of dread and horrific situations, go write Care Bear Horror...I mean Urban Fantasy and get yourself a slot in Amazon's Top 100 Horror  ;D  hehe, I did not call UF "care bear," You must be mistaken, move along now.

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Offline Nekroza

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2017, 09:50:07 PM »
I love horror but Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are far more popular genres right now. UF and PR uses traditional icons from horror like vampires, witches, and werewolves but they're NOT horror at all even though there is a bit of overlap in readership.

What used to be horror in the shape of vampire stories and werewolf stories, are now categorised as urban fantasy. I wouldn't call Anne Rice's vampires any sort of fantasy.

I don't think Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles is horror. She was a pioneer and one of the people who caused the vampire genre to branch out. Her books are definitely closer to Urban Fantasy than traditional horror. The Twilight books have vampires and werewolves but those aren't horror either, they're paranormal romance.

Personally I love horror and UF but I hate paranormal romance. Paranormal romance is taking over all of the horror related categories and it's impossible to find anything if you're a reader of any of those genre's that amazon thinks are all the same.

Offline Doglover

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2017, 10:43:28 PM »
I love horror but Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are far more popular genres right now. UF and PR uses traditional icons from horror like vampires, witches, and werewolves but they're NOT horror at all even though there is a bit of overlap in readership.

I don't think Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles is horror. She was a pioneer and one of the people who caused the vampire genre to branch out. Her books are definitely closer to Urban Fantasy than traditional horror. The Twilight books have vampires and werewolves but those aren't horror either, they're paranormal romance.

Personally I love horror and UF but I hate paranormal romance. Paranormal romance is taking over all of the horror related categories and it's impossible to find anything if you're a reader of any of those genre's that amazon thinks are all the same.
The first books in the Vampire Chronicles were definitely horror. I don't think anyone had ever thought of urban fantasy back then, it didn't exist as a category. What would you call Stephen King's Salem's Lot? That, again, was horror long before anyone thought of a UF category. I wouldn't class Dracula as urban fantasy either.


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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2017, 06:01:22 AM »
The first books in the Vampire Chronicles were definitely horror.

Yes, the first few Vampire Chronicles was horror in the sense of classic gothic horror. It was not UF in any way, shape, or form. There was throughout the books an undercurrent of palpable dread, despite the sensual nature of the world. Later books started to steer away from the gothic horror context as she became a bit too enamored with her own creations and started romanticizing them a bit much. But the early books were true horror in the sense that they constantly fed the undercurrent of dread and hopelessness.

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Offline Doglover

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2017, 06:07:38 AM »
Yes, the first few Vampire Chronicles was horror in the sense of classic gothic horror. It was not UF in any way, shape, or form. There was throughout the books an undercurrent of palpable dread, despite the sensual nature of the world. Later books started to steer away from the gothic horror context as she became a bit too enamored with her own creations and started romanticizing them a bit much. But the early books were true horror in the sense that they constantly fed the undercurrent of dread and hopelessness.
I gave up after the fifth book. I thought they were past their sell by date by then, but the first four were brilliant. And I just loved her history of the vampires and where they came from. Wonderful stuff.


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Offline alawston

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #20 on: April 13, 2017, 06:08:51 AM »
TL;DR

Yes, there's a market for self-published horror. But it's not an automatic license to print money or anything.


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Offline MattGodbey

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2017, 01:37:30 PM »
So, I'd like to know where some of you find new horror in the indie world. I get lost on Amazon and either go in circles or never find something that looks promising, so I go back to a lot of 70's horror from the local library. What might be some good outlets for horror discussion on Al Gore's intranet about new books?

I've been re-reading Michael McDowell but would love to find some equivalent indies to follow.

Thanks.
M.

Offline TwistedTales

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2017, 03:26:17 PM »
Horror is so difficult to classify. Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert, Peter Straub, etc wrote horror. All good stuff, but they weren't generally ghost stories. The Rats was one of Herbert's most popular series, but it wasn't about ghosts, werewolves or vampires. It was more post apoc. The Stand was classified as horror, but nowadays it's probably post apoc/fantasy. Books of Blood were largely horror, but some of the stories were outright fantasy.

Even as an avid horror reader I struggle to define what makes a story horror versus fantasy or post apoc. The Pan Books of Horror were probably a better yardstick for me. And then horror evolved to splatterpunk, which was around about when I gave up on the genre. So, the definition of horror remains a moving beast.

As to the OPs question. I've written horror stories, or at least what might have been called horror in the early days, but advertisers classify it under science fiction. Given the content of the story, it fits under that genre as well as horror. I've also got a straight up paranormal haunting story, but I classify it as a thriller more than horror because of how it ends. So, yes, there is a market, but you can be fairly liberal in categorizing depending upon the slanting of the story.

Offline Kate.

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2017, 06:12:58 PM »
Most genres get their categorization from their setting or key themes. Outer space? Probably sci-fi. People battling trolls in olden-times? Probably fantasy. Etc.

But horror can be anything. It can be set a thousand years into the future, or a thousand years into the past. The threat can be human, an animal, something supernatural, or the threat can even be the character's own mind. Stories can be impossibly violent or without a single drop of blood spilt. Horror is created not by a location or a monster, but by the feeling it evokes. And that lets it blend into other genres incredibly well.

An easy example is sci-fi. Aliens, Gravity, Life, and John Carpenter's The Thing are all great horror films, but if you asked people to choose one genre, they would be more likely to categorize them as science fiction.

In some ways it's good - horror has such a broad scope that there's something for everyone. But it also leads to these genre debates; a story can have horror elements, but it ends up being called fantasy, or a dark suspense, or sci-fi, or mystery.

Offline dn8791

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Re: Market for horror?
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2017, 10:39:58 PM »
Seems like miscategorization can happen easily with horror. I have a hard time nailing down just what constitutes horror and what doesn't when comparing all of a story's elements.

I suppose for some books it's rather obvious, but what about a book like 'Jaws' by Peter Benchley? Is that considered horror? Or is it more of a thriller/adventure? Action/suspense? Horror/thriller?

Anyway, regardless I do believe there's enough of a demand out there for self-published horror, however you define it.