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Publishing Horror Stories

Talk to any author who’s been around long enough and they’ll have a story for you about a bad publishing experience.  Most common are the books which were supposed to pay royalties after the advance was made, but which mysteriously never quite made enough sales to cover the advance… sometimes despite going into multiple printings.  There are others, though.  Many, many others.

It’s enough to put new authors into a state of permanent distrust when dealing with a publisher.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly when you don’t have an agent or another experienced person helping to draft a contract.  But for the most part, horror has the best publishers in the literary field.

I suspect it is due to the prominence of the small press in horror literature.  Whereas other genres have historically relied upon national publishers almost exclusively, horror has a long history of appealling directly to the fans.  Arkham House, Carcosa, Whispers Press, Dark Harvest, Cemetery Dance, Borderlands Press, Fedogan and Bremer… these are among the best known publishers, and many of their titles were never sold through chain bookstores, instead focusing their distribution through specialty bookstores and catalog sales.  With the growth of the internet, catalogs are now easily found either on the publisher’s website or at aggregate sites like Amazon.  The ease of distribution has encouraged more small presses to develop, catering to a readership which was already familiar with mail order.

There are books designed as treasures.  Nearly the full line from Centipede Press, for example, or the artworks provided by Biting Dog Press.  Lettered editions from Necessary Evil Press, whose metal traycases are as beautiful and intricate as professional sculptures.  Books that are designed to not simply be read, but displayed proudly.

There are books designed as keepsakes.  Signed and limited editions ranging in price from $30 to $50 from Necro, Gauntlet, PS, Delirium, Overlook Connection and many more.  Compendiums of virtually unfindable older work from Ash-Tree and Tartarus Press.

There are books and e-books designed to get out of print work into appreciative hands at low prices.  Crossroads Press is a pioneering e-book publisher in that field, for example, and Wildside Press has put dozens of public domain scarcities back into availability as print-on-demand for $20 and under.

And then there are the publishers of new work.  People like Bad Moon Books, Dark Regions Press, Eraserhead Press,  and Apex Books, providing new material by authors who have earned readerships but who may have difficulty getting deals inked with the larger New York and London firms.

The common thread among all of these publishers is that while you may occasionally hear of problems arising (Full Moon Press, most notoriously, angered authors and collectors by selling lifetime memberships before medical problems led to cancelling their ambitious catalog and shutting down the press after only two books)  there is no shortage of fans who wish to help get their favorite authors’ stories into print, and this is a great sign for authors in the field.

These points were driven home at the most recent World Horror Convention.  I had people coming by the table asking for Cemetery Dance and old Dark Harvest titles.  I was set up next to Full Moon and Dark Regions, both of whom had great displays.  Dark Discoveries were set up nearby.  Centipede Press was across the way, with its usual display of books capable of inducing pain in the wallet (seriously, those are some beautiful books, worth every dollar charged and a few more additionally.  Jared’s work sets a high bar for the modern collector’s edition.)   It’s something I’ve seen at every previous WHC, although the publishers change.  I’ve seen booths for Eraserhead, Night Shade, Gauntlet, Necro and more.  As with most conventions, a new publisher was showing off their upcoming catalog… in this case, it was Genius Publishing, with titles out by Brian Knight, Harry Shannon and Gene O’Neill (rarely have I seen so promising a debut.)

Horror has an embarassment of riches when it comes to the small press publishers, which is undoubtedly why a separate award has been designed for them at the Stokers.   Fans and authors alike are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these publishers; the former as a source of interesting fiction and the latter as the market avenue most likely to create and expand a fan base.


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