Friday Guest Blog: Paul E. Cooley – Is Horror Niche?
If you’ve heard my appearances on the DRS podcast, then you know I write horror. Or do I?
In looking at the books classified as horror these days, I have a more and more difficult time finding where I fit. This issue is rather pertinent at the moment since I recently put the e-book version of my debut hardcover, Fiends: Vol1, up for sale on Amazon.com and BN.com.
Doing research the past few days has proved that horror is a “niche” genre. What does this mean? Supposedly it means that the average reader doesn’t purchase horror books. But what the heck are we calling horror?
If one takes a look at the NYT Bestseller list, there are many books on the list that have horror elements to them. Stories about serial killers, vampires, murder, mayhem, mystery…all these could be considered horror depending on who’s doing the judging.
Every time Stephen King, “The Master Of Horror,” publishes a new book, it immediately crosses the NYT Best Seller list. Of course, that’s because he’s Stephen King and if he wiped his ass with a piece of paper and sold it, people would purchase it.
So what makes the horror genre “niche?” Is it only a niche genre if the author isn’t a well-known name?
If you are an author and you put your e-book up for sale on Amazon.com, you face the terrible burden of deciding the categories or genres for your book. Why is it a terrible burden? Because out of the dozens of categories available, you can only chose two. TWO. That’s it, that’s all.
Making such a choice is a bit like opening Pandora’s box. Fiends: Vol1 is technically psychological horror. I don’t have vampires, zombies, werewolves or any of the traditional tropes. My stories don’t immerse the reader in gore or violence. If one uses the tropes or gore scale to measure my stories, then they aren’t horror at all.
Yet I can’t in good conscience ignore the horror tag when I submit my books to a publisher or distributor. I consider any story that gives you the goosebumps to be in the horror category. After all, where does one place Poe, Richard Matheson, or even the writing duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child?
Barnes and Noble makes it much easier to choose–they give you five categories with which to tag your books.
But here’s the question: does tagging your book with a “niche” genre hurt or help you? I’m not really certain.
When you go searching for books, do you search for them by keywords, genres, etc? Or do you go straight for the author or publisher you like? Think about it.
If you still go to the brick and mortar bookstores, how do you find the books you want to purchase? Are you merely scouring the books placed at the front of the stores or in the “featured” section? Or do you browse, looking for a title and then pulling the book out to take a look and see if it interests you?
Authors, publishers, and readers need to share this information. Authors and their publishers need to understand how readers find what they want to read. Readers need to tell us this information so we’re not all guessing.
The only research I as an author can do now is tie my books to the categories I feel appropriate and then watch the sales. After a few weeks, I might change them and see if it affects sales in either a positive or negative fashion.
So, fellow readers, enlighten us. Tell us how you choose your reading material. What helps you determine if you’re going to try a new author? Blog posts? Reviews? Getting to know the author through social media?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please post responses or send me email.
Paul is a crazed lunatic, possibly homicidal, with a penchant for killing his fans and exploring the furthest reaches of mental illness and delusions for fun. Even the ones he doesn’t have. When he’s not writing twisted tales of psychological torment, he writes enterprise software and applications for the internet and the iPhone.
Paul’s Parsec Award Nominated Fiends story collection are available for free at his website. You can find the latest information, stories, essays, rants, and reviews from his site. His new podiofiction series, Garaaga’s Children, begins on May 15th. He welcomes comments and interaction and especially enjoys speaking of himself in the third person.
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Yeah only being able to choose two categories sucks. I went through that with Ginnie Dare.
At brick and mortar stores I’m a browser. So snazzy covers help catch my eye. I tend to avoid covers with half nekkid people or chicks with tramp stamps. 😉 I stick to the “genre” sections and yes my local B&N still has a decent Horror section.
On web store fronts I also tend to stick to genres, but truthfully most of the books I buy I buy because of word of mouth whether it be via Twitter or Good Reads. Also, friends in meat space are big influencers. I LOVE it when someone puts a book in my hand and says “READ THIS!”. I do and if I like I buy my own copy.