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The Horror Genre Doesn't Sell: Change My Mind



Let me start by saying that one of my favourite genres is horror, but I've had negative reactions when people have asked what genre my novels are. When I tell them they're horror, there’s normally a sigh and the phrase, ‘I don’t like horror.’ It’s frustrating to hear this, but it’s also reflected in the book charts at most stores. While it thrives on the indie circuit, there’s really not a lot mainstream like there once was in the days of James Herbert.


Go into any book store and browse their popular books and you might find the only horror is a Stephen King one, though recently he appears to be going down the thriller route with his books and moving away from horror. The last King horror I read was Doctor Sleep which was years ago! I didn’t enjoy his Mr Mercedes books about a cop tracking a killer. If I pick up a King book, I want either horror or fantasy. In recent years, I’ve found myself turning away from him and reading his son’s books, Joe Hill. I loved Heart Shaped Box and Horns. Those were really good horrors. As for N0S4R2, it’s pure horror about a demonic being stealing kids and taking them to Christmas Land. I think the film of it is out soon and I can’t wait.


Thrillers appear to be the big sellers at the moment. I’ve enjoyed a large number of these recently including Mark Edwards, Claire MacKintosh, and Laura Marshall. I’ve also loved CJ Tudor who has written the Chalk Man and the Taking of Annie Thorne. Both of these have horror elements, but marketed more as thrillers. Her debut novel had a very King feel to it, though it was more about a murder than anything supernatural. Then I read the Taking of Annie Thorne and this was very Pet Cemetery. Again, it was written more like a thriller with the murder pushed to the front and the supernatural element more subtle, yet integral to the plot.

Thrillers are great if you want something to make you keep turning the pages to find out what’s going on in a twisting plot. You can never trust anyone and it makes for great drama.

My first three novels were straight horrors and not great sellers. I still wanted to write this sort of stuff, but realised it might draw more audiences in if they were marketed more as a thriller, like CJ Tudor. My book, Dead Again, is a whodunnit, but I put the element in there of the murder victim returning to life to solve the crime. It worked, picking up more readers. People like horror without realising it. If you push it as full on horror, they tend to turn away from it. At least, that’s my experience.


The horror genre is growing in the indie world, bringing to them people who are fed up of the constant thrillers being put out in the mainstream. People want something different and I wonder if the mainstream is going through the thriller phase and will evolve again soon. When someone like Stephen King is writing crime procedure novels, you know there’s something changing with the horror market.


So where does this leave the Indie author looking to sell more books? Write what you love, but you also have to write for the market. Adapt your style, market differently. People like horror, they just don’t want to admit to it, like horror is a dirty word. Funnily enough, horror in film and TV seems very popular. As writers, we need to follow the market. We can’t ignore what’s popular and what’s not popular and have to supply a demand.


Am I wrong on this? Do you still enjoy straight horrors? Change my mind in the comments and let me know if you’re a horror writer. Have you encountered this same issue?

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