This is a most interesting year for those who write and read horror books. There have been a number of Presses closing their doors. Samhain shook the industry when they announced they would be shutting down - not only their horror line, but their other genres as well. Samhain had some well known horror authors with books published by them.
Another Press has not closed down, but it is having difficulties paying royalties and was forced to stop publishing their horror line. And there are many more.
Even a co-owned Press I was involved in closed its doors on March 31st. We ran in the red from day one. I could no longer afford to be the only one to pay all the bills, and the rest of the members, we had twenty, chose not to continue. We did put out some fine books for a while, but this is a tough business. Many authors think that a publisher should give writers their first born sons. Hmm. I think not, especially when many authors do nothing to help market their books. Case in point: my Press had an anthology that was going along pretty good for a while. I personally paid for the marketing, did more on my own, paid for the formatting, art, and more. Then the editor, who had a story in it himself, told the rest of the authors it was not necessary for them to help with the marketing. Nice move on his part. Sales dropped, of course.
So, from my experiences as a publisher, let me just say that there was no money to be made. No more could I do my work for free and pay the bills on top of it. This was a cooperative venture, my friends. The publisher and the authors need to work as a team. If they don't, the venture is doomed. My own work did not get published while other authors' work did at my former Press. No more complaining about that. It was an expensive learning experience, but I met some great people I would not have met otherwise.
What is a person to do? There are a number of choices:
1. Get a Big 5 publisher to publish your book. Good luck on that one. And, even if you do, the advance you received will have to be earned back. If it's not, you're totally screwed. You'll owe your publisher and you'll be black-balled from the Big 5. Not cool. Besides, your royalty rates will suck big-time.
2. You can be published by a small or medium sized press. You probably won't get an advance, but your royalty rate will almost certainly be higher. And you will start getting your money as soon as the the publisher receives the money from Amazon and the rest - based on whether you're receiving quarterly or half-year royalties. This is a far better option. Check around and find out the more reputable publishers.
3. Some publishers pay a pro-rate of five cents a word or more. This is a harder gig to get, but it can be lucrative. One point I need to make here is that I see this discussed in various Facebook groups a lot. Many authors want to hold out for this sweet deal. It's their choice, of course, but with publishers closing shop, I wouldn't hold my breath. And, to be perfectly honest, a number of these authors need to sharpen their skills at the craft before this will happen.
4. Some publishers will pay $25.00 or more for individual short stories for anthologies. This is not only cash in your pocket from the git-go, but, as a rule, a royalty only anthology nets the authors crap. There are simply too many hands in the pot. If you can get the $25.00, you'll be doing better in most cases.
5. Self-publishing is an option. In my case, this is the path I have chosen. My wife, Terri DelCampo, and I started up our own Press for our works only. We do all the work and reap all the benefits. Blazing Owl Press is our baby all the way. Are we getting rich? No. But we are are selling books. Gotta love that.
As if the closing down of established publishers hasn't made it more difficult for horror authors to sell books, there has been a rather nasty bit of infighting going on in the Horror Writers Association. While this doesn't directly affect sales, this whole debacle is not only a black-eye for the organization, but it gives those who write horror a bad image. Coming this close to the Stoker Convention doesn't make things any better. There are many hard workers at various positions at the HWA. I am friends with many of them and respect many others, but a lot of work will have to be done to clear things up. This started out with one incident and spread to another. I will not go as far as my friend Brian Keene has in regards to this controversy, but he is doing what is best for him and I am doing the same. There might be some benefits that some authors will reap from being a member of the HWA, but I don't see anything they have to offer that I can't do myself. Also, I have never liked the fact that to be an active member, which means you can vote on the Stokers and such, you must provide proof of how much money you made from any of your books. No one sees that information except me and the IRS. All in all, it has always sounded elitist to me.
Not everyone will agree with all the points I presented here. That's fine with me. If you want any more information or links to answer any of your questions, I will be happy to supply them. Just remember that when the shit hits the fan, one must find a way to get out of the blast of defecation hurled at you. No matter what organization you are a member of or who publishes your books, everything depends on you. Make the right decisions. You're the boss. If you fail, it's your fault. You didn't work hard enough. Learn the craft; write a great book; make the right publishing decision; and don't blame anyone else.
Thanks for reading.