As a horror writer, you have been self-publishing short fiction, or novels in an effort to get the attention of publishers. Creative writers can dream of that moment when they are discovered. Much like a garage band that is signed up by a big agent for a record deal. Then suddenly, you are catapulted into fame and insanely large residuals for your horror novels, or screenplays.
That does not even happen for garage bands anymore. Unless they appear on American Idol. And even then, they are supported by a massive marketing machine to help the artist create a marketable brand. In publishing, where there are no guarantees about the profitability of a horror novel, there is no golden ticket or free ride to overnight success.
Get Down With Your Marketing to Attract Paranormal and Horror Publishers
Today, publishers only sign writers who have created that marketable brand themselves. You do not need a million-dollar budget to build a fan base, but it is a business investment and a time-consuming project. In fact, many writers can build their base for 5-10 years, feeding their fans with self-published works before a publisher will even look at providing a contract for the writer.
Horror and paranormal novelists and screenplay writers have to build their fan base first. They have to be their own high-powered marketing machine to demonstrate that their creative work is marketable. So basically, when you build that audience to the point where you are starting to make a little money on the side from sales of your books, or advertising on your blog or podcast, that’s when you’ll be ready to pitch publishers.
And start collecting those rejection letters. Do not worry, Stephen King had more than thirty rejection letters for his novel “Carrie”. He had a nail in his office that he kept adding his rejection letters to, skewering his failures, and trudging on. When the nail could not support the letters anymore, he drove a spike into the wall, and continued collecting the rejection letters from publishers. The point is, get ready for rejection, and remember that it is part of the process, as it has been for every famous horror writer you know.
Breaking into the business today takes organic crowdsourcing and a consistent effort to build your authorship. So, what kind of digital marking DIY activities are actually worth spending your time and money on?
Start With Your Author Website
Believe it or not, people still read books. And when they have enjoyed an indie self-published horror novel, or collection of short horror fiction, they want to learn more about the author. This is where a lot of writers do not take the time or effort to establish their brand persona and make it easier for readers to become fans.
Before you max out your credit card and build a complex website, understand that it is not about how ‘fancy’ your website is (or expensive). What really matters is that the core fundamentals for branding are on your author website.
- Previews or excerpts from your book(s)
- Links to self published books or collections for sale.
- An author bio page (bonus points for a video welcome message from you, talking about your books, character development techniques, and why you love being a horror writer.
- A newsletter sign-up (and you actually have to send email updates to your fans monthly to keep them interested and subscribed).
- Social media accounts, sharing your insights, your process for character and plot development.
- A podcast (if you hate the idea of being on live videos and in front of the camera). Some authors build a large following by reading excerpts from their books and/or providing low-cost audio downloads of their books.
We know what you are thinking; “wow, that’s a lot of work”. The good news is that if you have never set up your own website or had some experience with digital marketing (blogging, social media management, etc.) there are low-cost courses you can take on Udemy. They start at $12 per course in digital marketing, and you can learn how to create and promote your own author brand.
How Often Should I Blog?
Many writers ironically struggle to publish blog content on their own author websites. That makes no sense to anyone else but a writer. It is easy to create fiction, and not so easy to market yourself, or talk about your accomplishments and self-published works (let alone promote them). But you really do need to be your own talent agent to grow that coveted audience that publishers insist on before they start writing checks for your work.
Search engine optimization or SEO is really important on your author website. The more content you add to your website, the better. But Google and other search engines prefer high-quality content, that is longer than 1,000 words and optimized with keywords that relate to your audience.
A great software tool to use for beginners, is Yoast Premium. The plug-in is available for WordPress websites and will give you tips on choosing the right keywords and search terms, to help your blog articles attract readers (and website traffic).
Aim to add at least (4) new articles per month, or about one article per week. Yep, it is work, but hey, you are a writer! It should be a walk in the park for you to talk about the things you love writing about, ideas for new characters, and share with your readers.
Writing Articles for Other Websites? How Does That Help My Audience Grow?
If you are already thinking that writing for your own blog may be a lot of work, this next proven suggestion is going to blow your mind. Not only do you need to write for your own website regularly, but you should be seeking opportunities to publish work on other websites too. For free.
Guest blogging is a strategy that actually helps the contributing author. True, your amazing horror short-fiction piece or journalistic article about lore, horror movies or book reviews or other entertainment content is going to be published on another website. That makes them look good, to have more content! But did you know it is also a really valuable self-branding exercise?
Here are five reasons you should consider being a guest contributor on a horror or paranormal blog:
1. It does get your name out there. When you are choosing which blogs to contribute to, make sure you are selecting high-traffic websites. If the blog you are submitting to is a ghost town, it is not really going to benefit you that much. The primary advantage for guest-blogging authors, is that you get exposure to a larger potential audience of fans.
2. You get a backlink. This may be something you have to ask for, as a new guest-blogger and horror/paranormal author, a backlink. The more related websites you have linking into your own personal author website, the more traffic you can expect to receive. Usually publishers will allow you to hyperlink one work or phrase within the guest article, that clicks back to your own website. Backlink established, and a potential open door to anyone who wants to learn more about you, after they have read your guest blog post.
3. You get a valuable callout on social media. When you contribute to another blog as a guest author, ask if the collaboration will involve sharing your article on the media outlet’s social media channels. When you are picking the best guest writer opportunities, also take a look at how many followers the publication has on popular channels like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If they have a huge fanbase on social, that is a big opportunity to expose your creative writing to an even larger audience of fans.
4. It works the writer muscle and discipline. Hands up if you have 2-4 different novels saved and archived, at different stages of development. It is not really procrastination. Writing is a superpower and you have to be inspired and motivated to continue the story line. It is really about how you feel as a creative. Sometimes, you can write two chapters in a day, other times, you are staring at the page for three hours.
Being a regular blog contributor is like working out your hands, your brain, and your creativity on a weekly basis. And that can help you make progress on your own creative work, by fostering regular writing habits.
5. Guest blogging is a great way to network within the genre. You want to make sure you are collaborating with websites that gather horror and paranormal fans, since that is the genre you want to break into as a novel, short fiction, or screenplay writer. You never know who knows someone who is looking for new authors (including connections to publishers, and big horror content buyers like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime for original series storylines). The more you guest blog, the more you network, and that can lead to big things for horror writers.
There are some courses and master classes out there that can teach you some of the advanced techniques of building an author brand. For most writers, those courses (while valuable learning) are pretty expensive. You can actively build your own audience with a great website, and by writing content that people love to read, to crowdsource the fan base you will need, to successfully pitch major publishers and horror content buyers.
To learn more about collaborating with Puzzle Box Horror, and how to pitch our editorial team about a lore, horror, or paranormal non-fiction article, send us an email. Puzzle Box Horror is a rapidly growing online community of creative writers, indie horror filmmakers and artists, and we accept guest blog content to showcase the talent of our community.