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Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror film makers Scary Movies and Series

4 Cool Things You Never Knew About Sam Raimi’s Movie “The Evil Dead”

The Evil Dead Poster

The original movie “The Evil Dead” was praised as one of the best horror films by the great Stephen King.  Like many filmmakers in the early days of horror cinema, bringing “The Evil Dead” to the big screen was a bootstrap effort by a group of creative friends with big dreams (and non-existent production budget).

If you have watched “The Evil Dead” a hundred times (and still love it like we do) you will love some of the behind the scenes little known facts about how the film was created.  While today, large production companies at Netflix  and Hulu are buying up quality horror screenplays for original series or content, horror filmmakers had a tough grind in the 1970’s and early 1980’s to break into mainstream.

Here are four really cool things that horror movie fans may not know about “The Evil Dead” and how Sam Raimi made the film his launching pad to fame and fortune (with his high school buddies).

1.  The Film Was Based on a Short Film Called “Within the Woods”

In 1978, Sam Raimi released a short film that was based on an earlier piece he had written called “Clockwork”.   That piece was his original indie horror film and was only 7-minutes long, and the plot featured a violent home invasion. 

During the 1970’s, horror movies were an obscure niche that most movie production companies would not touch.  There was no real fanbase for horror or proof that a movie with a gory script would fill theater seats and be profitable.

Sam Raimi wanted to write and produce horror. But he had to show movie executives that it was a viable art form. When he produced “Within the Woods” he called on two of his friends, Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, and the 7-minute movie was shot on a budget of $1,600 (U.S.).  Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were best friends, attending high-school together in Michigan.

To get his proof of concept in front of moviegoers, Sam Raimi begged a local friend (who owned a movie theater) to show “Within the Woods” as a double feature with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  It screened well with audiences and drew the attention of investors. This allowed Raimi to fund his first full-length horror feature, “The Evil Dead”.  The movie “Within the Woods” was bait for seed money; and it worked.  Michigan doctors and dentists were some of their biggest investors.

Fans of “The Evil Dead” series will notice the original homage to the haunted woods in this early movie.  Something Sam Raimi drew inspiration from when he wrote: “The Evil Dead” and the demonic influence inside the dark Tennessee forest surrounding the infamous isolated cabin.  Hardcore fans will also recognize many of Raimi’s signature film editing tricks shown for the first time in “Within the Woods” and his soundtrack techniques to build suspense and terror.

2.  The Cabin in Tennessee Was Actually Cursed?

The first full-feature movie “The Evil Dead” was filmed at an abandoned cabin in Tennessee, which actually did not have a dark history until Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell did some storytelling, to support the promotion of the original movie.

Recognizing that horror fans liked a scary story based in real lore, Raimi and Campbell created a ghost story about a man named Emmett Talbot and his family.  And a haunted and traumatized sole survivor of a massacre in the cabin named ‘Clara’ Talbot, who would return on stormy nights, wandering in a senile state.  Raimi and Campbell also wrote that they could feel eyes on them the whole time they were filming on location.  The things you will say to sell tickets; Campbell confirmed decades later that the story was promotional lore.

Today, the only parts that remain of the cabin where the original movie was filmed, is the stone fireplace and some of the chimney.  After filming was done, Sam Raimi is said to have burned the cabin down, claiming that it was actually haunted.  Perhaps the incantations used during the movie were legit (Raimi is a production purist) and he was afraid of what might actually have been released into the cabin, and the surrounding areas.  The official ‘story’ is that the cabin was accidentally burned down by trespassers who were having a party at the location.  We will never know.

The cast and crew of “The Evil Dead” have stated that they buried a time capsule in or near the fireplace of the old cabin, high in the Appalachian mountains.  It is now private property, but thousands of horror fans apparently flock to the site in Morristown Tennessee annually.  

Photo: Jess Bradshaw (Atlas Obscura)

3. The Film Ran Out of Funds and Bruce Campbell Saved the Day

In spite of every attempt to keep special effects organic (or homemade) in the movie, (oatmeal, guts made from marshmallow strings, and real Madagascar cockroaches from Michigan State University), funds ran out during production.

Bruce Campbell earned himself an Executive Producer title on the film, after he placed a large parcel of his family’s private land as collateral to borrow money to finish the project.  The high school friends dreamed for years of making the film and becoming pioneers in a new emerging genre.

https://youtu.be/lI4O-hELwIM

Sam Raimi reflected decades later that the hardest part of filming “The Evil Dead” was not set design, props, the fake-blood covered sticky floor (and equipment)  or managing the actors and script.  It was having to pause production and raise money several times to be able to finish the movie.  

The stop-and-go flow of production created another problem.  The movie originally began with a cast and crew of twenty (20) people, but the working conditions at the cabin and the authentic  stunts actually got a few people injured.  The original actors started leaving the movie and refused to show up on the set. 

Thankfully, the heavily caked movie makeup required for the Deadites (possessed character) at the end helped complete the production. Both Campbell and Raimi asked friends to stand in for actors for the final scenes to wrap the movie.  These stand-in friends and family are credited on the film as ‘Fake Shemps’ (a Three Stooges reference).

4. There Was Almost a Crossover With “Friday the 13th” and Jason Voorhees  

Fans of the “Friday the 13th” movies may remember that at the end of ‘Jason Goes to Hell’ there is a scene where the Necronomicon is prominently featured. Did the book look familiar? The prop was developed to be an exact replica of the infamous book in “The Evil Dead”.

Personally, we think that crossover would have been cool.  It would have opened the idea that all instances of demonic influence and supernatural emanated from the legendary ‘Book of the Dead’.  Unfortunately, when the two creative teams came together there was a dispute, where they could not decide if Jason Voorhees would kill Ash at the end of the movie. 

Since they could not reconcile the dispute, the partnership dissolved, and we’ll never be able to see Ash take a bite out of Jason with a chainsaw.  Was Jason really a Deadite?  We will never know.

Photo: Renaissance Pictures 

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Indie horror writers

4 Pro Tips for Writing Psychological Traumatic Horror

Bloody face of a Girl

There are horror movies that you can’t wait to see. Literally, you are counting down the months and days until you can get into one of those fat leather recliners in the theater, bury yourself with an insanely sized soft drink and a bucket o’ popcorn the side of your head.  Ahhh… finally, you’re going to watch something scary AF with an 8/10 probability of you sleeping with the closet light on, tonight right?

And then it happens.  Boring happens.  More often than not, contemporary horror movies fail to resonate with true terror for the most devoted horror movie fans.  Have we become desensitized over years of screaming “RUN!” and “NO NOT THAT WAY!” at the big screen or our televisions?  Or has there been a massive movement to ‘water down’ scary novels when they are converted to screenplays, to appeal to a boarder commercial audience?

We get it.  If a movie is ‘too scary’ (personally we don’t believe there is such a thing), then a portion of the population will never see the movie.  Will never buy the oversized soda’s and overpriced popcorn and cheesy pretzels the theater. And since the average movie can cost between $20 million to more than $100 million dollars to produce, you bet the studio shareholders want something marketable.

But where does that leave true horror fans? Waiting for the very rare (but jaw droppingly terrifying) psychological horror scripts.  These movies are up to the standard for horror fans, because they leave you feel frankly traumatized after you have watched them.  And there is not beating the adrenaline rush that psychological horror films deliver.

We pay to be scared. We want to be scared.  And if you are an aspiring horror screenplay, short story or novel writer, you want to make sure you hit those valuable psychological triggers, to make your story memorable (and affectionately traumatizing) for your fans.

Write your horror to horrify the audience, with these 7 essential themes, visual tricks and audience mind games to deliver a truly frightening piece of horror.

1. Create a Safe and Loving Environment for the Characters (Then Violate It)

Have you ever noticed how some of the most classic horror movies and screenplays, do a lot of work to develop a sense of love, safety and sentimental memories?  Whether it is a family cabin, with personal history and childhood pictures everywhere, with quaint homemade touches, or a contemporary smart home with virtually every security feature possible.   When you set the stage for safety and security, you are preparing to shatter that sense of safety, with terrifying effect.

To empathize with the characters, horror writers must help the audience relate.  From the smell of “mom food” cooking in the kitchen, to the friendly family dog (sigh… why does the dog always get it in a horror movie?), you are sharing that sense we all feel in our own home. It’s our territory.  We know every square inch of our homes, and there is something sacred about your house.   Which is violated the moment a really horrible monster, serial killer, alien, or scarier yet, a malicious human comes through the doors of your personal security, to do harm to family.

Oh look… they are riding in a family car and singing along like we do.  And then, bad things happen.

2. Leverage Fear of the Unknown

In a truly psychologically terrifying movie, everything should make sense along the plot line, until things start to happen that make no sense.  The more sophisticated kind of horror plots will take the audience along a predictable story path, where they THINK they can predict the ending, and then throw a monkey wrench into the story where literally, shit hits the fan and nothing is okay anymore.

Lulling your audience into a sense of comfort with a predictable introductory storyline, is one of the best ways to shock and horrify them. Some of the most effective horror films of our time, did not actually show us the villain.  Monsters or demonic forces moving around the characters, force the audience to imagine what is lurking beyond.  And when horror writers master the fear of the unknown in a novel or screenplay, the confirmation that the threat is worse than the audience imagined, makes for truly cinematic trauma.

Not actually knowing what is coming to get the characters is scarier than any special effect monster or visual.

3. Can You Make Your Audience Hold Their Breathe? Weaponizing Suspense in Horror

Nobody likes suspense.  It makes us squirm.  We want to know what is going to happen next, and when horror writers spin scene development to gradually increase the crescendo from audience concern, to perceived threat, to confirmation of the threat in a slow agonizing way? That’s how writers can create the adrenaline rush that horror fans love.

When the audience has affiliated or created a favorably impression about the protagonists, or lead characters in the movie, they feel some affection toward them.  That’s masterful character development in any paranormal or horror story.   The audience becomes invested in the character(s) and doesn’t want to see anything bad happen to them. Even though innately, they know some really bad shit is coming for the would-be heroes.

The longer you draw out the aura of suspense in a horror scene, the more time the audience has to worry about the safety of the character.  To imagine the terrible thing that might happen to them next, and to formulate a guess about the ‘last character standing’.  Will that character survive? Will there be any survivors?  Suspense draws out that anxiety, raises the pulse of the audience, and ends up confirming their worst fears for the character.   And the audience experiences the terror of the character in the first-person, imagining what they would do in a similar situation.

Some of the movies that are premiering in Fall 2020 hold a lot of promise to return to the kind of psychological horror that fans love.  Like “Halloween Kills” which is rumored to be the last in the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode saga.  Or the much anticipated “Antlers” lore about the Wendigo.  

Do you feel like horror movies today are less scary than they used to be? We love hearing from our members. Leave us a comment and tell us which horror movie or novel remains the most psychologically traumatizing fiction you’ve ever experienced.

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Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

5 Reasons Why Horror Writers Should Guest Blog

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. 

That includes:

  • 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.
  • Some Authors also do book reviews for other sites or podcasts to network.

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.

Categories
Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

7 Steps to Building Your Author Name and Brand (On a Really Small Budget)

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How many times have you heard a writer say that they are completing a novel and plan to start submitting it to commercial publishers? It an overnight success story that is kind of similar to the garage band that has a music label scout discover them, and whisk them away in a limo to sign a million-dollar contract?

It used to happen that way. But not anymore.

As we discussed in our introductory advice article for horror writers, publishers want to eliminate as much risk as possible, when they take on a new author and book launch. Until your work has been tested at the retail level, there is no way to measure how successful it may be. Will it be a profit or loss situation for the publisher?

Publishers expect writers to build their own fan base first, before launching a commercially published book. This was work that was done previously by publishers who had public relations and vast marketing budgets to create a buzz and stimulate sales for any new book.

Today, the best indicator that an author will sell a large number of books commercially, is determined by the size of the authors fanbase. Email subscribers, website traffic, social media followers and other measurable audience metrics will help you pitch your book to a publisher. The problem is that you have to spend a few years building up that fan base before a publisher will even read your excerpts.

We have taken some of the mystery out of pre-marketing and brand building for horror and paranormal writers. Here are 7 ways you can help build momentum and fan demand, while you are completing your first novel. And since no writers we know have a $50,000 launch budget, we have provided some cost saving resources and hacks to save you time and money.

1.Define Your Author Persona

It is time to get existential and ask the deep dark questions only answered on a cheap leather couch in a psychologist’s office: “who are you?”   Every writer has the opportunity to use their own name or develop a pen name. When it comes to your persona, will you mirror your exact personality and lifestyle, or will you work on something with extra creative license?

When it comes to marketing and sales, a little intrigue goes a long way. Does that mean that every writer persona is made up, and not authentic? In our experience most writers incorporate a little bit of themselves into their public brand and persona, while keeping certain things private for personal and safety reasons.

Let us say you do become a New York Time’s Best Seller. Would you want the world to know your address? The names of your children, where your parents live or the kind of car you drive? Safety is usually the reason why some authors choose a pen name, and a persona that protects their identity, without misrepresenting who they are.

Because one of the coolest things an author can do, is reveal their pen name(s) after they have become an international bestselling writer. You want that option later without being accused of lying. It is a fine line you want to be aware of because fans will fact check.

Have you ever looked at the logos created by and for conventional writers? It is usually the writer’s name and a small embellishment. Something dignified and understated that can look more like a signature on a check than an actual graphical logo.

In the horror genre however, writers use their logos as a powerful branding tool. We are allowed to be even more creative by celebrating the macabre with artwork in our logo. A skull? Cthulhu? A knife dripping with blood? In the horror genre, everything is fair game, particularly if it helps build audience and brand recognition.

If you do not have Photoshop chops, you can work with a graphic designer. There are a shockingly large number of designers who specialize in logo and branding materials for horror authors too. Choose a design that feels like you, and one that has an impact. This may involve driving your friends crazy and showing them a variety of different logos.

3. Build a Website

Take a deep breath… we are not suggesting that you drop several thousand dollars and have a marketing agency design an HTML or WordPress website for you. If you plan to sell e-commerce products on your website (you’re welcome; it is a great idea!) then a WordPress site is your best bet, and you will need to make an investment for secure payments, etc.

But if an e-commerce marketplace or store on your website is not part of your monetization plan, then you can choose from a variety of insanely affordable DIY website design providers. For a small monthly or annual fee, you get access to easy-to-design templates, and some even come with free photo stock images you can use.

Here are some of the most affordable and beginner friendly website hosting and design providers:

You do not have to have training in website design to be able to slap together a really great looking site on your own. Make sure that you only use copyright free images on your website. Photography that is licensed to use for a business website can be found for free at Pixabay, or through other paid photo stock services like Adobe Stock.

The design of your website as a horror writer, is probably going to be in theme and a little ‘on the dark side’ of the spectrum (which is exactly what fans want to see). In terms of the content you should have on your website, the standard pages and functional elements are:

  • Biography
  • Portfolio of Published Work
  • Blog
  • Contact Me
  • Social Media Icons (Follow Me)

One of the criteria that publishers look at, is how many followers a writer has on social media, but also on their subscriber list. Getting your fans to subscribe to your email, allows you to have a growing headcount of readers who are interested in your work. This helps later when you are pitching commercial publishers.

Some writers will add a photo gallery to their website (usually feeding from a host site like Flickr or Google Images). Fans who follow up and coming writers, enjoy learning about the creative process behind the stories they read. Writers that share images that inspired them, or a picture of a diner where they were writing a new chapter? They create a close relationship with their fans when they share the ‘behind the scenes’ details.

Make a few CTAs (call to action) elements on your website that encourage your audience to subscribe. If you really want to be proactive and grow your email subscribers quickly, consider adding a contest or incentive. Have a monthly draw for a $50 Amazon gift card or give away a horror merchandise collectible every month. Make it a fun horror trivia contest or something engaging, and you could find yourself adding several hundred new fans to your email marketing list.

And remember to send them at least one email per month to stay in touch. You can write about upcoming horror events, new projects that you are working on, releases of new horror movies and novels, etc.

4. Start Blogging Obsessively

Website visitors do not become real literary fans, until you have shared your writing with them. Since you want to sell books (including starting with self-published short works), you do not want to constantly give out previews or excerpts that add up to a reason why fans should not buy your books.

What kinds of things can you blog about? Observations about human nature, some of your personal experiences, character traits you enjoy writing about, upcoming projects, behind the scenes inspiration, creative ideas for book covers (fans love to contribute their feedback!), interviews (blogs or podcasts) and more.

Since we just mentioned interviews, you have to be your own public relations specialist and agent when you are starting out as a new horror writer. That means approaching horror and paranormal websites and podcast channels to offer interviews on interesting topics. You will have to pitch the editorial team for the opportunity and free traffic (and new audience exposure). Many blogs and podcasts will provide the opportunity for free; the largest ones require an administrative and advertising fee for putting your brand in front of a huge target audience of millions.

5. If You Do not Feel Pretty Start a Podcast

Some people love being in front of the camera. You know who they are; just check out their Instagram account, right? But many of us (myself included) would sooner watch one of those mushy Hallmark movies than jump in front of the camera to record a video for public consumption).

My phobias are pretty simply; I think I have a face for radio, not television. And that is exactly why I love to podcast. Under a pen name for freedom and anonymity. My podcast took me about thirty minutes to set up and Podbean costs me very little and is one of the easier dashboards to use for beginners. After four years, I am still using it, because it is fast and easy to use.

When you record podcasts, you can talk about any aspect of your writing and process. People love to see how a writer’s brain works, and the more details you share about your activities and how you work on a book, the more enthralled they will be.  Also remember that podcast episodes can be imbedded as rich content (press to play) on a WordPress website. Do not forget to install a podcast link and player as a call-to-action to get more subscribers to the podcast and listeners.

When you are paying for hosting on a podcast, remember that you are also accessing an exceptionally large community of digitally fluent information or entertainment seekers. That is the profile for the average podcast listener. Part of the cost of subscribing to a podcast host includes that large audience, and the growth and advertising potential the podcast community provides.

6. Ramp Up Your Social Media

If you love being on social media and creating content like graphics and videos, you are not going to have a problem with this. If you absolutely hate being on social, try to change your mindset on it because it is one of your most valuable marketing tools.

You can get a little help from a family member or friend to post interesting content at a regular 2-3 times per week schedule. If you hire someone to manage your social media, make sure they are monitoring your account, and responding to as many fans as possible. That is what we do at Puzzle Box Horror, because we think if you made the effort, we should show our gratitude with some bilateral conversation and appreciation.

One of the things you do not want to do (no matter how tempted you are) is to buy followers. First of all, it is breaking the Terms Conditions and Limitations TOS for all social networks. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are only interested in real followers, not fake accounts, or bots. It is not the quantity of the followers but the quality that matters, as you are building your literary fan base. They can’t buy your book if they are a bot!

7. Self-Publish Novellas or Short Story Collections

People want a taste of your writing, and you can only feed your fans partial excerpts on your blog so long before they want something more substantial. That is when authors will typically start releasing self-published books or print on demand softcovers for their fans. Not novels, but novellas and sometimes short story anthologies. Like Stephen’s King’s Skeleton Crew, or virtually every amazing thing written by Edgar Allan Poe.

It is exciting to earn some residual income from your writing for the first time. Think of it as a preamble to the success you may see, if you are able to get your novel published and distributed commercially. Create small fiction works, but do not share too much about your novel(s) with your fan base. It is your product and you do not want to give it away for free; nor do you want another writer ripping off your idea. And trust us, it happens!

Three Years? That is What Seth Godin Says

Seth Godin is one of the mega marketing brains on the planet and a millionaire entrepreneur and author. This is his advice for writers who want to get published commercially:

“The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.”

Three years is a long time of preparation. But you can do these important marketing activities in tandem with your writing. When you need to take a break from your novel(s), consider writing horror and paranormal short stories that you can bundle into a self-published anthology. Give away some of your self-published books to fans and use them as a promotional tool to grow your audience.

Fiverr can be a great place to get some extra help, and if you think you don’t have enough time in your schedule to post regularly on social media, and create email correspondence, a virtual assistant may be an affordable way to make sure that those promotional pieces are done consistently.   Ask your social media assistant to do following activities on Instagram and Twitter, to seek out horror fans to connect with.

The end goal will be a successful website that demonstrates strong personal branding. A large following of real fans on your social networks; people who are avid engaged readers who will give you feedback. Some may even become brand advocates, by recommending your novels or horror short stories to others.

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Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

Becoming a Published Horror Writer: Industry Tips from Puzzle Box Horror

If you talk to most horror writers, it is more than a hobby to them. Some aspire to become a famous author, who will have their books converted to screen plays. Other writers love the potential of selling a horror screen play that may become a series, to networks that are buying up original content like crazy. Entertainment leaders like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Every once in awhile you will hear this amazing story about how a talented horror writer met the right connections and was able to move and shake their way to the desk of a publisher, talent manager, and their copyrighted work was purchased. For a lot of money. Happy writer. Happy production company. Happy horror fans.

But how often does that really happen? What is the process for a horror writer to get their work noticed or have the rights to their work bought by a large production company? Do you actually need to publish and sell a horror novel first, before you have a chance of pitching the rights to your creative work to a film company?

At Puzzle Box Horror, our team has a lot of experience in marketing and relationships with horror authors and indie film makers. If you are at the stage where you would like to get serious about having your work published and making an income from horror writing, we would like to share a few tips to help get you started.

Publishers Will Not Throw Money Down Unless You Have Built An Audience

No matter how talented you are, a publisher is not going to bite or buy in to a product that does not have an audience. That is a hard fact that many writers struggle to understand. Why wouldn’t publishers want to snap up your work, package it up into a novel and start selling it for a profit? That model has not been predominant in the industry for over ten years.

The average cost of launching a new book? It can be as much as $25,000 to an average of $60,000 or more depending on the size and resources of the commercial publisher. When your book has been accepted and you have signed a contract with a publisher, there are a series of steps and services that happen to your original work, before you will see your book distributed on the shelves.

The process of launching a new book with a publisher can take an average of 18 months or longer, and will include the following steps and services:

  • The setting of the target date for retail distribution. You are issued a payment by check after endorsing your contract with the publisher.
  • Professional proof reading and editing for first revisions.
  • The manuscript is then sent to the sales and marketing departments for another revision. This is where changes are proposed to the novel, to tweak it for marketability. This can also be a long process as authors tend to object to changes, and it becomes a negotiation process. The copyeditor oversees this process and helps consolidate edits and reviews.
  • The cover design will commence about 6 months before the release of the book.
  • Galleys or ARCs are advanced copies and excerpts that will be sent out for getting book reviews of the work about 6 months prior to release. Authors are also provided with the advanced copy to start marketing efforts as well, podcast interviews, social media teasers etc.
  • Marketing and sales plans go into effect about 3 months before the book is published. This includes setting up interviews, live book signing events, tradeshow attendance, press releases and more. The pre-launch reviews will be received with favorable reviews used to accelerate the promotion of the book.
  • About 8 weeks before the book is published, the author will receive a copy. The finished novel goes into distribution and the writer begins to earn residual payments per volume of book sales.

In short, a whole lot of people and talent goes into every commercially published book. And it is expensive for publishers to complete the process and make sure each book has a successful launch. Publishers will not take a risk on a new author that does not have audience and personal branding established. They use the size of your audience as a measurement of the potential commercial sales of your book.

No audience? You are unlikely to attract a commercial publishing deal. There are no assurances that your book will be a best seller, but with strong personal branding and an established audience, it is the jump start that publishers need to feel confident about investing and absorbing the cost of selling your novel.

Be Careful About What You Self-Publish if Your Goal is to Be Picked Up by a Commercial Publisher

One of the biggest mistakes talented horror writers make, is self-publishing. The process of building an audience and authority authorship (recognition of your name or pen name) can be time intensive. It can take years before you build a substantial audience that would make your novel(s) attractive to commercial publishers and that is frustrating.

You want the recognition, the money, and the fame now (not years from now), particularly if you have been working on your fiction for a long time. By comparison self-publishing is so affordable! For less than $20 (USD) and a small royalty to the printer, you can start selling your own self-published novels or collections of horror short stories or micro-fiction work.

The approach to self-publishing with the intention to build a brand name is not entirely wrong. In fact, if you are already working aggressively on your branding as an author, some pieces of self-published work can escalate the growth of your readership. Add your books to your website and start generating some revenue for your creative work.

However, anyone who has self-published will tell you that the revenue (while it is pretty exciting) is not exactly enough to quit your day job. There is a price sensitivity to self-published books. If you plan to offer them on Kindle for instance or digital download, the average price might be $4.99 to keep your price competitive with other new releases. And if you plan to sell print on demand, and keep the book under the $9.99 price threshold, you may make between $3.00 to $5.00 per copy.

The most important consideration is what to choose for self-publishing. One of the strategies that has worked very well for horror writers (including the legends like Stephen King) is to produce short horror story collections.

Give the audience a little taste of your writing style, themes, and macabre mastermind, and build a fan following with your short stories. And save the novels for commercial publishers; that is where the real money is in terms of royalties and residuals. And they will not be interested if you have already self-published the same work, because it complicates copyright, and it is not a ‘new’ book if it has already been circulated as an author-published piece.

Want some tips on building your personal brand and authority authorship? Watch for our upcoming articles as we share strategies for horror writers that work and free resources you can use to start building your audience of readers and fans.