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Featured Scary Movies and Series

4 Horror Movies Where Turning The Light Off Was a Bad Idea

Horror movies in the dark cover image puzzle box horror article

Here is the question we all ask ourselves.  Whether we are watching a scary movie, or heading downstairs to the basement.   We think “Do I really want to turn on the light?” followed by “What if I see a monster?”

The truth about adulthood is that we’re really just kids that got older, and wiser.  Most of us. But some things will always fundamental scare us because they are innate psychological terror triggers!  Remember when you cried in the crib after your Mom left the room? Of course you don’t!  But from our infant days we sense a fear and peril in the dark.  

Is there really something malicious or life-threatening waiting for us in the dark?  Is it just our imagination?  And if there is something lurking in the darkest corners of our reality, do we really want confirmation that it exists? Or do we want to pull the cover over our eyes, and pretend we don’t see those shadows, or hear those sounds.

Horror Movies Know Our Childhood Trauma Triggers

Ask any horror fan and they’ll tell you that the mark of a really great horror movie is the psychological trauma it leaves behind.  For a few days.  Maybe longer.  In fact, we bet you remember the first scary movie that you watched as a kid.

Did you sleep with the light on afterward?  Bring a flashlight to bed?  Take that flying impossible leap from the floor to your pillows (and avoid the dreaded shadow under the bed?)  Yep, we all did that, because we all have a little fear of the dark. 

If you want to get fancy, there’s actually a diagnosis for that ‘fear of the dark’.  It’s called Nyctophobia, and it is that fear of the dark, multiplied by a thousand.  People with this debilitating condition often suffer from insomnia (go figure).  They also may sleep with a lot of light in their room.  It interferes with Circadian Rhythm, or the body’s natural clock.   It is categorized as a very extreme form of anxiety.

We all have a little bit of that.  And we imagine that people who actually have Nyctophobia do not go see horror movies about things that ‘go bump in the night’.  We can’t blame them.  But in the horror genre it is a theme that is used in almost every movie, to create suspense and (if we’re honest) popcorn spilling terrifying moments on the big screen.

1.  Lights Out (2016)

When Rebecca (played by actress Teresa Palmer) moved to the big city, she thought she had left her small town traumas behind her.  Like a childhood friend named Diana who died horrifically, and materialized as a dark entity that would follow her around. And play with her.

Now grown, she must return home to take care of her little brother Martin (played by Gabriel Bateman) who is experiencing night terrors.  Something he describes as a stain or shadow on the wall.   

The movie reminds us “You were right to be afraid of the dark” and after you sit through Lights Out, you can’t help but agree.  And find yourself one of those little nightlights that can maybe shine on your bed while you sleep.  What? Don’t tell us you never thought of that security measure as a kid (or a grown-up).

Directed And Written By: David F. Sandberg

Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Darkness Falls (2003)

Way to ruin the lore of “The Tooth Fairy” for all of us!  This dark story takes place in a small town in Maine, that has been ravaged by child attacks and deaths.   The one thing that the children have in common? They lost a tooth and put it under their pillow for The Tooth Fairy.

Except in Darkness Falls, The Tooth Fairy isn’t this stardust sprinkling happy little elf like creature.  It is the twisted malevolent spirt of a woman who was killed on suspicion of being a witch.  Now, if the entity had been a really bad person in life, instead of a kindly old woman who gave children shillings for their teeth? We’d have no story line.   And the legend of Matilda Dixon is born; a woman who was wrongfully (and savagely) killed by the town mob for a crime she never committed.

We always love Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel) as the Final Girl in a horror movie.  She is great under pressure, and equally terrified at the same time, making her the perfect protagonist in a dark horror film. 

Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman

Columbia Pictures

3. Pitch Black (2000)

As part of the Reddick series, the criminal and universe saving warrior and reluctant hero.  Vin Diesel delivers an outstanding performance of a big strong guy that is surprisingly agile, when being chased by flesh eating aliens.

When a ship crash lands on a remote desert planet, the team of travelers (including the incarcerated Reddick) explore the new territory.  Since the ship is unlikely to be repaired anytime soon (or ever) the characters are delighted to find an old farmstead.  Complete with solar energy for power, evaporation collection (water) and some good sized shelters.  Even a ship that could be repaired to get off the planet.

The ominous story shows a model of a solar system. After playing with it for a little while, the intrepid victims realize that the cycle of the planet provides sun almost all the time.  The land of no nighttime.  Except for one phase in the lunar cycle where the entire planet is thrust into complete darkness for a one-year period.

Considering the planet is desert and hot AF, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  Except that all the equipment relies on solar power (bummer).  And there is a little cause for concern, as millions of flesh eating birds of prey and other dog like creatures (bio raptors) are waiting for dinner.  When the sun goes down.

There’s always that one guy that doesn’t follow instructions and wrecks it for everyone.   Stay in the light!

Directed By: David Twohy

Universal Pictures

4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Imagine you are a kid and you feel like you have monsters in the dark, waiting to eat you or whisk you away to the closet.  Which we all know is a portal to a dark dimension from which we may never return.  Can you sleep with the closet door open? Neither can we. The movie is actually a remake of a 1973 television film, by the same name, and both were based on the book  “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” by Nigel McKeand.

In the movie, Sally (played by Bailee Madison) sees and hears tiny goblin or golem like creatures, that travel in the air ducts of the old home she lives in. Conveniently complete with those old decorative iron vent plates, which make for a great door for the goblins.  Although her father and his girlfriend (played by Katie Holmes) are reluctant to believe the stories. 

Aside to parents.  If your child is convinced there are monsters in their bedroom trying to eat them, maybe call an exterminator to double check.  All monsters leave some kind of trace, from footprints to feces we imagine.  And if your child asks if they can sleep in your bed because they are scared?  It’s probably a good idea.  

Directed And Written By: Guillermo del Toro

Miramax Films

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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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Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

6 Creepy Things That Happened on the Movie Set of “The Exorcist”

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Photo: Washington Business Journal

When William Peter Blatty (1928 – 2017) the writer of “The Exorcist” and subsequent writer and director of the sequel “The Exorcist III” began to visualize the screenplay for the original movie, he wanted to create a paranormal experience that would surpass anything that anyone had seen in the theaters before.  

The book was published in 1971, and it spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It was because of the explosive success of “The Exorcist” book (which sold over 13 million copies in the United States alone after publishing) that the movie was shot in 9 short months, and released in 1973.  The movie “The Exorcist” received 10 Academy Award nominations, and won 15 other film awards internationally.  

After the movie was released on December 26, 1973, audiences flocked to see it.   The imagery in the movie proved to be so shocking for 70’s audiences (who had never seen anything like it on the big screen before) that several individuals filed civil personal injury suits against Warner Bros.  From instances of fainting and vomiting in the theater, to heart attacks and miscarriages, the reports of emotional damage after watching the film were so prolific that one psychiatric journal published a research paper discussing the ‘cinematic neurosis’ triggered specifically by the film.  

To this day, few films have managed to capture the raw sense of evil that “The Exorcist” did.  In fact, both William Peter Blatty (writer/producer) and DirectoWilliam Friedkin went to great lengths to capture the realism of a true historical exorcism (on which the book was based) that many people suspect something ominous and evil was attracted to the set of the movie.  

Check out these 6 paranormal events that happened on the set of “The Exorcist” and you decide whether evil entities may have been ‘hanging out’.  Do you think that occult movies attract dark presences and influences?  

1. The Original Home for the McNeil Home Was Destroyed by Fire 

The interior sets for filming were built in New York City, however the exterior shots (and the McNeil home) was to be filmed on location in Washington, D.C.  The entire set for the MacNeil home caught fire and burned to the ground, which delayed filming for six additional weeks.  There was one room completely untouched however in the catastrophic blaze; the bedroom of Regan McNeil.  

The source of the fire and the strange and eerie fact that the bedroom had remained intact, was enough to make the writer and director seek out a Jesuit Priest (Thomas M. King) to bless the set, however unsettling and unexplainable mishaps continued to occur during the production of the movie.  

Nothing says “relax, it’s not dangerous here” better than having a Priest stop by to splash Holy Water over the set.  Yikes.  

2. Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil) Sustains Permanent Spinal Injury  

In that famous scene where Regan McNeil is mutilating herself with a Crucifix, actress Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil) rushes to the bed to stop her daughter.  The demon then shoves Chris McNeil across the room in one violent motion, and her scream is blood curdling and painful.  

That chilling scream that many of us will never forget, was actually authentic.  The stuntmen had a wire rigged to the actress to pull her backwards and abruptly for the filming of the scene. Unfortunately, the mechanics were rigged with full force, and her painful scream was the result of a permanent and painful spinal injury that she sustained during filming.  

Linda Blair (the actress who portrayed Regan McNeil) also sustained a serious back injury, when the set rigging that helped her levitate above her bed broke, sending her crashing to the floor.   

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Photo: Warner Bros.

3. Abusive Directing Methods Used by William Friedkin  

When you watch “The Exorcist” you can literally feel the fear that the actors are portraying in the movie.  That is one of the rare qualities of the film that still makes it stand out among horror and paranormal movies and the original and most terrifying film of all time. Directors are often known to use unusual methods to elicit realistic responses from actors, but on the set of “The Exorcist” William Friedkin went over the top to create that realism.  

The Director would slap people, scream at them and make them cry, and also fire guns beside their faces to create ‘shock’ or trauma, before filming critical scenes.  If every actor in the film seems traumatized it’s because they actually were; and that led actors like Ellen Burstyn to call Friedkin a maniac.  And not in a fun, joking way.  

People who are traumatized are also more vulnerable to demonic suggestion while they are tired, and emotionally fatigued.  Something that was also linked to some of the more bizarre happenings on the set during filming.  

4. Inanimate Objects Moved on the Set  

The character Father Karras was played by actor Jason Miller, who reported many strange paranormal experiences while he was filming the movie. That Jesuit Priest that was called to bless the set hung around off and on during the filming (because of unexplained events) and Miller reported that the Priest gave him an eerie warning: 

“Reveal the devil for the trickster that he is, he will seek retribution against you or he will even try to stop what you are trying to do to unmask him”.  And then, Miller was handed an amulet for protection; a medallion of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Later, in character Father Karras’ dream, a medallion falls in slow motion to the ground, incorporated by the Director and Producer after the exchange with the Jesuit Priest.  

Several members of the crew witnessed seeing inanimate objects move on the set, before their eyes.  Writer and Producer William Blatty reported that the telephone that was used to communicate between the set and the production office would rise off the hook and then crash to the floor. 

William Blatty also claimed that he felt a dark presence around him when he was writing the book.  He also reported instances where he woke to find himself levitating in his home.  

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Director William Friedkin used trauma inducing methods such as gunfire and ‘slapping’ actors to achieve emotional effects. Photo: Warner Bros.

5. Nine Deaths from Crew and Actors Associated with the Film 

During the production of “The Exorcist” Jack MacGowren (an Irish actor) portrayed the role of Burke Dennings, Chris McNeil’s manager / possible romantic interest.  It was Burke Dennings that connected Chris McNeil to Father Karras, as they both worked at Georgetown University.  Burke Dennings is the first victim of possessed child Regan McNeil; his neck is snapped as his head is turned 360° and his body tumbles down the steep flight of stairs after being thrown out the window by a mysterious force.  

Actor Jack MacGowren contracted pneumonia on the set.  When the movie was shot, the bedroom of character Regan McNeil was refrigerated to freezer proportions.  In fact, the crew was required to wear parkas!  This helped create the paranormal cold effects and vapor clouds when actors were talking (before CGI).  MacGowren died just after his scenes wrapped up, but before the full production was complete.  Eight other members of the production and their close family members died during, or shortly after the release of the film.  

6. Lightning Strikes Ancient Crucifix in Rome Screening  

When “The Exorcist” was released, it was screened in one particular theatre in Rome (near the Vatican).   The theater was located between two historic churches. One the day the movie was released in Rome, there were unseasonal torrential rains and a thunderstorm (which added we’re sure to the scary effect for Italian movie goers).  

During the storm, a 400-year-old cross was struck by lightning and fell to the ground, in the middle of the piazza (or square) just outside the move theater.  How is that for a clear message from the superpowers that be?  Maybe they didn’t like the fact that “The Exorcist” was released the day after Christmas; intentionally, to spark international religious furor.  

Billy Graham (televangelist) spoke frequently about the film publicly and claimed that ‘the very celluloid of the film itself was cursed’ with powerful subliminal and demonic imagery.  He went on to further explain to his followers that he believed a demon lived within the movie reel, captured during the filmmaking process, and that its power could influence anyone who watched the movie.  

What do you think?  Is it possible for occult films to attract malevolent forces that can do harm?  Do films of this genre open a door to the paranormal, and has anything eerie happened to you when you’ve watched “The Exorcist” or another movie about a demonic possession?  Share your comments with us.  

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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.

Your feedback helps us write interesting and useful content for our readers. Tell us what you think! Was the advice and recommendations provided in this article helpful to you?

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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.