Thursday, 29 September 2011

Finding Markets For Your Speculative Fiction

I'd like to welcome, Colin F. Barnes who very kindly agreed to do a guest post for me on the subject of markets for the speculative fiction writer. First a little about my guest.

Colin F. Barnes is a dark fiction writer from the UK  specializing in Science Fiction, Horror and Thrillers. He likes to take the gritty edginess from his surroundings and personal experiences and translate them into his stories. He is currently working on an anthology of horror stories in his 'City of Hell Chronicles' setting after recently debuting with a crime anthology titled 'Killing my Boss' that he co-authored with best selling author Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.

Dark fiction and speculative fiction in general tends to go in cycles. Certain genres, or subgenres become popular, rise to the top and stay there for a period of time while others languish not doing so well. Trying to time this and write for the market is difficult unless you are either especially good at spotting trends ahead of time, or get some inside information from agents/publishers who are looking for specific types of stories.

Speculative fiction, and especially that of the darker edge is going through somewhat of a transformation. During the 80s horror was the biggest genre, selling millions of copies by authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert et al. But during the 90s and the 2000s horror and the darker genres slipped down. Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance has seemingly taken its place in the charts and the consciousness of readers. This is mainly due to the successes of the Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries types of books/shows.

So, as a writer of dark fiction, how does one go about marketing their work? And what markets are left open?

The bad news is that all out horror and some of the darker sub genres still aren’t selling all that well in the mainstream publications. Most of the magazines that serve horror no longer exist, or if they do, they are relegated to a small audience as e-zines. Even traditional publishing houses aren’t putting a lot of stock in horror. Sci-Fi and Fantasy are seemingly grabbing the lion’s share of publishing capital within dark genre.

However, bad news aside, there is still a lot of hope and a lot of opportunity for the dark fiction writers.

There are two main ways of publishing your work. The first being the small independent presses. There are a numbers of these (list of a few below) that actively seek out the darker work. Being a smaller press has both its advantages and disadvantages for the author.

-          Easier to approach.
-          They are usually quicker to react to changes within the industry
-          They have closer relationships with their authors
-          They often make limited runs of exclusive editions

-          Don’t pay as well as the big houses
-          Often can’t cope as well with slush piles
-          Lack resources to really push an author

However, disadvantages aside, it can be a great experience working with a small press, and for first time published authors it makes sense to approach these first. You’ll learn about publishing and you’ll get that all important publishing credit on your CV. Some of these small presses have a big name and carry a lot of weight, so definitely don’t discount these out of hand.

The second way of getting your work out there is to self-publish. Now, I’m not necessarily saying paying thousands of pounds to have printed copies made and you sell them door-to-door. No, in this day and age, ePublishing has become a great leveler. With a little time and effort you can have you book on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to this too.

-          Freedom to write what you want
-          Freedom to solicit your own editor, designer, formatter
-          You keep all the profit
-          You keep the rights to your work
-          Sense of achievement

-          You have to do everything and are responsible for everything.
-          Your sales might not be what you expect
-          The promotion takes up a lot of time, and requires diligence
-          Some authors rush in too quickly with material not ready

The best way to mitigate the disadvantages is to seek out a good freelance editor to work on your book/story. Also, if you belong to a writing group (and you really should), have them critique or beta your work to iron out any main issues. You only want to publish your best work. Don’t be cheap and stick up anything, it will reflect on you and damage your sales/reputation.

In terms of promoting your work, that’s a huge subject and you can find lots of useful information by researching marketing, but a few easy(ish) ways to promote your work are:

-          Use twitter to connect with other writers and readers. Get to know them, but don’t push your work too much, the sales and interest will come naturally.
-          Post sample chapters on your website. You absolutely have to have a website, there is no getting around that.
-          Blog regularly. Talk often about your book’s characters, any interesting information you’ve found during research and personal anecdotes.
-          Setup a Facebook page and posts snippets of the artwork, and sample chapters. Again, add people, talk to them, and get to know them.
-          Join the various Kindle forums. They are full of great people looking to help you and promote your work (in return for your help – collaboration is what the internet social networks are all about.)
-          Send ‘advances reader copies’ ARCs to book bloggers. You have to research these to make sure the blogger reads the kind of book you have written and like any submission, include a covering email introducing yourself and your book. Be professional and be polite.

If you love your work, and are prepared to put some effort in, there’s no reason why you can’t see your dark fiction in print or ebooks. Good luck.

Thank you Colin, if anyone has any questions, or any market news they would like to add, please leave a comment.


  1. Could Colin please explain why horror has fallen in popularity regards book sales yet still remains a popular genre for film makers? Eg. the number of horror film festivals possibly outweighs any other genre.

    Many thanks,

    Keith Large, Leicestershire.

  2. Hi Keith,

    Horror is easier to do in films because you have both audio and visual media in which to use to create the 'scares.'

    People like to watch horror films together and enjoy a joint experience.

    Within fiction, it's much harder to achieve the same level of scare as you are relying on just the readers imagination. It's also not a shared medium.

    Also, things like Twilight have weakened the whole genre, and the popularity of the films have had a negative effect overall in the literary genres as publishers seek to publish similar books instead of traditional horror.

    Hope that helps :)

  3. Thanks Colin,

    Very helpful reply.

    Much appreciated,


  4. Enjoyed this guest post. I'm hoping that by the time dark fiction and horror come around again, we'll actually be topnotch in our field.
    Thanks for following me, Maria.


I really appreciate you taking the time to leave me a comment, and I try to reply to every one. Many thanks!

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