State of the Horror Genre

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State of the Horror Genre


Ron Brown

Copyright © 2001, 2011, Ron Brown, All Rights Reserved



What happened to the horror genre?


This is a common question, and the usual answers drive those who wish to write in the fear-inspired genre toward the nearest pillow to hide their tears. People who watch the market know that the number of current new horror titles per year is significantly lower than it was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In fact, the 1998 numbers were a little more than half the total of the booming year of 1995.


However, few people realize that the genre is as healthy now as it was in the days immediately preceding Stephen King’s series of bestsellers in the 80’s and 90s. In fact, the low 1998 number is still much higher than any year in the early 80’s, when books such as Pet Cemetery were published. The horror genre has never been very large. It has always been a niche market for those who enjoy the emotion of fear and are entertained by the exploitation of it. Horror has never rivaled suspense or science fiction for number of titles published.


This fact, though, is little consolation to the writer who wishes to break into the publishing world with a new horror novel. However, it must be noted that breaking into publishing is never easy, even in growing genres. Though some of the lesser quality books of the short-lived horror boom would likely not find their way to stands in the current market, there is still a place for good writing and compelling stories.


Furthermore, many stories that would be considered horror by many readers have been reclassified in the changing marketplace. For example, Dean Koontz is now often referred to as a writer of “supernatural suspense,” while other writers are lumped into “dark fiction.” These differences are not entirely in name only; the stories do tend to focus on other aspects of the story as much as fear. Many writers looking for their first sale may consider slightly recasting their story if they face a wall from agents and publishers who do not wish to handle horror.


Lastly, the market for horror in small press publishers is very healthy. Some of these outfits are quite small, and some also do not put out a tremendous product. However, a good number of them will produce a quality book, pay royalties, and perhaps even a small advance. It’s true that going this route does not exactly produce the dream of the beginning writer to quit the day job and write full time, but it is a possible starting point in a writing career for those who love their genre and want to work toward making their living writing horror.