‘What if No One Cares?’ & Other Very Real Possibilities

In a few short hours I’ll be getting on a plane to head to Indianapolis for HorrorHound Weekend. I’ll be selling books and signing at one of my publisher’s booths (Samhain, who has released all of my full-length novels to date) and enjoying the con, but in truth: I have no idea what to expect and, boy, am I nervous.

Well. I know what to expect.

Although I’ve never attended a HorrorHound Weekend this won’t be my first time at the horror con rodeo (it’s more likely to be my fiftieth, which is a bummer because I lost my punchcard and could have qualified for a free coffee).

What I don’t know is if I’m going to sell many (any?) books.

For the uninitiated, but I’m guessing most of you are initiated if you’ve found this musty corner of the internet, there are really two types of horror conventions:

The biggest category is the movie-centric cons. Shows like Chiller Theatre, Fango’s Weekend of Horrors, Monster Mania, etc. cater to the masses. The attendees are folks who want to meet the stars of today and yesterday and get some 8 x 10 photos signed. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I love that stuff and will most certainly be lining up to meet Larry Cohen, William Sadler and James Remar this weekend, but these aren’t typically the kinds of shows you go to sell books.

Oh sure, there are always a few authors with tables set up at these events. I’m generalizing, but from what I’ve seen, many of these authors are indie (i.e. self-published, which is not a dirty word but I think most who are into it prefer the term “indie”), new to the scene and trying to slug it out with a less than receptive audience. I respect that, but you also don’t see a lot of these guys and gals as permanent con vendors and I’m guessing many times that’s because their sales are not enough to justify renting the table.

The other type of con is your fiction-centric show, which most times function more as trade shows and retreats more than they do actual, open to the public, cons. Shows like this (World Horror, Readercon, etc.) are awesome, but also way smaller. The first con I sold books at was KillerCon (which is sadly no longer running) and it was a great experience. Even though you’d think there would be too much competition at an event like this, where the dealer’s room is almost entirely books and most of the attendees are authors themselves, I nearly sold out my first novel (Video Night). With John Skipp’s help (he was VERY vocal in his support of the book) I also moved all the copies of Tribesmen I’d brought and that was the first day, I had people coming up to me on Saturday and Sunday asking if I had anymore.

There are exceptions to this two-category system, of course. Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA is kind of an odd duck, not only because they have a concert series to go along with their con, but also because they attract high-level horror fiction names. The New England Horror Association sets up a table, sells from their members, Shock Totem sometimes has a table, Sarah Langan attended one year, and Jack Ketchum is a pretty reliable fixture. But even at this quasi-fiction-friendly event, 99% of the people were there for the film and TV stuff.

I also hear that Scares That Care, which just had its inaugural event, has gone a long way towards bridging the gap and I look forward to their hybrid model spreading.

If KillerCon was my first and last experience sitting at a table trying to sell books (outside of a half-day at the NEHW table once and an hour at the last WHC), then why am I so anxious to attend HorrorHound?

Because I know that one time at KillerCon was an aberration, not the norm, and I know that now I’m going to be fighting an uphill battle, competing for people’s money against autographs and toys and grey-market DVDs.

So what am I going to do this weekend? Well I’m going to be hanging out with other Samhain authors (Tim Waggoner, Mick Ridgewell, David Searls, Jonathan Janz and John Everson) so I’m sure that will be a big part of it. But what I’m really there to do is hustle.

My friend Scott Cole laid out these postcards for me, and I think they state my feelings about horror fiction fairly bluntly:

keep horror strong AC

On the reverse side is a 3×3 block of my covers with my website listed at the bottom, but I think I’d be handing these cards out even if they weren’t self-promotional, even if they had the work of other authors on the back.

I think it’s my duty as a reader, when I come to these shows where the hot ticket items are Funko Pop! dolls and semi-nude stills of Jamie Lee Curtis, to proselytize a bit.

Yeah, I’m trying to sell my own books and build an audience, but I’ll also be repping my Stephen Graham Jones The Last Final Girl t-shirt, recommending Eraserhead Press and the bizarro scene to any people who seem to enjoy loitering around the Troma booth, trumpeting the work of Laird Barron, Cody Goodfellow and Ellen Datlow’s collections to anyone who’s sporting some Cthulhu gear.

Because if there are more readers there’s not only a bigger perspective audience for my own hack work, there is a horror scene at-large that’s cooler, savvier and demanding more out of all their entertainment.

And what’s my sales goal? At what threshold will I deem the show a success?

I want to sell one book.

I want to sell a book to a kid that’s going to take it and read it. Maybe a kid that hasn’t picked up a book before, is just at the con because he or she loves The Walking Dead or something and thought it would be fun to come out.

And then, in my head, I will envision that kid reading more books, reading widely and voraciously in and out of genre, even though horror’s always going to own their heart. The next time that kid comes to a con I hope that there’s a Samhain horror table, or a few individual authors set up, and I want that kid to comb the dealer’s hall, looking for their next read. 

If I can do that? Well, then I actually don’t really care if anyone else in Indiana cares.

Okay…maybe two books.

I hope to see you there.

BTW, the paperback of one of those books I talked about last time is now up for sale.

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