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Writing Horror - Part 1: Things No One Tells You

Hey there,

Resident horror author Sian B. Claven here. I've been thinking about what to do with my blog for ages because I want to do a blog but I can never come up with anything. Recently I've been facing a lot of challenges as a horror author, let alone one from Africa, and I decided that maybe I should blog about what I experience. I'm going to break them down into parts but there won't be a specific order.

First and foremost, this is only my opinion of what I've experienced. Everyone has different walks in life, some more successful than others and everyone does things differently. This blog is just about my journey as a horror author, the things I think I did wrong, the things I think I did right, and things I think you should try if you're interested in joining the dark side.

Horror. There are many sub-genres in horror. I tend to dabble in a few of them, but I'm mostly old school, spooky ghosts, demon-possessed, can they get out horror. Did I intend to be a horror writer? No! In fact, my original book, Ensnared, was meant to be a fantasy adventure book. The problem with being a writer though, and you'll learn it soon enough, is that your characters sometimes take on their own missions and change everything. So I dived headfirst into horror.

In this blog post, there are some things I want to touch on that I wish people had told me about writing horror when I started, especially since I want to be a full-time author as a career.


The income margin is tiny compared to other genres. According to this article, horror makes a sad little $79.6 million dollars compared to its next contender science fiction/ fantasy which earns a whopping $590.2 million and let's not even discussed Romance that hits the all-time high of $1.44 BILLION. It's a small niche market and it's a struggle to get on the radar. I wish someone had let me know that even publishing 23 books, advertising consistently, and promoting myself everywhere - I'm still a little blip of an author in the grand horror scale of things.

I am better than when I started, I used to get so excited about my $3 a month payment cause I sold some books. Yeah, four years of that and you get tired of it pretty quickly. But that was during a time where I didn't know what I was doing. I always earned between $3 - $12 a month because I wasn't doing the right thing. And no one tells you this unless you actually ask for help, and even then you have to get a few opinions because what works for one doesn't work for the other.

I'm still not earning thousands yet, and I'm still not able to quit my day job but it's really improved this year


A lot of people have the misconception that once they put their book out there and people read it, it will spread like wildfire. Do you know how rarely that happens? Also in the horror genre, there are books being released every single day, tons of them across the globe. You are competing with big numbers.

I wish someone had told me that although free advertising will get you some fans and subscribers, the real money is in paid advertising. I've seen the results myself and it's amazing. It makes such a difference.

But what no one tells you is it is HARD! You have to literally study courses to understand the best way to run ads and even then you're going to blow through a couple of $100's before you get the perfect ad that starts generating some income. It is frustrating, if you really can't do it, pay someone to do it for you - but that for me is a waste of money. I'd prefer to do the courses and figure it out myself.

All those authors posting they're making thousands. They do paid advertising. Guaranteed. Start small. I'm at the point where, because of my limited income, I'm not running ads but I'm booking promos with promotional sites like fussylibrarian. It's increased my profit so much that it's unbelievable.


It's really hard to see another author doing really well. Heck, there are authors that have just started releasing books that look like they're doing way better than me and I've been doing this for five years. It's not that I write an inferior product, it just depends on what's popular at the moment (I'm looking at you splatterpunk). Remember they haven't read your book so they can't judge if it's good or bad. The only person you should compete with is YOURSELF and that's to always improve your craft.

Read articles on writing, take courses, check your editor's comments and ask for feedback on how you can improve. You can learn so much.


Don't believe them when they say you don't judge a book by its cover. The first thing a reader see's is your cover. Research your cover carefully, look at what's trending on the top 100 in your category, don't deviate too much if you're not established yet. You need to first attract a fanbase because you can start going all crazy with your covers. Also make sure you click with your designer, having covers that match and are on brand is so important because readers love that.

Editing as well. First, they look at your cover, then they look at your blurb. Is your blurb poorly edited? Too long? Too short? Gives away too much. There are a plethora of Facebook groups where you can post your blurb and ask for advice. The blurb must hook the reader. Because next they take a look inside and if your work has a lot of typos and bad grammar they're not going to give you a chance. And it's worse if they buy the book and discover that because then we're looking at negative reviews. It's hard to recover from that, trust me I know.

Put out a good quality product. Treat this as a business. Be proud of what you're putting out and you will get good results.


Here's a little secret no one told my disappointed heart when I released my first book. The first few days your family and friends buy it and it looks like you sell so many. Then you wait for your adoring fans to rush to get your book and there are crickets. Don't just sit there, write the next one! If your audience sees consistent good quality books being put out, they will definitely cotton on and start following you. A one-book author is no fun guys, what if I really like the book and that's it there's nothing else to read. Build a back catalog that when readers finish on a book they can go back and buy more.

The more GOOD QUALITY books you put out there, there more you're likely to have sales pick up. It's taken me five years to build my back catalog and showeee am I glad that I did it. Often fans finish a book and want to delve into the next one. Especially in series. The Series sell well.


The horror community of authors is really friendly and welcoming for the most part (Aren't there always bad eggs?) and a lot of other authors will be happy to promote you, let you post in their groups, and help you with advice. Don't be a jerk or think you're better than anyone else in the community and you'll find you always have a helping hand when you need a pick-me-up or a boost.


Although I can probably think of a lot more things that I wish I was told (don't print so many damn books it's hard to sell paperbacks internationally from Africa) *cough cough* - I'm going to leave this here for now. If you disagree with something I said I'm all ears, I'd love to hear from you in the comments, or perhaps you'd just like to let me know about something you wished someone had told you?

Until the next Blog

Always Lock Your Doors

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