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Small Presses Stand Out at Horror Confab
Dorman T. Shindler -- 7/31/00
After a sales slump hit the horror market in the late 1980s, many in the publishing industry pronounced the genre dead. But from all signs displayed at the World Horror Convention in Denver held earlier this season, attended by more than 600 professional writers, editors and publishers from around the globe, the genre is still alive and kicking--albeit with injuries.

What are Stephen King's thoughts on his latest E-venture?

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Small publishers such as Subterranean Press, Cemetery Dance Press and Gauntlet have been doing terrific business. Speaking to that trend, writer David Morrell, who attended WHC 2000, said, "With horror, the small presses are driving the field." As for the sluggish reaction of the larger commercial presses, Morrell conceded, "There has to be a reinvention, not only of horror writers, but a reinvention of how to market them."

Unfortunately, the horror market still suffers from the stigma of that 1980s sales slump. Tor editor Melissa Ann Singer told PW that while her company's output of horror fiction has nearly tripled in the last two years, even that d sn't compare to horror's heyday. "Everybody's sales nosedived in the late 1980s," Singer said. Before the slump, "I could ship half a million copies in paperback of a Ramsey Campbell novel," said Singer. But no more--"despite the fact that his new book is the best thing he's written in 10 years," she said.

Nevertheless, Ellen Datlow, an editor at St. Martin's Press, told PW, "As long as you have an influx of new voices, new writers, you're going to have a healthy field. I just hope that the downturn in the horror market in the last five years hasn't discouraged the writers. Horror is going to continue to sell. Mainstream publishers should pay attention. If the large commercial presses won't take up the slack, the small presses will."

One mainstream publishing line singled out is the New York City-based independent mass market publisher Dorchester Publishing and its Leisure Books imprint, headed by editor Don D'Auria, who was given a special award by the International Horror Guild for his marketing efforts. Datlow noted: "Leisure Books is the only publisher that has a regular horror line. And it's doing very well."

Leisure's new line of horror books has 18 titles in the publishing pipeline for this year, with more to come. D'Auria also told PW that other publishing houses are contemplating their own horror imprints, noting, "It's worked for us, so they're getting ready to test the waters. The demand has always been there. People are really hungry for good horror fiction."

The Bram Stoker winners, the convention's annual awards for excellence in horror writing, included Mr. X by Peter Straub (best novel), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (work for young readers) and I Have No Mouth and Must Scream (audio) by Harlan Ellison (in other media).

Shindler is a freelance writer based in Denver.

Riding with the King

King 'Delighted'with E-Fans
After more than 30,000 of his fans downloaded about 40,000 copies of his new e-book on July 24, Stephen King, bestselling novelist and neophyte e-publisher, said he is satisfied that fans want the book and also expressed a sense of relief about their honesty. More than 75% of his fans paid the $1 fee for the unencrypted e-book, which is being offered for sale on the honor system. In a message posted on his Web site (www.stephenking.com) King also announced the form and the pricing of the next installments of work-in-progress The Plant. King said he will provide more precise figures on downloads of the Plant on July 31.

Despite relying on the honesty of his fans, King admitted, "I have wondered if anybody would ever pay for anything on the Net. It now looks as though people will." He said that the second episode of The Plant will be about 7,000 words and the third will about 12,000 words; each will sell for $1. Episodes 4 through 8 will be 25,000 words each and cost $2.50. The Plant is being published solely by King, without help from his old-media publisher, Simon & Schuster.

His first e-book venture, Riding the Bullet, registered more than 400,000 free downloads, and many e-publishing observers had expressed disappointment with the early numbers for The Plant. However, King seemed quite happy with the initial response and said he plans to give more information on downloads after the book has been available for a week. "We are doing fine," King wrote. "This experiment seems to be working. I am delighted."
--Calvin Reid

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