Saskatchewan, Canada–based indie horror publisher DarkLit Press, helmed by Andrew Robert and distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Ingram, has announced a series of new initiatives in recent months. In July, it established two imprints, Truborn Press and Hedone Books. Truborn will focus on “weird, strange horror,” according to managing editor Kristina Osborn. Sex-positive imprint Hedone will “marry a love of horror with erotica and romance,” according to DarkLit author and editor Caitlin Marceau.
DarkLit also announced a partnership, known as the Unholy Alliance, with audiobook company Fright Night Audio, a venture from audiobook narrator Joe Hempel. And on October 10, it touted a new strategic partnership with Independent Artists Group. According to a statement, working with IAG will “open new avenues for authors and their works” across the performing arts, improving DarkLit creators’ access to artist representation and film and TV possibilities.
Increased attention to the horror genre spurred Robert’s interest in creating new imprints and fortifying industry connections. Robert sees a growing demand for bizarre and romance-driven content in horror, as well as for racial and gender diversity among horror authors and characters. “I spend a lot of time reviewing books and being engaged with readers, and I know for certain my readers love horror-romance and even erotica,” he said. “I’m very open to hearing from anybody, and we are looking for marginalized voices. We want different perspectives, and I think that’s what readers want as well.”
The new imprints will develop nightmare fuel in those areas. Hedone and Truborn will publish edgy “works that aren’t afraid to go outside what the Big Five are publishing” in horror, Robert said, including supernatural, LGBTQ, and psychological content. “A lot of our authors expand outside of the genre, and our readers are hungry for it.”
At Hedone, Marceau, who lives in Montreal, intends to “carve out a space for people who enjoy dark and horrifying stories that will really upset you,” with the addition of sex and romance. DarkLit has published her queer novella This Is Where We Talk Things Out, and a collection of psychological and body horror about womanhood, and will publish her debut novel, It Wasn’t Supposed to Go Like This, in November. Marceau seeks manuscripts, art, and audio focused on “queer erotic fright,” and has signed three authors so far for 2024.
Osborn, who lives in western Washington state, came to DarkLit as a cover designer with expertise in digital media and a preference for what she calls “flip-your-world-upside-down” surrealism. She’s on the lookout for “hidden gems,” especially from people of color, disabled authors, and queer writers.
“Social media and marketing is my knack,” Osborn said. “I tweeted, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of putting a weird horror anthology together,’ and the activity was ridiculous—it was so much more than I thought it would be.” Truborn’s first publication will be a novel by Kenya Moss-Dyme, slated for 2024.
DarkLit offers novels, novellas, and stories in print, digital, and audio formats, building accessibility into its titles, and they sign authors from all over. Robert has authors from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. “I wanted to accommodate everybody I possibly could,” he said, noting that he is legally blind and appreciates multimedia options. “I’m in the process of getting everything into large print,” he said, while remaining attentive to affordability.
Robert brings audiences to DarkLit’s website with free-to-read downloads, using e-books platform BookFunnel, and offers perks through a subscription-based newsletter, Deadly Dispatch, that also gives readers access to three anthologies. He just concluded a preorder campaign for a standalone collection of dark speculative fiction with pirate themes, DarkLit Sails, which includes titles by Damien Casey, Alyson Hasson, and Zachary Rosenberg.
“We utilize marketing tactics of successful authors who don’t want to go the traditional publishing route,” Robert said, “and we connect with readers through other authors that use BookFunnel as well. It’s been a massive way for us to drive newsletter subscribers and retain an audience that we might not normally reach.”
Bookstores are an essential part of DarkLit’s planning too. Robert estimated that DarkLit has a presence in “2,400 to 3,000 bookstores in the U.S. and around 1,400 in Canada.” Readers who buy a print copy receive a coupon for the digital download. In addition, DarkLit titles find readers through subscription book boxes sold by queer-owned horror indie Little Ghosts Books (based in Toronto) and by Latinx- and woman-owned website Dark Remedies.
“We stand in solidarity with bookstores and small businesses, and we want to do everything that we can to support them,” Robert said. “If bookstores want to cut deals, we’re willing to offer books at cost for book boxes. We want to do everything we can to get readers in the door for them.”
DarkLit audiobooks are on the way through Hempel’s Fright Night Audio, too. Hempel started up audio company Fireside Horror, which was acquired in 2022 and became Fireside Audio. In July, he began Fright Night Audio and he is working with DarkLit, Wicked House Publishing, and more than 20 independent authors. “I wanted a place where indie horror, fans, authors, and narrators can come together, create content, and get more appreciation,” Hempel said.
Robert believes the time is now for horror across platforms and genres: “Our niche is really breaking out at this at this moment.”