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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Problem With Major Publishers and Horror aka Becky Has A Halloween Rant

Happy Halloween. Here is the final 31 Days of Horror post. It’s an ornerey one:

Those of you who regularly read RA for All know that I have been channeling my professional frustrations into my popular Call to Action posts.  They generally run on Mondays and you can read the archive here; however, due to my increased work load during this Halloween season, they have been on hiatus.

That hiatus has come with a price because between the lack of an outlet through those posts AND my annual anger build up with the big five publishers and their dismissal of horror as not worth their time, I am ready for a full blown rant today on Halloween-- my final day of the blog-a-thon.

Hold on to your hats. Here we go...

Look at this screen shot from the Penguin Random House’s main page.  What the what? Where is the horror? This is their main recommendation engine. Will they not even consider recommending any to me?  I don’t know why because I know they have published horror books. For example, Slade House by David Mitchell. It came out last year, it is set during Halloween, it sold well, and it is widely consider an excellent horror option for a wide audience. I wrote this review in Booklist. I would guess that at least 90% of public libraries in America have this book in their collection. They could even use that newer title to build off of other horror titles they have in their stable-- like House of Leaves-- another modern classic.

Instead of promoting that title, I got this email targeted to librarians promoting classic horror titles.  Come on. Give me something fresh and new. We are not stupid, we know about Frankenstein and Dracula. But thanks for insulting our intelligence and our desire to read and suggest modern titles.

This makes me so angry. I don’t mean to only pick on Penguin Random House. It is all 5 of the big publishers. Why do they hate us? More importantly, why do they ignore us?

Some may argue that the big five have imprints that do horror. That’s fine, but why didn’t they give those imprints the spot light leading up to Halloween?

Okay, maybe the answer is they need to focus promoting on the main pages on the newest hottest books. Fine. But what about the library marketing teams? The ones who say they are looking out for us. Really? Hmmm. I don’t think so.

Macmillan’s library team is consider one of the best. So they should be helping us get ready with lists of their awesome new horror titles. Since June of this year year they have had two, big selling, 100%, super scary, horror titles [neither of which they marketed as horror by the way] Pressure by Brian Keene [marketed as a SF thriller] and The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue [marketed as “a suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment”]. But have I seen anything about those two titles leading up to Halloween?

No. Here are the posts they had leading up to Halloween:

Really? Thanks for not helping. In the days leading up to Halloween our biggest requests at libraries are for scary books. You are the library marketing team. You should know that.  I shouldn’t have to tell you. So I get animals, cookbooks, and writers? Yeah, that makes sense. *sigh*


Now it comes back to me.

One of the reasons why I have to work so hard is because they ignore all of our horror readers and their needs. I have met the library marketing people from major publishers, multiple times. They always forget who I am. After their memory is refreshed-- you know I am the one covering your books all over the place only because I care about helping readers-- they ask how they can help me. I say, help by promoting your horror titles better. They respond by offering to throw books at me. I DON'T WANT YOUR FREE BOOKS. I want your help promoting horror. 

Part of the reason they always forget me is that I refuse to suck up to them. I won’t gush over getting free books. They will not get my respect until they stop thinking all library workers want are boxes of free books delivered to our doorsteps. What we want is to help readers. Help us help ALL of our readers.

I am a reviewer of horror for Booklist; my reviews are signed so they know who I am if they cared. I am THE library world’s most visible horror expert. I get 500,000 views a month [on average] on RA for All where I actively publish my regular Booklist horror reviews there. I have proven I can get the word out about their horror titles even when they don’t care. I’m sorry, is our library money not good enough for you?

I gave Slade HousePressure, and The Motion of Puppets all great reviews!!! Macmillan quoted my star review on the page for The Motion of Puppets and for Pressure too! So they saw them. I did a spotlight interview of Brian Keene in Booklist and Pressure made the Top 10 Horror of the year in that same issue. I did the interview with Keene not through any help from Macmillan but only because Keene is a nice guy. I contacted him because I knew he had things to share with library workers. I even donated the money I was paid for that interview to Keene’s favorite charity as a thank you to him for his time. I did not profit from it in any way. I just wanted to connect horror writers with readers.

WHY AM I DOING MORE TO HELP THEIR HORROR AUTHORS THAN THEY ARE???

On the other hand, there are the horror authors. They know I am there to help them. They know that I put horror titles on library shelves. 

The Horror Writer’s Association-- the group representing the authors-- is honoring me as the FIRST EVER librarian special guest of honor at Stoker Con 2017. They are having an entire Librarians' Day to court all of us. This is a big deal. I am on a poster with George R R Martin. This is not a small thing.

The Horror Writers are flying me to California and putting me up in a hotel to help them get horror titles in readers’ hands. But the publishers.....they could care less. I don’t exist to them. And guess what, that means that by extension any of you who help horror readers don’t matter either. And forget your readers themselves. They might as well not exist.

The small presses are constantly reaching out to me. They want to know what I think. They want to know how they can work with library patrons who want horror. They want to get their books in your hands. They want to share their stories. And, their first instinct is NOT to send me piles of books. Their first instinct is to ask how libraries order books, what our patrons want, and if I can help them put the right books on library shelves.

If I didn’t have a platform that could help match books with readers, I wouldn’t be this upset. But my blog and my reviews in Booklist and my 2x a year horror column in Library Journal have proven that I help sell books. I have heard directly from authors that this is the case. Here is an example of a Tweet from author Brian Kirk whose debut We Are Monsters appeared in my 2015 Library Journal column. That is the tip of the iceberg on the thank yous I have received from authors for simply reviewing their books.



The hate that the major publishers have for horror-- and by extension-- its readers, runs so deep that they actively ignore me-- the person who could be their biggest ally, a person who has proven results putting horror books in readers’ hands, a person who accounts for many of the sales of their horror titles to libraries.

Thankfully I am devoted to you, the library workers and library patrons, and I ignore the obvious slight to work to find you the nest books for your readers. But if we only had a tiny bit of help from the major publishers, our job would be a lot easier.

Thank you for letting me rant. Unforntuatley, they all ignore me, so they won’t see this. Horror doesn’t matter to them even though we all know how busy we have been trying to find enough books for our readers this month. 

Now I am going to get ready to celebrate Halloween with my Bernie Sanders and Billie Joe Armstrong dressed kids, attend my last ever elementary school Halloween parade, and host a party for the kids and their friends later tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. It was a pleasure to share this month with you and help you to help your scariest readers.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

Keep up the good fight Becky! I have always wondered why you keep the horror blog separate - it allows people to continue to avoid the genre recommendations entirely. Why not combine the two? This blog is widely read and you would be able to reach more people with recommendations, RA tips for serving this genre base, and advocacy.

All the best and I hope your Halloween was full of fun and hi-jinx!

Becky said...

Thanks Sarah. You make a good point. I honestly keep them separate so that I am not pigeonholed as only the horror person. Most of the training I do is not Horror based.

However, I am getting more requests to do more with that blog so we will see.