September 14, 2010

Author Guest Post: Call Me Anything, Just Call Me By Scott Nicholson

If you’ve been following the blog tour, you probably know I am not a very normal person.

But now we have a name for it: “Paranormal.” Heck, in the old days, they called it “horror.” Then “supernatural” was cool. Then vampires came in, quit being scary, and we changed it to “paranormal.” Which is actually not very descriptive or definitive if you think about it.

But the trick of a writer is to get the potential reader not to hate the book before the reader even gives it a chance. That happens a lot when somebody sticks “Horror” on the side of your book. I wish I had a book sale for every time I was at a store signing and someone said, “I don’t read horror. I only read Stephen King and Dean Koontz.”

My friend Jonathan Maberry, who has been a very generous supporter, asked me to write a blurb for his first novel for Kensington Books, where at one time I was pretty established. Meaning I had survived the second book, the place many writers lose their careers. I talked with Jonathan about the trilogy he sold, and he said, “My agent pitched it as a supernatural thriller, not horror. That’s the trick.”

The differences between the treatment of his books and mine were glaring. And I don’t say that with jealousy, because he is a talented, hard-working writing with decades of experience who deserves success if anyone does. In the monthly sales catalog, my “horror” books were a couple of lines of copy in the back, while Jonathan’s got full-color spreads in the middle. At the time Kensington was “slot publishing,” meaning they released two horror titles every month, whether anyone wanted them or not. Most of the store orders were based on the slots and it didn’t really matter that much which names were on the books.

“We ordered eight cases of sausage last month and only two of them went bad, so let’s try six this time,” was the reasoning.

I am grateful for the experience, and as more time goes by I realize how fortunate I was to even get published at all. But I also learned a good bit about perception and marketing categories and how they affected everything from the publisher’s reception to the bookstore presentation to the reader reaction. So publishers got smarter about appealing to as many people as possible.

(Subliminal message—my paranormal thriller/horror/dark fantasy/urban fantasy/bestseller The Red Church is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents).

Somewhere along the line, romance writers who used vampires, werewolves, and ghosts got the label “paranormal writers,” oddly enough at the same time paranormal investigation, or ghost hunting, became a fad. So paranormal is something “outside the range of science or explanation,” while supernatural means “existence beyond the visible or observable laws of the universe.” If anyone can tell me the difference between those two, that might help. But both seem more mysterious than horror, I have to admit.

Then urban fantasy came along, and it seemed to be about the same as paranormal romance. The explanation I’ve heard is that “urban fantasy” means the story has a modern sensibility. I think we’re all confused at this point. I was on an Amazon forum for science fiction yesterday some people were complaining because a search for “science fiction” kept bringing up vampire books. That is, paranormal romance and urban fantasy, because you can’t really find any vampire books that are horror now.

Further clouding those people who love categorization is just about every writer on the planet who was writing paranormal romance, horror, urban fantasy, supernatural thrillers, science fiction and plain old fantasy-fantasy starting featuring characters 16 or 18, and suddenly everything is “Young Adult,” even though the story elements are the same. The YA I’ve read actually seems more mature than the other categories because you can’t fool kids like you can adults. Kids insist on honesty.

I miss the old days when I was listed fourth on Amazon’s “horror” list—behind Anita Blake, a Battlestar Galactica tie-in, and a Scooby Doo book. Check today’s bestseller list for “horror” and it probably has “Twilight” on top. Heck, who wants to compete with that, anyway?

Life is just easier when I call my novels “paranormal thrillers.” I don’t think it has become trendy yet, so I still have a couple of years to prepare for being cool. And I almost always have teen characters, but also adult viewpoints, so I can’t cheat and claim to be purely YA, though everything I write is between PG-13 and R.

Heck, I don’t care what you call me. Maybe I’ve been around long enough to just be “Scott Nicholson.” I’ve been called worse.

But let’s say I write “best sellers.” That’s one I could live with.

Scott Nicholson is author of Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, and 10 other novels, five story collections, four comics series, and six screenplays. A journalist and freelance editor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, he often uses local legends in his work. This tour is sponsored by Amazon, Kindle Nation Daily, and Dellaster Design.

To be eligible for the Kindle DX, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. Visit all the blogs on the tour and increase your odds. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free e-books to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. And, hey, buy The Red Church and put me in the Top 100 and I’ll throw in another random Kindle 3 giveaway. Thanks for playing. Complete details at

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Bibliophile said...

When I review a book about, say, vampires or ghosts, I never know whether to call it "supernatural" or "paranormal". I thought it was because I (for whom English is a second language) was missing some nuance, but clearly native speakers have the same problem.

I think you are quite right about the problem with the horror label. Many people, when they see the word, probably expect something nauseating with blood and guts and unspeakable monsters like Cthulu, whereas the paranormal and supernatural labels evoke fright and thrills and monsters they can relate to.

DarcyO said...

Yes, I can see how the term "horror" can be off-putting to some readers. Much prefer "paranormal thrillers."

dlodden at frontiernet dot net

Neal Hock said...

Great post, Scott, a.k.a "Best Seller." :P I've often wondered about the labels books get. It always confuses me when a book with a hunky, sweaty "vampire" with ripped abs that I'm jealous about on the cover is right beside an Edward Lee book. Hmm. I think it mostly comes from our tendency as humans to pigeon-hole things. We have to name stuff, to be able to sort it out in our brains. It's much easier when we can slap a label on it and throw it into a specific box (along with all our pre-conceived notions) in our mind, whether the thing fits in the box or not.

Anywho, I'm beginning to ramble.

Did I mention "great post"?


Douglas Dorow said...

The categorization of books is hard. As a reader I don't know if the author I'm looking for is in Mystery, Thriller, Horror, Fiction...

It's easy to find you in Amazon or Kindle. I just need to know your name and I can find all of your books. No matter the category. That's why your brand and name are so important. And hopefully your tour helps with both.

Good luck.


Michael L. Martin Jr. said...

The problem with appealing to as many people as possible through the means of labels is that categories get created without anyone specifically defining the criteria that makes them up (because it's too hard). So you end up with everything almost fitting into every category...until you make a new category.

Kinda like how Pluto went from minding it's own business just being a normal ol' planet and got demoted. And then some scientists, coming to it's rescue, folded their arms, stuck out their tongues and continued to refer to it as a planet, forcing everyone to throw up their hands and describe all Pluto-sized objects as a "Plutoid". New category.

Sometimes things don't want to be placed in a box. But the many labels seem to work, I guess. Or maybe the average non-scientist (read: readers of books) don't care as much as the industry thinks. I don't. If the blurb or word-of-mouth makes it sound intriguing to me, I'll read it regardless of the category pimp-slapped on it. But that's just me.

The only reason any category turns people off is because they exist in the first place.


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Hmm. My earlier entry didn't make it. Well, here it is again. I think I said it before: I dislike ALL labels. They are missleading and limiting. Most good books cross genres anyway. When I chose a book to buy, I go to the Fiction section (the only label which makes sense), check out the cover of a book, read the blurb, and then decide what I'm in the mood for. I don't care if it's "Paranormal," "Normal," "Thriller," "Romance," or whatever, as long as it sounds interesting.
Another great stop on Scott's tour!

Morgan Mandel said...

No matter what label you put on a book, it can't exactly describe it. Bottom line is a reader has to pick it up and read a page or two. If they like it, it doesn't matter what the label is, though it helps a little for steering in the right direction.

Morgan Mandel

bunkercomplex said...

Watching Battlestar Galactica (the newest series) has taught me that labeling something into a genre doesn't really do justice in describing that show or book.

bunkercomplex @ gmail . com

Ashley said...

Nice blog post!

Ashley's Bookshelf

Regge Ridgway said...

Nobody would ever call you paranormal Scott. I did date a paralegal once. Reg

Cathy M said...

I've ended up reading all kinds of books in these genres at one time or another. Now I just check for a storyline that grabs me by the first chapter, with interesting characters and some kind of a plot that makes sense (to me anyway), lol.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Candace said...

Yeah, I don't read horror. But I DO read the Anita Blake books, and I've read a lot of other books that are technically horror, but they are labeled urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or something along those lines. I guess I have in my head that horror is too scary for me. Hmm... maybe I've just grown up and it's not anymore...
candace_redinger at yahoo dot com

Candy's Creations said...

Another great blog post

Nickname unavailable said...

I am a super-normal-horror reader I guess. I read books that frighten me whether it's about ghosts, demons, vampires, or crazy people. That said: What happened to the normal vampires? I really do not like the direction they are headed in. lol. I don't read love stories and I don't read young adult. These new vampire books coming out now are very misleading. However, I was sucked into a young adult book not long ago by the name of Witch and Wizard. I am a fan of James Patterson and realized about half way through that my 12 year old neice could be reading the same book, and low and behold it was on her accelerated reading list at school. I admit it was good and I finished it.

Rabid Fox said...

While I must plead guilty to carrying my own prejudices towards certain genres--though I have been actively working at destroying those ignorant preconceptions--I am still amazed at the snide and dismissive attitude levied upon horror literature. Especially when you consider the vibrant history of the genre. Such is the case when many things occur of which I disapprove--I blame Hollywood. :)

lorraine_lanning said...

Horror is NOT my thing in any way but I have been expanding my genre reading since getting my Kindle, that's why Scott is on my list.

I've always loved historical fiction which got me into Steve Berry's history-based thrillers which have lead me to general thrillers with terrorists blowing up NYC. I can see moving from there into a different kind of scary with Scott's books.

The vampire trend is really annoying, especially since anything like that in romance is now XXX-rated. I avoid it like the plague.

lorraine_lanning said...

Oops, my entry:


Rabid Fox said...

Like Lorraine, I forgot to add contact info. *blush*

e-mail: rabidfox[at]

Randy said...

I'm half-way through The Red Church. It's is a great read people especially for $0.99!

chey said...

Great post!

chey127 at hotmail dot com

Jason Fedelem said...

Still following around.

I guess I just dont relate to this kind of writing, although a lot of people do. I tend to read historical fiction, or non fiction. The fiction I do read is more along the lines of John Grisham.

web at jasonfedelem dawt com

Eric said...

I love "horror" or "paranormal" or "YA" or whatever they want to call it today. And I agree with Scott - let's just call his books "best sellers". :)

calseeor (at) gmail (dot) com


Bridget is a good luck person for me. now all i have to do is get her to make the font size LARGER so i can read it withoutthe magnifying glass.

aw, Scot, you didn't dress for this! sniff...

Heather said...

I don't really use labels. They don't work anymore. At one point a long time ago, I would have labeled your books horror too, but to me that isn't a bad thing. Like I said in my reviews, you remind of King and Koontz in that aspect, but you have your own very unique writing style. I used to try to find books searching for urban fantasy - for me that was Laurell K Hamilton, Sherilyn Kenyon, and Kim Harrison. I put modern day vampires in that category. At our library they used to be classified under science fiction, but looking that up was hard because I don't do the Star Trek scene and books along those lines are all there too.

I don't know, however you classify you, you're fabulous!

Estella said...

When I walk into a bookstore, I have to look in all categories. So often the books are mis-categorized. Why not just say fiction or non-fiction and shelve them by author?

Jeff said...

It is in the library where these slots/categories/labels can be the most frustrating. I looked in the section labeled MYSTERY for quite a while one evening to find the next book in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series only to give up and finally use the card catalog (now on computer! - we're quite modern here in my little town). It reminded me of the resignation I have felt many a Christmas in finally consulting the directions that came with the new toy that I could not figure out. Someone had decided to shelve a few of her mystery books in FICTION. Occasionally their only copy of a book that I am looking for is found in the LARGE PRINT section. It is a treat in the library, though, finding really good books that are physically near the ones I am reading. Even those by the same author. I was introduced to "Lee Nez" novels that were among my favorite "Ella Claw" novels. Lee Nez is the vampire/navaho cop character in novels also written by Aimee Thurlo. He (Lee Nez) has a few requiremants as a vampire that are not common in many other books. There is a lot of diversity in the vampires who live in books (as opposed to the one who lives next door to me). The "Twilight" vampires, for instance, do not morph into bats, like the great visuals in Scott's story, "The Vampire Shortstop." Then Jerry is a lot more vulnerable, isn't he?

I might have mentioned in an earlier post that the Horror label had turned me off to your books initially. When young, my friend Curtis was into horror movies, big time, and he enjoyed scaring me with a model human skeleton hand. I, therefore, decided that horror was not for me. I guess that is why I have steered clear of any horror-referenced thing now for about 50 years. Wow! I've just had a breakthrough! So not only am I enjoying your tour and the comments made by others, but I've been helped emotionally! Cool!

Jeff White

Jason said...

Loving the blog tour.

Weston said...

I had the same problem with labeling my first book initially. There are so many varied genres now that most books don't come close to fitting into just one or two. They have gotten too specific, and so are being duplicated based on subtle variations. I miss the day when genre was only a sign over a shelf, used to direct you to books you might be interested in at that time. Now you need a card catalog to even figure out where something might be in a store. I think they should create a locator app for books in particular chains of books stores so that you can find your way. Or, you can always do as a few others here have stated and use "Scott Nicholson's" brand name to search on Amazon. My point is, it has gotten so bad that genres are no longer helpful. They are more of a hindrance now and it is easier to find another way to search for the book than figure out how to navigate genres.

Setting my ranting aside, I enjoyed your comment on being a writer of “best sellers.” I think that’s one all writers could live with. Let's just hope there's enough room for all of us up at the top.

linz said...

I love this blog tour! Thanks!

Jo said...

Just stopping by.

Jo Ann

Betty: Reflections with Coffee said...

Semantics! Enjoyed reading what you said about paranormals. Makes me think of paraprofessionals (teacher aides) or paralegals or paramedics. Maybe para means "sub" but the working world couldn't exist without them!
Will go search out your other posts. Enjoyed reading this one.

bmcbroom at gmail dot com

Monster A Go-Go said...

Zowie, Scott! You were in 4th place just BELOW a Scooby Doo book on the charts once? That's groovy (but you would have made it to 3RD place if it weren't for those meddling kids!).

Horror? Supernatural thrillers? Paranormal thrillers? What's in a label? But always read the fine print (it's a little known fact that traditional printed books have an amazing amount of fiber...yet, aren't very tasty...whereas Kindle versions of books are calorie-free and totally tasteless!).

Don't worry so much about getting labeled. Once people discover you, well...they don't forget you (try as they might...). You wrote: "Heck, I don’t care what you call me. Maybe I’ve been around long enough to just be 'Scott Nicholson.' I’ve been called worse."

You HAVE been called worse---many times. Look at how many times people have mistakenly called you "Chupacabra"--the mythical goat-sucking creature of Latin American culture. How wrong can people be? Especially since, although you have a strong and unnatural attraction to goats, sucking them is not what you have in mind. And yet, time and again, people see, point and scream "CHUPACABRA!!!!" It's very sad...

Chin up, buckeroo. :)

See ya at your next blog stop.


bluefrog said...

Labels suck, normal is overrated, you write great stories whatever you choose to call them, and I still want to win a kindle :)

Kippoe said...

Another great post just purchased As I Die Lying cant wait to dig into it

Andrea I said...

I'm enjoying the tour.

Brenda said...

When I'm two years out from being cool, will you please pass along your cheat sheet? I had no idea that a label made such a huge difference in catalog placement or store orders based on slots. Yikes.
varbonoff22 at cox dot net

Diana said...

So thankful for your emails so I can keep up. :)

DouglasHutch said...

This is another great post, Scott. I have to admit that the proliferation of genre titles is a bit daunting, and worse, seems of late to muddy the waters rather than clear them. Personally the whole genre business tends to leave me cold; more often than not it feels too constricting to me as a writer for sure, and possibly as a reader as well.

I suspect you're correct about the YA business also. Some of the novels I've read recently that had the most truth to relay in a straightforward manner were certainly labelled YA. Perhaps we all have something to learn from those.

Douglas Hutcheson
logos_news (@) hotmail (dot) com

Scooter said...

I used to really love ghost stories, but it's getting harder to find stories that I can get into. A lot of what I find should just be categorized as "Weird" or "Stupid." Some of it I tried I felt as though I needed to be strung out on something just to understand it. I guess with eBooks, I'd feel a little better payer 99 cents for a stinker than eight bucks.


Karine Traverse said...

Awesome tour!

Stephen James Price said...

Scott, we are all thankful that you are not "normal." Your books would certainly be less interesting if you were,

Icedream said...

Loved your subject today because I've old school and just trying to figure out all the labels put on books today too. I remember horror and sci-fi and fantasy. I suppose it's a good thing that the industry has decided to break it down and be more specific- then you are more likely to know where the storyline is going to fall. I just need to catch up. Now I just have to figure out "cyberpunk" and "steampunk". :)

Anonymous said...

I like what you say about YA, that you have to be dead honest to write for them.

Nadine stacypilot at yahoo dot com

byonge said...

I bought and read "The Skull Ring," which was a very entertaining read. Hopefully I helped move it up in the standings.

librarypat said...

Sometimes it is difficult to know what to call a work. Books that are technically considered Urban Fantasy are paranormals. I never liked the Horror label. Actually I never liked what I considered horror. The main goal seems to be to scare you spitless and give you nightmares. That may seem like a reasonable goal for some, but I want more. Not to be more frightened, but a story that makes sense, good characters, a real plot. So many horror books/movies don't have any of that.
A horror story doesn't have to be a paranormal. Any more, a paranormal doesn't have to be horror.
I can see why you are a bit conflicted. I'm almost more confused now than when I started.

Good luck with the blog tour.

librarypat AT comcast DOT net

Inanna said...

There are still true "horror" fans out here. My largest Kindle collection is "horror" by far. :)

inannajourney at

Ima said...

I like almost anything - just not gory horror! Enjoying this blog tour!

dreamer dot ima at gmail dot com

booklover0226 said...

Horror is one of my favorite genere. But I can't handle two horror books back-to-back!

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Pink Panther said...

Yeah, you are right... horror sounds... well, horrible. But paranormal thriller? Sounds simply fantastic! :)
You can reach me at

deanna said...

I would LOVE a Kindle DX. Thanks for the opportunity to win one! :)

P.S. Click on my name for my contact info. ;)

Sharon S. said...

I am a reader of horror, PNR and UF. The more I read the more I get the difference between PNR and UF and there is a difference. The first few Antia Blake novels could be considered horror. Some pretty horrible stuff happened, but then they became sex books and the story kind of disappeared, which made me sad cause I loved the character. Reading your Red Church now and will be trying some of your other stuff!

brik said...

I bet these books change 'labels' over time. Visit a a used bookstore and check out the spines of some paperbacks. An older copy by an author just starting out may say Mystery or Horror or Romance on the spine but a newer copy of the same title may just say Fiction. Mainstreaming.

{I must say that this blog was a little hard for me to read. I don't know if it was the color scheme or the fonts or the what...}


Kristie said...

Paranormal encompasses so much. Wow!! "Horror" has such a connotation. I think for most people that "gore" is a word associated with "horror". I prefer psychological horror myself.. a la Alfred Hitchcock.


Gail said...

Hmmm, I just tried to buy "The Red Church" but Amazon told me I'd already bought it. Why did I do that? Scott are you putting subliminal messages in your posts again???
Just kidding.
Gail in Florida
cowgirl3000 at gmail dot com

Paperback Writer said...

Its true, the genre catagories titles always change to exclude and include things... heheee

Paperback Writer (aka Holly)

Tom said...

Thanks for the post Scott.


tztomfromcali _ at _ gmail _ com

Stefanie said...

Huh. I didn't realize labels could be such a hinderance. Interesting!

Stefanie said...

Huh. I didn't realize labels could be such a hinderance. Interesting!

Margay said...

Scott, you always manage to hit on some very interesting topics. Labels can be just as confusing for the reader as well as the writer because, some times, you just don't know what section of the bookstore to check for your reading preferences!


A.P. Fuchs said...

The label market is a tricky one. One false move and readers complain about being misled. The problem is, it seems, some of the labeling is so specific. It can be very frustrating. Paranormal thriller. I like that. I remember a time when if someone asked me what kind of books I wrote and I’d say horror, they’d make a face and take a step back. So now I’ve stuck with “supernatural thriller” for some of my stuff, and downright “monster fiction” for others. And, of course, “superhero fiction” for my Axiom-man series. At least with those, I don’t have people trying to get away from me.

stacey said...

wow Don't know If I Did this one.Well I'm Here now.did I Miss enything.LOL

Kaitlyn (Kaitlyn in Bookland) said...

I find that hardly anything fits perfectly into a label. People don't and books sure don't!


Kaitlyn (Kaitlyn in Bookland) said...

I find that hardly anything fits perfectly into a label. People don't and books sure don't!


EVA SB said...

As a teenager I read books I though of as horror but soon they were being classed as supernatural. Now I find that everything is paranormal in one this is great as I don't really believe in such classification but the range is now just too broad to be meaningful.[@]gmail[.]com

Spot said...

As always, I enjoyed your post. The best advice I've been given lately is to write first, then figure out where it fits in. I think trying to stay in one genre or sub-genre while writing is too hard.

And yes, those "I don't read horror" people amaze me too.


GMR said...

Personally for me....there are WAY to many sub-genre's out there today. Honestly, it's hard to find a book sometimes when they break it down too meticulously. For me, if I like the look and sound of a book, it doesn't really matter what genre it's been put into...why? Because it has grabbed my attention and really, what more can you ask for?


Shannon Lee said...


Scott since when are any of us normal? Let's face it, writers are not cut from the same cloth! LOL

I cannot wait to see what else you have in store. As well, thank you very much again for your editing services from a few years back! You really helped me out with my novel!

Shannon Lee

hendy said...

So they key is marketing-kind of like it's not what you know but who you know? Thanks for the insight.
hmhenderson AT yahoo DOT com

Greg loves Horror Books said...


Here's to you and a multitude of bestsellers!

Thank you for the tour,
--Greg the Undead Rat

theundeadrat (@) gmail (.) com

Greg loves Horror Books said...


Here's to you and a multitude of bestsellers!

Thank you for the tour,
--Greg the Undead Rat

theundeadrat (@) gmail (.) com

Linda Kish said...

I am a GFC follower Count me in, please.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

author Scott Nicholson said...

Thanks for entering, everyone--entires here now capped at 71.

@Doug, Michael, the labels get applied for the convenience of marketers. It's relatively recent. Stephen King wasn't published as "horror." he was published as "fiction." Then the "horror genre" sprang up with al those bad 80s books, and suddenly King was writing horror even though it was the same thing he was writing before.

@Jeff, I am glad you fought past the "horror" label to try my stories. It's taken a lot of energy during my career. But i think the Internet will make it easier to narrow choices to our interests. You can search "vampires" without having to care whether they are science fiction, romance or fantasy, and then go from there.

@Douglas, publishers of the past few decades have had a huge influence on both what gets released and what it is called, and I think all this is changingh rapidly as all the "unclassifiable" books get indie published. I don't know if they will be easy to find, but there will be a lot of them!


stacythemagnificentmommy said...


hancoci_s at msn dot com

coriwestphal said...

I've never heard of Scott Nicholson, or his books before. This is a great way to get your name out there!

coriwestphal at msn dot com

Maidenveil said...

sounds interesting!


vindel said...

Wonderful idea!


Miellyn said...

Jeannine D

CherylS22 said...

Thanks for a chance to win a Kindle!
megalon22 at yahoo dot com

Karina said...