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 http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/blogtour.htm