Con Game

Want the low down on attending a con as an author? Look no further. It’s one stop shopping time.

Part 1– How to prepare.

Part 2– What it will cost.

Part 3– What you can earn.

Part 4– How you can sell.

Dive in and I’ll see you at the next convention. If I’ve already met you at one, your picture may be on these pages.

The Only Thing Constant…

Last Friday, my publisher, Samhain Horror announced they were closing shop. It was like announcing a death in the family.

Dark InspirationV1

In 2011, Don D’Auria was the editor for the line. The man was already legendary in the horror community. He accepted my manuscript for Dark Inspiration and it became one of the first six books the horror line released. I went from writing in my dining room to being published next to Ramsey Campbell. I wondered how that could possibly be true.

Many months later a box of new books arrived on my doorstep. I opened it up and there was my name on the cover. Every author knows that mind-blowing experience.

Horrorfind 2012


A few months after that, I attended the Horrorfind convention in Gettysburg at the Samhain table. I met other authors from the imprint, Ron Malfi, David Bernstein, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland, John Everson, Damien Angelica Walters, Mick Ridgewell. I remember sitting with all of them at dinner and wondering how the hell anyone let me into this amazing group. The whole first year of being a published author was a whirlwind.

Since then, Samhain has published five other novels and a novella I’d written. Other authors with the imprint diversified their releases at other presses. But they were far more prolific than I. One novel a year seemed to be my pace. And I liked having a home. I wanted to be part of helping grow the brand, and I liked Samhain. Don was a great editor. The production staff was wonderful. No one ever asked me to change a title. Every cover for each book came from a design I submitted. And all the authors got paid. Every month.

If something isn’t broken…

But something was broken. Sales. A truly phenomenal group of talented authors couldn’t muster the kind of breakthrough sales numbers they deserved. And I know. I read most of them and their work was so good that it made me cringe reading mine. I don’t know enough about the marketing end of the business to know why these authors never caught fire. But without those flames, Samhain couldn’t build the head of steam it needed to move forward. Unlike other publishers who’ve failed due to mis-management, this one just seemed to have been pounded flat by market forces.

Number 1 ghost story

Sadly, this poor sales record wasn’t true for me. A recent 99 cent promotion for that first born, Dark Inspiration, made it a #1 Amazon Best Seller for almost a week, drove continuing sales afterward, and had raised the sales of the rest of my Samhain works.

number 2 horror

I even gave Stephen King a run for his money. Maybe a sprint. A step? Okay, he didn’t notice. But seriously, the company might not have seen the light at the end of tunnel, but I saw it bright and clear.


So my next novel, The Portal will not be released this June. I’d just approved the cover and was really getting excited for the debut. Now the artwork is like one of those promo posters for a movie that never got made. The manuscript will need to find a new home, and I’m daunted by the low adoption rate when you are picky about what family you join.

I’ve gotten some sage advice to look at this as an opportunity. I’ll soon have the rights back to seven books, one unpublished. I also have finished YA and thriller manuscripts to shop around. Self-publishing has worked for me in the past. (My horror ranking on Amazon has always been lower than my sci-fi ranking from my self-published works.) Next year at this time, I could be in a much better, bigger publishing place.

We’ll see. I’m trying to rush through the Five Stages of Mourning and Grief as quickly as I can. I guess this post is part of that process. Lucky for me I have the support of my wife, my friends, the other former (sniff!) Samhain authors, and the readers who enjoyed what I’d written.

If you want one of these future collector’s item Samhain editions, drop by my tables at the LA Festival of Books in April, Scares that Care in Williamsburg, VA in July, or Megacon in Orlando in May. As they say, when they are gone, they’re gone.

Samhain author on backpack

At one of the Horrorhound conventions, Samhain gave us a pin, like we’d pledged a fraternity, which I guess we all had. It’s been on my travel bag for a while now. It may be some time before I take it off.

Christmas on Q Island

Copy editors are excellent. They have the detail-oriented personality to read through a text, catch every typo, flag every incorrect reference, and erase any continuity errors. Their value cannot be underestimated and no book should EVER be sent out to the world without one.

Copy editors are also on the lookout for the publisher, keeping them from being legally entangled in some mess, especially a copyright issue. Q Island raised that red flag a number of times, all about the same thing.


The lead character, Melanie Bailey, has an autistic son, Aiden. His autism brings on terrible panic attacks, and Melanie can calm him by singing to him.

When he was still just two years old, before his diagnosis, Melanie and her husband didn’t know what to do to calm this poor, sleepless child who seemed in constant distress. Then a song came on the radio and Aiden just relaxed, relaxed enough to finally go to sleep after an exhausting day. Their prayer was answered. Since then, Melanie used that song to calm Aiden in the most stressful circumstances. The first time he heard it was in December. It was a Christmas carol. So Melanie sometimes sings a Christmas carol year round.

Well, every time she sings the song in the book, the copy editor comments stain the margins like spilled wine, reviewing all the dire consequences possible when this copyright violation comes to light after publication. The good news was that I already had permission to use the song. Because I wrote it. The lyrics for it anyway. They are:

Angels in heaven, look down on the child,

Perfect and lovely, tender and mild.

Shepherds that evening, tending their flocks,

Kneel without pain on nettles and rocks.

The rams and the ewes, surround him in awe.

First to acknowledge our Savior and Lord.

Wise men who travel, came from afar,

Guided by faith and the light of a star.


Okay, “awe” and “Lord” is a stretch for a rhyme.

I’m thrilled when someone reads a book I’ve written and says the characters ring true, or the locations are vivid and real. But I was stunned that I might have written something that could pass as real song lyrics.

So if anyone wants to volunteer the melody, I’m willing to bang out a chorus and two more verses. Let’s get it done by December.