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