I having a writing mentor. He is a traditionally published author who has sold more books than I can dream of. Around the start of the new year, he asked me why I didn’t use “Bestselling Horror Author” or “Bestselling Horror Series” on the covers of my books. I was surprised in 2018 when I learned he and I had very different opinions on what qualified a writer, book, or series as a best seller; because I have much stricter guidelines than he does.
His job as mentor is to help me become a better writer and talk to me about sales, downloads, and my business plans.
In 2019, the concept of best seller was a recurring theme of our conversations. He thinks I should use it. I’ve been on the charts as an Amazon best seller numerous times and I’ve sold more than 1 million books. His feeling is that I am hindered in my quest for book fame by A) being A woman and B) pigeon-holed as a horror author and C) being an indy. These might be true, only one female horror writer has ever made a best seller list; Anne Rice and as my mentor points out she wrote gothic horror; which is significantly different than the horror I write.
When he found out I’d had two separate days where my downloads for Tortured Dreams had surpassed 50,000 books, he went looking through back issues of the USA Today, because according to him usually those kinds of ebook downloads make their list (and someone told me once I had, but I couldn’t find it). Neither did he, but he asked me “Do you need to make someone’s arbitrary list to consider yourself a best seller? It’s fairly rare for even traditionally published authors to sell or give away a million books in less than a decade.
And so within a few days of 2020 beginning he sent me an email that said “your resolution for this year is to bolster your confidence and proudly tell the world you are a Best Selling Horror Author via your book covers.
Obviously, I didn’t do it when I released Anonymous Dreams and I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable with it. I’m also not sure it matters. I mean it’s a pretty thought and all that, but he’s correct when he calls it arbitrary. Yes, there are requirements, but they change day to day; for instance if I were to have had those 50,000+ downloads during a day (or week) when Stephen King, Koontz, Sue Grafton, or James Patterson released a book, I would need a whole lot more than 50,000+ downloads to top their sales for the day. especially since releasing new books bolsters sales of their previously released novels.
It can be done, but it’s difficult and that’s where being a horror writer comes into it. I can’t compete with any of the big name horror writers, but even the big name horror writers have trouble competing with the big name mystery authors. King is great, but Patterson will always appeal to a wider audience. And I don’t write gothic horror, I write hard core serial killer horror, it’s a niche market. But male writers sell better in the genre than female writers, I knew this before I started. But it’s the genre I love so it’s the genre I write in most. Male writers don’t just sell better, the majority of the readers are also male and male readers tend to pick male writers when looking at the horror genre. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of male readers, but I’ve gotten a lot of messages over the last 7 years from men about how surprised they were that my books were actually about serial killers as advertised and didn’t have romantic subplots and lots of sexual content. I’ve even gotten some messages telling me “You write like a man.” Okie dokie then.
And so the label remains off my books much to the chagrin of my mentor. Eventually, he’ll wear me down, he’s a persistent SOB. But it may take showing up on one of those lists he deems arbitrary (I can be just as stubborn as he is persistent).