Where Are All The Horror Stories? A Tale Of Barren Bookshelves

On my way back from TFCon this past weekend, our group ended up making a number of pitstops along the way. One of those stops was at a mall, so obviously we did a little shopping. Especially since my friend was looking for a specific book at Chapters. And, since she works for Chapters/Indigo, I decided this would be a good time to take advantage of her staff discount and get myself some vacation gifts (besides my TFCon haul, that is).

The more horror I write, the more of the genre I’m trying to read. Not only is it helpful as an indie author for me to know my comp titles, but as a writer it’s beneficial to know the genre and sub-genres inside and out. So, once in Chapters, I broke away from my group and made a bee-line for the fiction section. I found the romance shelves, the fantasy section, science fiction… But no horror. So I went to the start of fiction & literature shelves and searched for specific horror authors.

Nothing.

Even if I couldn’t get a new horror novel, I did at least see some sci-fi that was on my list so I knew I wouldn’t walk away empty handed. But I was disappointed nonetheless.

But then, I turned a corner… And found it! The horror section! If you can call it that.

It was a single bookcase, sandwiched between the last of the fiction & literature shelves and bookcase of westerns, across from the large and well displayed romance section. And this single bookcase was, well, horrific. There was an alarming amount of empty space on the shelves, and half of the bookcase was just Stephen King novels.

Now, as a fan and a collector, I have nothing against seeing Stephen King’s books on the shelves. Clearly, his books are still selling, making money for bookstores, and his books keep getting turned into movies. But he’s not the only horror author out there. That also made it tough for me to find new books to buy because, between Stephen King and everything else on the shelves, I already own and/or have read about half of the books on that bookcase.

I did end up finding two of the books on my list that I wanted to buy, Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw and My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, but there was only one copy of each available.

As a horror author, this was a heartbreaking moment. I already knew horror and sci-fi were difficult genres to publish in, especially horror, but this really put things into perspective. After we made our purchases, I told my friend how disappointed I was by the horror section in this particular Chapters. She confirmed my fears: horror doesn’t sell all that much in store. It technically doesn’t even have it’s own genre in the system like romance does. On the store computers, it shows up as a sub-genre of general fiction rather than it’s own category.

But… That might be changing. Apparently, staff at my friend’s Chapters have reported that more and more readers are asking for horror novels.

So although I’m devastated by the current state of the horror section in bookstores, there is hope that things could get better. So please, if you enjoy horror, or know someone who does, show some love and support for horror authors – especially indie/self-published ones. Ask your bookstores to bring in titles from authors other than Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Joe Hill. Let’s grow the horror section until it rivals Romance, Fantasy, and Sci-fi!

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