Why You Don’t See More Jewish Horror

THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, the anthology I edited for Denver Horror Collective (DHC) in late 2021, just won a bronze medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards and had previously made it onto the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. Meanwhile, at a recent horror writers conference, I lost count of the authors who told me they loved the book, which sold well at the DHC table, as it has been literally around the world.

While readers are hungry for Jewish horror as a unique exploration of the larger genre, I think I finally understand why THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR was one of the only Jewish horror anthologies ever released (all by small presses). And why nearly every working author who also writes Jewish horror tells me they have difficulty getting those stories published.

Because while pitching my Jewish folk horror novel to the editor of a large, established horror fiction publisher, one of my sneaking suspicions as to what’s been turning off so many gatekeepers was finally confirmed.

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The Three “CONS” of Writing Horror

Not long ago, I messaged a horror fiction “gatekeeper” to thank them for their work and to ask if they’d be open to reading more indie horror authors. They responded by listing a few well-known names they were promoting, including one whose “Big 4” published novel had years ago been made into a popular Hollywood movie. And then basically told me that all good writers eventually become famous, which is when this person will read and share their work.

As an author, editor, small press publisher, and reader, everything I write about horror fiction is a conflict of interest. That being said, I also have the privilege of seeing the landscape from a variety of perspectives. On top of that, I’ve interviewed scores of writers, followed their careers, and listened to podcast after podcast with some of the biggest names in the genre. The one thing most of them have in common? They were thinking about giving up until that one big break.

After years of processing this information, I believe I’ve come up with the essential elements for getting one’s horror book published and selling. I call them the three “CONS,” as in: CONTENT, CONTACTS, AND CONTEXT.

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Why I’m Giving Up On Writing Horror

I’ve been “seriously” writing horror fiction for the last six years. During that time, I’ve had a bunch of short stories and one novella published, edited and/or published three anthologies, and just finished a brand-new novel. I also co-founded Denver Horror Collective, a horde of over fifty horror authors helping one other spread the horror.

As a weirdo, my fiction tends to be a bit “unconventional.” Therefore, it’s not been easy to get the products of my mind through the mainstream literary gatekeepers, which is why I’ve so often built my own gates.

For instance, my latest book is a Jewish ecological folk horror novel, and I truly feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Although publishers wouldn’t touch my previous two novels, I believe this one is far more marketable and way less controversial. Yet two rejections I’ve gotten thus far—one from an agent, the other from a publisher—are total head-scratchers.

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