Announcing Shock Totem #8…

Shock Totem Publications is excited to announce the upcoming eighth issue of Shock Totem magazine.

We do not have cover art finalized at this time, but it will once again be created by the amazing Mikio Murakami.

Here is the unofficial Table of Contents:

* Article (TBD)
* Highballing Through Gehenna, by John C. Foster
* Death & the Maiden, by David Barber
* Narrative Nonfiction (TBD)
* A Conversation with Cody Goodfellow, by John Boden
* The Barham Offramp Playhouse, by Cody Goodfellow
* Whisperings Sung Through the Neighborhood of Stilted Sorrows, by WC Roberts (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Watchtower, by David D’Amico
* Fat Betty, by Harry Baker
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 6, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* We Share the Dark, by Carlie St. George
* A Conversation with… (TBD)
* Depresso the Clown, by John Skipp
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

We will fill in the blanks as we draw closer to release. Look for it in January 2014!

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Resurrecting the Backlist: The Dead Book LIVES!

As a reader, the first time I came across a new edition of a backlist book was Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series. First published in 1983, it was full of wonderfully outdated references that, as an 80s child, I felt right at home with. In 2003, Duane re-released the series under a “New Millenium Edition,” complete with bonus material and updated technology like cell phones. I didn’t understand it, so I dismissed it as a marketing gimmick.

My second exposure to the subject of backlist books was as a writer this past July at Necon. I attended a panel moderated by Lynne Hansen, where she, Christopher Golden, Lori Perkins, Heather Graham, and John Douglas discussed the act of “resurrecting” the backlist and general marketing advice for one’s writing. The panel not only interested me as a writer, but also as a reader. Established authors dusting off their “old” novels creates a library of undiscovered stories released either before I was old enough to read them, like Young Wizards, or that just escaped my attention.

Lynne Hansen, owner at Lynne Hansen Designs, specializes in “book covers that tell a story” and helping authors resurrect their backlist titles. Her clients include Christopher Golden, Amber Benson, James A. Moore, Owl Goingback, Jeff Strand, and Rick Hautala. When I asked Lynne about the top benefit for an author to look at their backlist, her answer echoed my own excitement as a reader: “When a fan discovers you for the first time, you hope that they’ll love your work so much that they’ll want to read your other books. The more books you have in print, the more they’ll have to love.”

In the past few years, many veteran authors are discovering that they are sitting on a gold mine of backlist material. Of course, the reason for books to go out of print is that bookstores can’t carry new releases, classics, and backlist titles in brick-and-mortar stores. However, with the emergence of e-books and the Amazon marketplace, space is no longer an obstacle. Many midlist authors are hoping to again have the luxury of cultivating a fan base without the insane pressure to either hit decent sales numbers or see their books out of print.

Throwing books out of print after a short sales period is a publishing practice that pushed veteran authors like Holly Lisle over the edge in favor of self-publishing their work. On her site, Lisle echoes the sentiments of many authors. “Now,” she says, “frontlist is all that matters, backlist dies, and writing fiction for a living has become not building a career but playing the lottery.”

However, Amazon has kept up with it’s reputation for driving change in the industry and has become the best place to find “new” backlist titles. “I don’t think readers look for re-released titles the same way they look for discount e-books,” said Hansen. Sites like Amazon ensure that multiple editions, “paperback, hardcover, audiobook, etc., are all linked together,” which has been a benefit to authors and a convenience to consumers.

Hansen is passionate about her work, not just for her clients but for readers who “say they’ve wanted to read a book for years but could never find it, and they just downloaded the e-book. And I’ve heard folks say they’re re-reading a book, or even an entire series, now that it’s available electronically. That’s a nice bonus.” As a reader, I appreciate Hansen’s dedication. Nothing makes me happier than finding a new author that has a vast catalog that can be ordered with the click of a button.

Of course, one of the largest benefits to authors using a print-on-demand (POD) service like Amazon and Createspace is “you don’t have to print 10,000 books and store them in your garage just to get an affordable per-copy rate. Companies like Smashwords make it easy for you to upload a single Microsoft Word document and get your e-book distributed to a gazillion different retailers.” As Hansen also mentioned, it isn’t so much the format of the e-book that has made maintaining a backlist possible again, but rather the affordability of the process and the accessibility of those titles to readers.

I’ve heard varied arguments for or against self-publishing. There is an impression that “indie pub” has created a market flooded with unedited first drafts, thrown up for public consumption by amateur writers that are not doing their homework, which is making good writers look bad. Hansen has a much different view: “People like to think that self-publishing is The Great Leveler, but it’s not. Good books still rise to the top and bad books still (generally) fall into obscurity. Sure, there are more opportunities, but there are also a lot more challenges, especially when you’re faced with the prospect of having to do all the production work yourself.”

Fortunately for readers, there is a level of professionalism and dedication that an established author possesses to do it right. The writer seeking to resurrect their backlist has intense work ahead of them in order to re-launch and market their title, which is where Hansen comes in. “If your car breaks, you don’t pop the hood and start checking wires unless you have those skills.” Authors are great at writing books, but a lot more goes into releasing a backlist title for a new market. Obtaining the needed components to resurrect a backlist title take time and energy. This energy is better spent doing the most important task to a writer—actually writing.

“That being said, reissuing a book isn’t as simple as pulling up the Microsoft Word document and adding a copyright page,” said Hansen. “You need to make certain you have the final, edited version of the manuscript and have incorporated any line edits that came from the original publisher. You need the dedication, introduction, acknowledgments, afterword, bio, and links to your online presences.”

Hansen also suggests hiring a cover artist. “You want your name and title crisp and readable, and an image that is striking when it’s small. Most importantly, your book cover needs to resonate with the readers of your genre. If it’s a thriller, it needs to look like a thriller, not like a horror novel. You need a designer who understands marketing, because ultimately, your book cover and blurb are the best marketing tools in your arsenal.”

One difficulty Hansen has faced with marketing her client’s backlist books is “they’re not new books. They’ve already been reviewed and promoted and odds are that your die-hard fans have already read them.” Even authors with an established platform would still need to promote their backlist to a new audience. This might be as easy as appealing to a new generation of fans or hitting the market with the right book at the right time, such as Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala’s Body of Evidence thriller series, featuring young protagonist Jenna Blake.

“In today’s marketplace, the Jenna Blake books would be categorized as ‘new adult’ and is much more likely to be read by adults than by teens. It’s a category that didn’t even exist when the books were being written. For the re-issues, I designed covers that were more familiar to thriller readers than to young adult readers, and we tweaked marketing descriptions to reflect the new focus. It’s really helped the entire series reach many more readers.”

One way that authors can promote their backlist titles might seem obvious: “Backlist books are the gravy, not the meat,” said Hansen. “The best way to promote an old book is to write new ones.”

Personally, I’ve snapped up quite a few backlist titles that were released on Amazon in the past year, including Strangewood by Christopher Golden and The Wicked by James Newman, the latter released by Shock Totem in May of 2012. I was also excited to find Closed Circle Publications, a site created by award-winning sci-fi and fantasy authors C.J. Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, and Jane Fancher to market their backlist titles.

Keep an eye out for the above authors and their amazing, high-quality re-releases coming to an Internet near you. I personally will continue to forgo the trip to Barnes & Noble (which I’ve never been a fan of, honestly) in favor of staying at home with a beer, or a coffee if it’s early enough, and scouring Amazon and Google in search of new backlist titles from veteran authors. So far, my purchases have been more than worth it and have exposed me to stories that would have otherwise gone unexplored.

If any Shock Totem readers have questions about specific backlist projects, please e-mail Lynne Hansen or visit her website for further information.

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Announcing Dominoes…

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce Dominoes, by John Boden.

Dominoes is a Little Horror Book, the perfect bedtime read for strange parents and bizarro children, a book not only meant to be read but also experienced.


Click for full-size images.

Cover art and interior illustrations were once again handled by the amazing Yannick Bouchard, who also did the cover art and illustrations for Beautiful Sorrows.

Praise for Dominoes:

“Now for something strangely different: death falls like a hellish deck of bruised songs through the lives of old and young in the unexpected flow of images screaming in Dominoes by John Boden.” —Linda Addison, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

“Strong stuff. Strange, incantatory, and speaking of things that might already have come to pass. This is some seriously weird shit.” —Gary McMahon, author of Tales of The Walking Wounded, Pretty Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove trilogy

“Equal parts evil and beautiful, John Boden has created a prose poem that reads like a bedtime story that would work best if told right before the apocalypse.” —Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and Bound By Jade

“Boden is a master of the surreal. His language is lyrical and haunting, and he packs each sentence with more emotion than other writers manage to accomplish in an entire novel. Dominoes is a wonderfully off-kilter apocalyptic tale of madness and misery.” —Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum, The Quarry, and The Summer of Winters

Dominoes will be released in paperback format this coming October.

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Shock Totem #7—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our seventh issue is available for purchase!


“I see the bad moon rising. I see trouble on the way.”

Shock Totem steamrolls ahead with its seventh issue, featuring tales of classic horror, creature features, heartbreak and loss!

The legendary William F. Nolan offers up “The Horror That Et My Pap–and Other Swamp Stuff,” a tale the likes of which you have never read before. S. Clayton Rhodes delivers “The Gates of Emile Plimpkin: The Gravedigger’s Legacy,” a novelette that veritably oozes horror borne of the 1800s. Damien Angelica Walters (formerly Damien Walters Grintalis) gives us the heartbreaking “Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us?” And M. Bennardo supplies this issue’s creature-feature with “Thing In a Bag.”

Newcomers are front and center, beginning with the one-two punch of “Consumption” and “Among the Elephants,” by Victoria Jakes and Amberle L. Husbands, respectively. In “The Long Road,” Kristi DeMeester leads us to the water’s dark edge and tempts us to drink deep, drink long, because we are so very thirsty. Rounding things out is Dominik Parisien’s excellent poem, “Smoking, The Old Sergeant Remembers 30 Mins Past Ceasefire.”

In addition to all the great fiction, you will find conversations with literary stalwart Laird Barron and Violet LeVoit. The early 70s are explored in the fifth installment of the horror-in-music serial, “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes.” Narrative nonfiction is handled by Kurt Newton, and with “The Hook, the Hole, and the Garden,” John Boden delivers possibly the most heart-wrenching piece of nonfiction ever published in Shock Totem.

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Currently the print issue can be purchased via our webstore or Amazon. More online retailers will follow in the coming days and weeks. Kindle owners can order the digital copy here.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers

As always, thank you for the support!

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Warm Bodies In the Flesh

Isaac Marion’s debut novel, Warm Bodies, was a breakthrough in 2011, a beautifully written genre-bending horror romance about an undead named “R” who falls in love with a living girl, Julie, after he eats her boyfriend’s brain. He even saves her from being devoured by his friends. So sweet and considerate, right? I was intrigued by the premise and bought a copy on Kindle, expecting a fluffy, easy read. Instead, I found a complex love story from a very unconventional point of view. What impressed me immediately was Marion’s prose and the fluid skill he used to give R a voice that many, dead or undead, could sympathize with.

The move adaptation last year opened to an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After loving the book so completely I went into the theater with a bowl of popcorn and a cup of skepticism, expecting watered down emotions and overblown special effects. The trailer looked good, but don’t the trailers always look good? I was pleasantly surprised that Jonathan Levine stayed true to the novel, with help from Marion, and preserved the innocent, Edward Scissorhands-like persona of R and his journey to connect with Julie and become human again.

This past month, advertisements began running every fifteen minutes for a new BBC America miniseries, In the Flesh, from debut creator and writer Dominic Mitchell. The first episode premieres tonight, June 6th, which happens to be two days after the DVD release of Warm Bodies. Some have said that BBC is attempting to imitate Marion’s romantic tale of undead meets girl, but from the clips I’ve been able to watch, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although, without it’s predecessor, I doubt a zombie drama could have been greenlit. What the BBC has done, like Marion, is use an overdone horror trope with a fresh twist to tell a meaningful story with new perspective.

The trailers and sneak-peaks from BBC reveal a much starker zombie apocalypse than Warm Bodies, although both divert attention from the traditional monsters and create villains from apathy, prejudice and ignorance. The stories don’t focus on humanity surviving among monsters, but instead take the more complex approach of humanizing the traditional villain and exploring the darker side of the human condition. In these stories, the “rotter” can be the good guy. Although zombies in both periodically eat their neighbors, they feel conflicted about it, and doesn’t that count for something?

The undead of In the Flesh, called PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers, could be a metaphor for the mentally ill or any other group with societal stigma that are feared and alienated. Two characters, Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) and Rick Macy (David Walmsley), are not only dealing with PDS prejudice from their community, but are exploring their connection to one another and struggling with the possibility of additional rejection from their parents and friends. They’re “partially deceased” and coming to terms with their own sexuality, a dual conflict which will make for multi-layered storytelling. Without going into each one, most of the characters of In the Flesh, both human and PDS sufferer, are equally as complex and compelling.

Although Isaac Marion has said he is not a horror writer and will not return to the genre, if the BBC series becomes even a moderate success, the market for similar zombie fiction can only grow exponentially, especially coupled with ratings boon The Walking Dead. However, I’m burnt out on the traditional zombie tale offered by Frank Darabont and company, and will be supporting In the Flesh by watching it tonight, June 6th, on BBC America at 10PM EST/9PM CST.

If you don’t have cable and can’t join, go pick up a copy of Warm Bodies, out on DVD as of June 4th.

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Sunday Reads: On Saying No, Joe Hill’s Beard, and Creepy Films

Here are a handful of links from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week.

If you’ve got an hour, check out Booktalk Nation’s entertaining video chat between authors Joe Hill and John Scalzi.

It’s worth the time.

If you like things with a more literary bent, you may be interested the benefits of creative people saying no in order to protect their time.

The daughter of Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) writes about growing up in a home with fanatical feminist views

We announced Shock Totem #7!

And finally, the creepy short film INSiDE, directed by Trevor Sands. Dig it!

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Shock Totem #6—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our sixth issue is available for purchase!


Don’t listen to this guy. Tell everyone!

Shock Totem returns with its sixth issue, featuring stories that range from troubling tales of loss to chilling examinations of mankind’s dark side. In “Lighten Up,” four-time Stoker Award™-winner and Grandmaster of Horror Jack Ketchum gives us a dose of dark humor that still manages to be righteously menacing. “The River,” by rising star Lee Thompson, is a brutal tale of purgatory, wasted life, and regrets.

Soulmates connect through murder, love and revenge in P.K. Gardner’s “For Jack.” In “Orion,” a young girl who has only known darkness makes the ultimate sacrifice—in blood. “No One But Us Monsters,” by Hubert Dade, follows a man who is haunted and tormented by his own crippling fears. Mail hoarding, sin eaters, political horror, Shock Totem #6 runs the gamut.

Also included: Conversations with Lee Thompson and seven-time British Fantasy Award nominee Gary McMahon, as well as narrative nonfiction—a tale of true horror—by Ryan Bridger. An editorial about inspiration; the latest installment of “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes,” which examines the connections between music and horror; plus reviews and much more…

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Currently the print issue can be purchased via our webstore or Amazon. More online retailers will follow in the coming days and weeks. Kindle owners can order the digital copy here.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers

As always, thank you for the support!

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Announcing Shock Totem #6…

Right on the heels of our fashionably-late fifth issue, we are proud to announce that our sixth issue is primed and almost ready to go. I am doing the layout this time, so I’m making sure everything is perfect. It’s close, though.

For those who have yet to see it, here is the cover artwork:

Once again the cover art was created by the brilliant Mikio Murakami, who has done all our magazine artwork since issue #3.

Here is the official Table of Contents:

* The Spectacular Inspiration Suit, by John Boden (Editorial)
* For Jack, by P.K. Gardner
* Orion, by Michael Wehunt
* The Hard Way: A Conversation with Gary McMahon, by John Boden
* Ballad of the Man with the Shark Tooth Bracelet, by Lucia Starkey
* She Disappeared, by Ryan Bridger (Narrative Nonfiction)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* No One But Us Monsters, by Hubert Dade
* The Cocktail Party, by Addison Clift
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 4, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* Lighten Up, by Jack Ketchum
* Magnolia’s Prayer, by John Guzman (2012 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* When We Crash Against Reality: A Conversation with Lee Thompson, by K. Allen Wood
* The River, by Lee Thompson
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Yet again we feel this issue sits well apart from previous issues, though without straying too far from what readers have come to expect from us. We dig it, and we’re confident you will as well.

Look for it soon in digital format. Print will follow shortly after, and if interested you can preorder it here.

As always, thank you for your continued support!

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Shock Totem #5—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our long-awaited fifth issue is available for purchase!

This issue of Shock Totem is yet another eclectic mix of horror fiction and nonfiction, featuring previously unpublished stories from the likes of Ari Marmell, Darrell Schweitzer, Joe Mirabello, Mekenzie Larsen, and others. There is also a five-part illustrated microfiction serial, by Kurt Newton, which is something new for us; plus a conversation with horror legend Jack Ketchum, narrative nonfiction by Nick Contor, reviews and more.

The full table of contents is as follows:

* Taking Root: An Editorial, by Mercedes M. Yardley
* In Deepest Silence, by Ari Marmell
* Girl and the Blue Burqa, by D. Thomas Mooers
* Digging in the Dirt: A Conversation with Jack Ketchum, by John Boden
* Hide-and-Seek, by F.J. Bergmann (Poetry)
* Eyes of a Stranger: An Essay, by Nick Contor
* Postmortem, by Kurt Newton
* Jimmy Bunny, by Darrell Schweitzer
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Little Knife Houses, by Jaelithe Ingold (2011 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* Canon, by Anaea Lay
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 3, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones
* The Catch, by Joe Mirabello
* Three Strikes, by Mekenzie Larsen
* To ‘Bie or Not to ‘Bie, by Sean Eads
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

As of right now, you can order this issue—and past issues, which are all still available—directly from us or through Amazon, in both print ($6.99) and digital ($2.99) formats.

As always, thank you for the support!

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Shock Totem Invades Killercon

This coming weekend, at the fourth annual Killercon convention in Las Vegas, joining the likes of F. Paul Wilson, Wrath James White, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Adam Cesare, and more, the Shock Totem Five will be meeting in person for the first time ever. We will have a vendor table all weekend long. If you’re attending, we’d love to meet you.

We are hosting a party Friday night as well. I say party, but since everyone shot down all my great ideas–bouncy castle, Sumo wrestler outfits/matches, Andrew WK karaoke battles–I’m not sure how much of a party it’ll be, but it’ll be fun…because when it’s time to party we will always party hard!

Yeah, I went there.

In addition, we will be doing a special pre-release of our upcoming collection, Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley. Own it weeks before its official release. We’ll have fifty paperback copies available (there will also be a limited edition hardcover release) at a special discount price. Mercedes will gladly autograph your copy. She’ll be doing a reading from the book as well.

For more info, click here. Preorders for the official paperback and hardcover release will go up later today and tomorrow. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Hope to see you there!

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