So you wanna be an indie horror writing superstar?

This article outlines the pros and cons of being an indie horror author on

Hey, fellow writers! If you’ve got a penchant for writing spine-tingling stories and you’re ready to dive into the world of indie horror publishing on, this article is for you. 

After ten years of part-time indie publishing with the ‘zon, I’ve learnt a few things along the way. I’m still not at the stage where I’m able to support my family with the profits from my writing, but I’m seeing results (and $) and I hope to go full-time before the end of 2024. 

Before switching to independent (‘indie’) publishing, I’d had limited success going down the traditional publishing route. The freedom to control the packaging, marketing, and publishing schedule was the biggest drawcard for me to switch to self-publishing. 

When I started making monthly profits from my efforts, without the massive royalty cuts the traditional publishers took from me in the past, my decision was validated and I’ve never looked back.

If you’re new to the world of indie publishing and you want to write and publish horror, you’re in for a journey that is full of surprises, both good and ghoulishly challenging. 

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons, plus some killer tips to make your mark.

The pros: 

Freedom! As an indie author, you’re the master of your own haunted realm. You make your own decisions without a publisher looming over your shoulder and casting shadows on your vision.

Control your destiny. Traditional publishing will drag you through a labyrinth of delays and bureaucratic nonsense. As an indie author/publisher, you can unleash your horrors on the world as soon as they’re ready to publish. You can set your books up for ‘pre-orders’ on Amazon, allowing you to start earning royalties before the book has even been published. 

Boost your online presence. As soon as you publish with the ‘zon, you’re an ‘international’ author! Amazon is a massive beast with the greatest worldwide reach for published books. Your spine-chilling stories can creep into the darkest corners of readers’ hearts worldwide as soon as you hit the ‘publish’ button in your KDP dashboard.

Get paid! Amazon offers competitive royalty rates, meaning your terrifying tales can become a lucrative endeavour if you play your cards right. By making full use of the suite of tools that Amazon’s KDP program has to offer, you’ll be banking royalties soon enough. Of course, having a great quality book with an amazing cover, excellent book description and blurbs, and all the best keywords and categories certainly helps as well.

Build a fan base. Amazon lets readers follow you via your author page and leave reviews on your book pages. Reviews provide other readers with valuable insights and help you connect with a dedicated fan base. Amazon also allows you to put contact details in your bio and book content to direct readers and subscribers to your website.

The cons: 

The marketplace is saturated. Help! It’s crowded in here. Amazon is like a crypt bursting at the seams with books and writers all vying for the top spot and those best-seller dollars. The horror genre is saturated with established authors and up-and-coming writers who churn out books by the truckload. Standing out from the crowd can be a frustrating, but not insurmountable, challenge sometimes.

Marketing is essential. Being ‘independent’ means you need to do your own marketing. The competition is fierce, and you’ll need a blood-curdling marketing plan to rise above the noise. This should include a budget for advertising (via Amazon Ads and/or social media advertising), quality cover design, editing, formatting, and whatever else you need to spend money on to increase the visibility and sales conversion of your product (i.e. your book) on  

You have to be competitive. Not all indie authors feel the need to invest in professional editing or cover design. This can lead to low-quality books that drag down the genre’s reputation and decrease your chances of success. Write and format high-quality books with the best covers and you increase your chances of rising to the top of your genre’s bestseller lists. Even if you don’t, at least you’ll have published a book you can be proud of that will be positioned to succeed instead of sinking to the bottom of the heap. Check out the competition and which authors and books consistently hit your genre’s bestseller lists. Their success can serve as a model for your own to get you started.

It can be frustrating and exhausting. You have to be tenacious, resilient, and patient to sell a lot of books on Treating your writing and publishing as a business venture is really the only way to the top. Like any business, if you plan it properly and invest time and money into your venture, there’s a chance you will succeed. Expect a lot of hard work and frustration as you build your indie publishing empire. Stick with it and ‘play the game’ to gain the rewards and remember that the majority of successful indie authors have used the same approach to achieve their goals.

In the fickle world of book publishing (on Amazon), readers’ tastes change as regularly as Amazon tweaks their algorithms. It’s a constantly shifting set of obstacles and challenges that you have to navigate to stay afloat. If you don’t have tenacity and perseverance as part of your character traits, you’ll probably be one of the unfortunates who sink to the bottom of the heap unless you’re extremely lucky.

Hot indie author power tips

Outlined above are just a few of the pros and cons of being an indie horror author and selling books on I’ll delve deeper into this topic in future articles, but meanwhile, here are some tips for authors who want some actionable advice on how to make a splash on Amazon:

  • Don’t rush your masterpiece. Take time writing, revising, and polishing until your story is the best that it can be.

  • If you’re not a designer, invest in professional cover designs. Your book cover is one of the main ‘reader magnets’ that will drive your sales. Make it as eye-catching and genre-specific as the top best-selling books in your genre. 

  • Model your books and cover designs on the top books in your genre. Most genres (and sub-genres) on Amazon have specific types of styles, including fonts and font colours, themes, tropes, colour palettes, book lengths, formatting and so on. Check out what’s working best in your genre and ‘model’ your own accordingly. Think of your genre’s best-sellers as templates or guides to help you design and promote your books to your ideal readers, but remember not to blatantly copy or plagiarise other authors’ books.

  • Create an author platform, such as a website or a carefully curated social media presence that is aligned with your genre. This will allow you to engage with readers and build your unique voice. Consider selling your books directly via your website to future-proof your earnings. I’ve yet to do this, but all the recent advice I’ve read about this topic has me on the path to setting this up sometime soon.

  • Connect with other horror authors through writing communities and forums. Share your screams and dreams and learn from those who have risen to the top of the heap. Having this network is also useful for promotions such as newsletter sharing, website promotions, and collaborations. 

  • Dive deep into horror-specific marketing strategies. Collaborate with fellow authors, run promotions via genre-specific sites and forums, and experiment with genre reader-targeted ads.

  • Encourage readers to leave honest reviews and respond graciously to feedback. Reviews are the lifeblood of indie authors as they encourage new readers to take a chance on your books.

  • Use relevant genre-specific keywords in your book description and metadata to enhance discoverability.

  • Be adaptable. Many contemporary indie horror stars have found recent success mining the renewed interest in ‘extreme’ horror and/or ‘splatterpunk’. If you don’t know what these sub-genres are, head on over to the ‘zon and find out what all the hoopla is about.

  • Find your ‘voice’. Your books are representations of what your readers will come to expect with each new release you publish. Consider writing a series, as these seem to fare well on and encourage readers to purchase the next book when it is released. Most of the current top earners in the horror genre are books within series (including short story collections). 

  • Consider releasing short stories or novellas to lure readers into your dark universe before tackling a full-length novel. Many indie authors bundle short fiction into a collection or series to boost sales. You can also use a short story or novella as a ‘reader magnet’ on your website, etc., to build your email subscriber list.

Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of what to expect when publishing horror books on Writing and publishing horror as an independent author is a journey that requires patience and strength. It will provide many challenges and rewards, but you CAN make your mark on the genre by mastering your craft, investing in quality, and marketing your work consistently and intelligently.

Good luck, and see you on the dark side.

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