Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An open letter to any POD author who for some strange reason is not writing about zombies

Pardon by bluntness, but I have to ask. As a struggling POD author, why waste your time writing about love? Why explore worldly cultures or mystical long-ago lands? Why bore us with your character's internal journey of self-exploration?

Why write about anything other than zombies?

A POD author's greatest challenge is attracting readers. Even books from major New York publishing houses struggle for attention. What can you offer that stands out from the POD horde?

Mouldering ambulant corpses, that's what. Because the public loves zombies. More importantly, the public searches them out.

Look up your favorite non-living-dead POD book on Amazon. Chances are that no one has posted a review. Maybe two or three at most.

Now look up the Amazon pages for some POD zombie novels. As of this writing, David Moody's Autumn (a fine novel which I have read) has received twenty-three reviews. Seventy-two people have reviewed Mark Rogers' The Dead (which I have not read but which looks intriguing). Even a widely-reviled POD zombie novel like Aftermath of the Dead (which I also have not read), with its one-and-a-half star rating, enticed nineteen people to read and review it.

For POD titles, those figures represent an extraordinary level of interest.

Need more proof? Soren Narnia is a terrific writer who has published fifteen POD books in a variety of genres, including literary romances, comedy, and horror (I reviewed his slapstick buddy novel Roll! They Cried here.) Fourteen of those books have nothing to do with zombies. Of those fourteen, nine have zero reviews on Amazon; three have one review each (including my review for Roll! They Cried); one book has two reviews; and the last has three reviews. However, Narnia's remaining book, the splendid zombie novel Song of the Living Dead, has eight reviews -- a 266% increase over Narnia's next-most-reviewed work. Math like that doesn't lie.

The lesson is clear. Writhing, squishy zombie bits pave the road to POD glory. (And big-publishing glory as well -- several prominent literary critics have named Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road, published by Knopf, as one of the best books of 2006. And it (essentially) includes zombies!)

I think there is a simple explanation for the popularity of the POD zombie novel. For fans of the zombie genre, pertinent POD novels are easy to find. Go to iUniverse, or Lulu, or Amazon, and search for "zombie." It's like a gunshot to the head: quick, easy, effective.

By contrast, if you're in the mood for a quirky POD comic novel with great character development and a madcap denouement . . . well, good luck finding it. Unless you think trolling through piles of POD PDFs and online previews is fun (like I do), you pretty much have to rely on the handful of POD review sites (like this one, and those at right) for guidance. Big, shambling things such as animated corpses are easy to find through a keyword search. Elusive concepts like humor and emotion are not.

In sum, absent a marketing budget (which most POD books do not have), a POD novel needs a way of letting the world know it exists.

Zombies really stand out in a crowd.

Plus -- and let's not forget this -- they're just really, really cool.


Anonymous said...

I like zombies as much as the next person. In fact, I still find myself dreaming about killing zombies after reading Max Brooks' "World War Z."

But I want to write about something other then frickin' zombies! (/humor)

So I did. It's science fiction - and I've got five Amazon reviews that say it's good.

Just my two cents worth.

Devon Kappa said...

While you didn't write about zombies, I respectfully submit that the attention you've received is still consistent with my underlying point: a POD book has a PR advantage when its theme can be expressed in one word. "Mars," like "zombie," is easy to do a keyword search for. Indeed, when I do a search for "mars science fiction" on Amazon, yours was the first book to appear, a great marketing coup.

Best of luck on having continuing success with The Mars Run, and I look forward to reading what you do over on Pod People.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the complement! BTW, I do like your blog - I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek with my comment.

Cyberoutlaw said...

The only zombies I know sit behind desks in our office. If I knew some real zombies, I'd be happy to write about them, LOL!

Darryl Sloan said...

I've produced seven amateur/indie horror flicks, and it's always our oldest and most tacky that gets the popularity vote. And it's way, way in front of all the others. No surprise that it's called "Zombie Genocide."

Darryl Sloan

Anonymous said...

Excellent news! My book Cluck: Murder Most Fowl should sell millions! According to Lloyd Kaufman, the director of Toxic Avenger and more recently Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, it is "The best undead chicken novel of all time" ... of course, it's also the only undead chicken novel of all time.

It will be available on amazon very soon, and after reading this encouraging post I expect massive first-day sales :-)

Eric D Knapp

PS - I couldn't find any submission guidelines on your blog, but if you'd like to read Cluck, just let me know.