The Books of Horror Facebook Group: Readers Take Over
I went to my first convention in a long time in March of 2022. My head was spinning, being out amongst my peers after spending so much time in pandemic-induced isolation. I was so happy to see everyone. But after I calmed down a bit, I noticed something different. Where had all these readers come from, who were buying so many books? Who were these new writers, that already had a loyal audience?
Over breakfast one morning, authors Daniel Volpe and Aron Beauregard shared what a big part the Books of Horror Facebook group had played in their rise in popularity. They mentioned the founder of the group, R.J. Roles, was at the convention. In fact, it turned out he and his wife had a table next to mine. So I spoke with them about the group that day and then I joined.
And when I did, I discovered something unusual. Unlike most Facebook groups, this one was full of readers, not just authors self-promoting to each other. These readers were excited about books and they were buying tons of them. As it turns out, a lot of the people buying books in large quantities at this convention were also from the Books of Horror group. About a month later, I attended the Ghoulish Book Festival in San Antonio, Texas, and there were Books of Horror members there buying tons of books as well.
Obviously something significant was happening here.
A Group of Our Own
In 2016, R.J. Roles and his friend Antonio Orozco were members of a Stephen King fan club on Facebook. They were fans of a number of indie horror authors as well, but didn’t feel there was a good place to discuss these authors and their works. They debated for a while on whether to start the first Brian Keene fan group on Facebook, or to create a group for all horror books. They ultimately decided to start Books of Horror.
The early growth of the group involved carryover from the Stephen King group. Two years ago, they saw a significant uptick in membership. Previously, Roles recalled how long it took to reach a thousand members and then two thousand. Then, thousands were joining each month. At the time I joined in April of 2022, there were 19,000 members. As of the time of this writing (May), there are over 21,000 members.
The group had an indie horror vibe from the beginning. In the burst of growth Books of Horror experienced at the beginning of the pandemic, there were many members who were dipping their toes into the horror genre for the first time, and longstanding members were excited to give recommendations based on any horror preference. At that point, Roles saw the potential of what the group could be.
What’s the Difference?
Roles said that in those early years, the group and posts were a mixed bag. Discussions drifted into movies, off-horror topics, and memes. The admins decided it was important to keep it about the books. They set up rules that are still in place today and enforced them. They moved sales and auctions to a separate group. They decided on a no self-promotion policy, and told new authors joining the group to get involved in the discussions to introduce themselves. They kept the focus on indie authors who could benefit from the group the most.
Roles was a pure reader and fan when he started the group with Orozco, and only began writing his own stuff later on. Many of the admins and moderators have been with them since the beginning. Hans Curtis, Denise Hargrove, and Tiffany Koplin all have particular areas of expertise, and over the years have been pivotal in the group’s ongoing success.
According to Crystal Cook, an avid reader, convention goer, and supporter of indie horror, there are about five women in particular who are avid readers and reviewers on Books of Horror who play a big role in raising awareness of particular authors. Along with them, thousands of other readers are picking up, reading, and raving about horror books they love, extending the reach of those books and their authors.
Roles likes that the group allows for real and meaningful author-reader relationships. Readers get to know the authors and everyone in the group shares what they love about horror. The conversations are reader-driven and reading-focused for substantive interactions.
There are a number of authors, especially in the last couple years, who owe a lot of their growth and popularity to the readers in the Books of Horror group. Roles says which authors land with the audience—and why—is a mystery to him. Firstly, they have to be talented. But readers lead the discussions and various authors rise to the top. He recalls Felix Blackwell being an early breakout favorite. Matt Shaw rose on a wave of popularity after that. Daniel Volpe is probably the top mentioned author in the group as of the writing of this article, with a number of others close behind. Extreme horror in particular has gotten bigger in recent years, as reflected within the discussions in the group.
Due to that same reader-driven zeitgeist, AuthorCon in Williamsburg, Virginia sort of got adopted as the unofficial Books of Horror convention. During the two-and-a-half years when there weren’t many in-person events, the group had been discussing some kind of meet-up. Aside from the difficulty of planning a large event in the best of times, members were spread all over the United States and the rest of the world. People wanted to get out and AuthorCon happened at a time when many BoH members were ready to travel again. Roles promoted the event himself, preparing for his first convention. Many of the group's favorite authors were going to be in one place. The convention was a big hit due in no small part to involvement of the Books of Horror readers. Many have already signed up for 2023’s AuthorCon.
Signed books have also been a big part of Books of Horror. Some Books of Horror members unable to attend AuthorCon had friends buy and mail signed copies for them. At one point, Ebay was the primary place members bought signed copies. As more authors joined the group, readers were able to buy directly from the source, the best way to support the authors they love.
Join in While You Can
Roles recalled a recent Facebook glitch that temporarily flipped the feed of Books of Horror and other groups, so that the earliest posts appeared on top. He saw his first post, where he said hello to everyone. He scrolled through those early posts seeing and noticed there were days between them. Today, sometimes not even an hour passes between posts, with hundreds of comments on each one, all discussing horror books.
Whether you are a reader or writer of horror, you won't find a group like Books of Horror anywhere else, on or offline. If you want to join, be sure to follow the rules, because that is a big part of the group’s success.
Post pandemic horror readers are different than those who came before. There are more of them buying and reading books. Indie horror in particular is getting a lot of attention. How this evolves in the coming years is left to be seen. But there is no denying that Books of Horror is a huge part of this change.
Get Only Psychos by Daniel Volpe at Amazon
Get The Cuck by Aron Beauregard at Amazon
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