by Jay Wilburn
Yes! End of blog post.
Maybe I should explain more. Maybe it’s bad. It sure isn’t easy. People think it is easy to write a zombie novel. Lots of people try. I think we can certainly agree that writing a really good zombie story isn’t easy. There are a few gems out there to be found. I firmly believe a number of those are represented on the Summer of Zombie tour. Zombie stories probably have an easy entry point which is why many writers attempt them. They have a steep climb to get to any level of greatness though.
There is a lot of competition out there with zombie stories. Many publishers want nothing to do with them. The best zombie writers are reaching out to help each other up and to boost each other’s signals. The competition isn’t to see which author ends up at the top of the mountain with the bodies of their fellow authors in their wake. There is competition to get eyes on books so that readers can even know that you and your work exist. Again, I think the smart authors help each other out with that.
With so many out there, it is tough not to bump shoulders from time to time. Writers end up stumbling into similar concepts with their undead stories. Brian Keene and George Romero met at a party once. They started talking about what they were working on. Keene described City of the Dead and Romero discussed the film he was working on at the time, Land of the Dead. This happens a lot in the crowded world of zombie fiction.
It is hard not to use the same or similar titles from time to time. Brian Keene’s The Rising is a key work from the early rise of the genre. It is a simple name. It rolls off the tongue. Keene notes that he does not own the title, but he still finds it irritating when other authors use it. More importantly, diehard zombie fans take offense to it. Many of them view it as a disrespect to a heritage that brought them to the genre. For lesser known authors, they can end up snatching titles from each other more often, if they are not versed in what their fellow writers are doing.
J. L. Bourne is the author of Day by Day Armageddon. He started out in the early online community of zombie fans. His work grew popular there and burst on the publishing scene from that build up. He still has a number of works in progress over different forms of media that his loyal fans enjoy. He maintains an online presence with social media including other authors and readers. He started out in a time period where self published authors were less prevalent and the glut of zombie novels in the market had not reached the levels we are at today. There was a small dust up online a while back when an author created a promotional shirt of zombie authors. Any author of zombie fiction could be on it, but he or she had to give permission in the comments. Bourne came onto the thread after the shirt was created and publicized. He made the statement that it was interesting who had been excluded. The creator of the shirt said he simply included those that gave permission and leaving bigger authors off wasn’t a slight, but had to do with the authors that responded and gave permission. There were a lot of authors on the shirt and it was only a fraction of the ones I knew about. The thread devolved into an argument about real authors and what work mattered and so forth. I think Bourne wrote a great military focused zombie series that is still creative and stands out. I also think he reacted the way he did because he feels squeezed by authors that are crowding in on him on all sides through the ease of self publishing today. I imagined that played into the slight he felt when he saw a long list of authors in his genre and found that he wasn’t included after all he had accomplished in being a part of building the genre.
I know many great zombie authors that are working to expand out into other genre and sub genre. In some cases, they feel that they might or feel like they have already been pigeon holed as a zombie author. Some of them have found success with their zombie work, but have trouble moving books they wrote in other genre. They don’t want to be known as “just” a zombie author.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I used to write only zombie short stories. I expanded out into professional sales of sci fi, other horror, steampunk, and more. As I went further away from zombies, my zombie stories drew more attention. I was drawn back into the sub genre more and more.
Many zombie authors I know try to take breaks from zombie writing from time to time. They go and write something else after a big release to get refreshed. They get tired of what they are seeing in the genre and they want to take a step back. Many of them end up coming back to it sooner than even they expected.
I’m not sure anyone that is your friend would encourage you to pursue a career as a writer of zombie fiction. It is tough to stand out. It is tough to break into the market. It is not impossible, but it is rare to make a living writing zombie fiction. The truth is that all writing is difficult. All markets are hard to break. It is tough to make a living in any creative field. Writing about zombies may be much like the infections that we address in our stories which cause the zombies. Once you catch the virus, it may be inevitable what you are going to become.
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com