A Conversation with Richard Poe, Author of Perfect Fear
by Paul Germano (continued)



Germano: Now that you’ve published your first work of horror, do you intend to keep going? Will we be seeing more horror from Richard Poe?

Poe: Oh, yes. Now that the lava’s flowing, I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. I love writing horror. Quite frankly, I’ve never had so much fun in my life.

Germano: As a bestselling author, you’ve been published for many years by big New York houses. Yet Perfect Fear is a self-published book. You’re releasing it through Amazon, as a Kindle e-book and a book-on-demand. Why Amazon?

Poe: The publishing world is in crisis right now. E-books have changed the whole paradigm. In 2011, for the first time, I sold more e-books than regular books. That means e-books are now my principal source of royalty income. So it’s very important to get a good royalty rate on your e-books, and Amazon gives the best rates, at the moment.

Germano: At present, you have books in print through Random House and HarperCollins. Those are big names. Won’t people think you’ve come down in the world, if your next book comes out through Amazon’s self-publishing program?

Poe: Well, I write for a living, not for social status. Digital self-publishing makes sense on a business level. More and more authors are taking that route. The big breakthrough came in 2011. That’s when digital self-publishing became a real business. Self-published e-book authors who had sold more than a million copies started showing up in the news that year. I think Amanda Hocking was the first to hit the million mark, with her paranormal novels for young adults. Then came John Locke, with his spy thrillers and Westerns. Darcie Chan sold more than 400,000 copies of her first novel that year, as a Kindle e-book. Those are big numbers. Anyone who sneers at digital self-publishing these days is not paying attention.


Germano: Aside from the royalty rate, did you have any other reason for publishing through Amazon?

Poe: Actually, the most important issue for me was creative freedom, of being able to write what I want, when I want, without getting anyone’s permission. I didn’t feel like pitching Perfect Fear to agents and editors, and hearing all their objections. I just wanted to go ahead and publish it. And that meant going through Amazon.

I was encouraged in this decision by the example of Charles Dickens, who faced a similar problem in 1843. At that time, Dickens was already a world-famous author, but his last two books had not done well. Dickens’s publisher was nervous. They were afraid to take a risk on his next book, which happened to be A Christmas Carol. So Dickens offered to pay the full cost of publication out of his own pocket. In effect, A Christmas Carol was a self-published book. And, as we all know, it turned out to be Dickens’s masterpiece. Today, A Christmas Carol is the best-known literary work in the English language.

Germano: Do you think Perfect Fear could be your Christmas Carol?

Poe: On a purely personal level, yes. Perfect Fear represents a creative breakthrough for me, much as A Christmas Carol did for Dickens. That’s as far as the comparison goes. Obviously, I’m no Dickens. But I learned an important lesson from him. Dickens taught me that sometimes you have to stop cold and change directions.

Stephen King calls it finding true north. That’s when the compass of your life stops spinning and finally points true. For King, that moment came early. For me, it came late. My compass didn’t stop spinning till I was 53 years old. But I think it has stopped now.

Germano: Some people might think that 53 is a little late in life to be figuring out what you want to do for a living.

Poe: It’s never too late. John Locke is 61 years old, and he published his first novel three years ago. Now he’s one of the biggest stars in the digital publishing world. You just have to go for it. If you’re on the wrong course, change it. Otherwise, you’re just fighting against the wind. Set your course right, and you’ll have the wind at your back. You’ll have smooth sailing all the way.

Paul Germano is a short-story writer and freelance journalist. His short fiction, mainstream and horror, has been published extensively in online and print magazines. His story “Lunch Hour” was published in 2011 in the UK-based hardcover horror anthology Soup of Souls and he is presently writing his own horror short-story collection called Chill. Germano earned his journalism degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School and has worked as an editor and writer for Le Moyne College, The Catholic Sun and Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. His freelance journalism about music, art and pop culture has appeared widely in various Central New York publications. He lives in Syracuse, New York.

Reprinted from Perfect Fear (released by Heraklid Books, July 5, 2012)