The Horror Tree is a resource and submission site for writers of horror and speculative fiction
Every week it publishes interviews or articles, new fiction, an array of submission opportunities and publishes on Facebook, Twitter and through a weekly newsletter. If you think you might have still missed something after subscribing to your preferred social media feed, it won’t be hard to find. The website is very user friendly.
The Horror Tree has been supporting writers since it was created in 2011. It was established by Stuart Conover to list paying submission opportunities for horror or speculative fiction, with the minimum payment for authors a contributor copy. Stuart is a writer as well and paying the writer has always been something he has championed.
Now the site encompasses features, interviews and articles about authors and writing, blog tours, paid submission opportunities to Trembling with Fear, and the Indie Bookshelf – a weekly feature to help support writers, editors and publishers affected by the pandemic. The Horror Tree also runs a Patreon which help funds the site and Trembling with Fear.
A theme that underpins Stuart’s answers in this interview is the importance of fostering and nurturing the writer community, at all levels of a writer’s experience. When the Horror Tree started, it was a team of one. Over ten years it has grown to a team of 15 volunteers, and it is still expanding. The submission market Trembling with Fear is co-edited by Stephanie Ellis. Stephanie also facilitates the Indie Bookshelf, and has a strong commitment to fostering community as well.
Because community endeavours are close to my heart, I ask Stuart and Stephanie about what they do, what keeps the Horror Tree community together and what’s important to them about their work.
Chatting with Stuart Conover
Stuart Conover is the Founder and Editor in Chief of the Horror Tree and is also an accomplished author. Stuart has articles featured at ScienceFiction.com and is the Editor in Chief of the Journal Stone Network of sites.
Q: What was your vision for the Horror Tree when you started it in 2011?
We’re a little closer to what I had in mind in late 2012 compared to 2011, though I’ll get to that in a moment. When I initially started the site in 2011, I was honestly just trying to learn more about how to use WordPress. There wasn’t initially a goal and I had started making listings of open calls for horror anthologies to share with friends who were looking for anthologies to submit to. I was quite surprised when I looked at Google Analytics at one point that we were getting far more traffic than the ten or so people I had shared links with.
From that point, I was interested what would happen if I focused on growing Horror Tree to being the ultimate place to find open calls for horror anthologies. It wouldn’t be another year or two before I started to regret the name when we expanded into all forms of speculative fiction as it has thrown new science fiction and fantasy readers of the site off. Beyond that we have expanded into writing advice, original fiction, author interviews, book reviews, and so much more!
Q: What was a main highlight for you personally about the Horror Tree site? Also, happy 10-year anniversary! How awesome.
Thank you! It is amazing not only that we’ve hit 10 years from how things had started but that we’ve been able to continue to grow.
Successes and milestones. I have two specific ones that truly stand out to me. The first is that I ran Horror Tree for years in the red. The first milestone is fully due to our Patreons and sponsors who pushed the site from bleeding my wallet dry to paying for all of the site’s expenses and in fact growing to be able to pay our contributors. It may still be in the token payment range, though being able to pay everyone has always been a huge goal of mine and I’m loving that it is possible.
The second major milestone is that we have now, for two years in a row, been listed in Writer’s Digest Best 101 Websites for Writers. Though, I’ll note that with my mention above on the name that we follow strictly into their horror niche and not that of all speculative fiction.
Q: A well-run online site like the Horror Tree requires good systems, good people and strong commitment. What keeps you going?
Wow. That is a great question. From my end I will fully say that without the help of our contributors I don’t know if Horror Tree could keep running. Stephanie Ellis, I feel is just as much as the site as I am from having really taking Trembling with Fear and our fiction side and making it her own. I wouldn’t be able to keep it going without her and now without Amanda Headlee who is helping us there as well with holiday specials, serialized stories and more! We’ve had a variety of writers over the years and there are just too many to mention. I would like to give a few special shout outs to our editorial staff who help keep things moving forward where I just wouldn’t be able to such as Cathy Jordan our review coordinator, Selene MacLeod our interview coordinator, and Holly Cornetto who has jumped in to help with our newsletter.
For systems, we run on a few highly organized Google Sheets documents which Steph has put together, email chains, WordPress, Canva and Pixlr for social media art, Publr for scheduling posts on social media, and finally, I use Microsoft ToDo though, for the fellow geeks and SCRUM followers out there, I personally want to setup a weekly backlog item board which follows Agile methodology though I don’t think I could run it like I do the one at work on top of actually doing all the work so that is a bit of a daydream. (That last bit is probably gibberish to 90% of the people reading this interview.)
Outside of the technical side of what keeps me going, it is honestly the support from the community. From Patreons to emails to people suggesting the site on social media to newer authors, there is a vested interest in so many who love to use the site and even when I’m feeling stretched way too thin, it is that support that really makes me push forward on getting our posts scheduled and ready to go out into the wild.
Q: Things are always adapting and changing in publishing, how do you think the Horror Tree has managed to stay strong in such a changeable landscape?
Another good question! I feel that really getting ahead and pushing to open our doors to not just speculative fiction authors when we expanded open calls but readers as well with original fiction are both two of the key components on how we’ve been able to stay strong. Reader input and support has kept us up to date with the latest calls and content that both authors and readers want to see, and finally, adding in new technology has been a boon to the site.
There are five key areas that we’re eyeing to expand into though it is a matter of time and resources slowing things down a bit. When I’ve got a slightly easier class for my MBA next or my summer break from the program, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to really push forward on one or two of them.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
The main thing I would like to add is to say thank you to all of our readers and Patreons. You’re the reason that the site still exists and your commitment to coming to the site and sending others our way is how we’ve been able to grow and provide you with even more content. If you’re new to Horror Tree you can check us out on our homepage, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube accounts.
Digging deeper – talking with Stephanie Ellis
Stephanie Ellis has been with the Horror Tree since 2017, a little after her drabble ‘Bath Time’ was published in Trembling with Fear. Stephanie is an author, editor, and now publisher – congrats on your new imprint co-managed with Alyson Faye, Black Angel Press, Stephanie! – and like Stuart, a passionate representative of the horror writing community.
Aside from all the work Stephanie has done at the Horror Tree over the last four years on Trembling with Fear, Stephanie recently responded to a need in the community to support others affected by coronavirus. The Indie Bookshelf was established as a weekly Horror Tree feature to promote authors and publishers as they saw events and book launches cancelled due to lockdowns. The feature expanded over time and now lists editors looking for work as well as many other things. This is just another example of how community organisations look after their communities.
Q: Stephanie, when did you come on board and what do you do at the Horror Tree? What made you join the team?
I’d been using the Horror Tree site as a resource for some time. Prior to that I was forking out each month for the magazine, Writers News, which had a number of market listings but nothing which appealed. I did an online search, found Horror Tree and the wealth of info there. I managed to get quite a few of my early stories published via submission calls hosted on this site. When Stuart put out an appeal for help, I responded as my way of giving back, a big thank you if you like for setting me on my road to publication.
That Stuart – and others – spend so much of their time, voluntarily seeking out markets, for authors everywhere and providing this vital information is amazing. As is the platform he has provided for reviewers, guest posts and other articles.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about Trembling with Fear and your role as an editor?
Trembling with Fear is published every Sunday, every week of the year. It features a ‘long’ flash story, and 3-4 drabbles. It also hosts more recent developments in the form of Unholy Trinities (3 connected drabbles), Serials and Specials. These later additions are no longer edited by me as the overall workload had increased so much. I’m very much the first contact for all submissions with acknowledgments and tracking. I’ll do the first reads for the weekly submissions and pass them along to Stuart with my opinion. He’ll then do his read and we decide. It is very much a joint decision. Other aspects of TWF – triggering of contracts, notification of publication dates, preparation of posts and creation/formatting of the related anthology.
Q: When did the Indie Bookshelf feature start, and how has the response been?
Jim McCleod of Ginger Nuts of Horror fame created a Pandemic Book Launch group on Facebook as a way for writers and publishers to launch their books. Many conventions and other real-world opportunities had vanished, and this was a way to put the books in front of readers. I’d been invited to this site, and I just thought it would be a good idea to extend the reach beyond Facebook. I asked Stuart if I could do this, and he said yes. Stuart’s very much about providing indie authors with as much support as he can.
The response has been good and whilst I generally trawl another Facebook group – Hot off the Indie Press – as the Pandemic Book Launch is now archived, people are beginning to get in touch directly. Writers responses have been positive and appreciative.
Q: What are you doing at the Horror Tree to assist creatives who have lost jobs or suffered income drops due to the pandemic?
I noticed Todd Keisling had posted about his unemployment issues and so I added a little bit at the start of the post and sent out a tweet asking people to get in touch if they had similar problems. A few responded directly or others would alert me on their behalf, and so I was able to add their names and skills, etc to the post. I can’t trawl for these posts but if I notice something, I’ll add it and people can always get in touch with us. I figured these are desperate times and people often don’t know which way to turn. I’ve also recently added events, and just this week another little feature including special offers on books or freebies. If you’ve not got much money, these are treats we can all appreciate.
Stuart’s built a recognised platform with Horror Tree and this reach is something that can be put to good use for the horror family. That’s effectively how we regard Horror Tree and those in the industry – as family.
Q: How long do you plan to run these additional services? Do you see them, or something like them continuing post-pandemic?
I’m quite happy to continue them. I mentioned this to Stuart and he’s all for it at the moment. It’s an easy post to create as I just update the previous week’s so it’s not from scratch. It’s a page that’s a ‘give-back’ to the community and it can also be used to support Horror Tree itself; for instance, promoting those who are sponsoring the site or are Patreons.
Q: What are the things/ is the thing closest to your heart about your involvement at the Horror Tree – what brings you the most joy – and what keeps you going?
Horror Tree is close to my heart because it has become the easiest way I can support other writers. It helped me in terms of providing somewhere to search out submission calls but then also allowed me to become part of a family. This aspect of feeling part of something is, I think, very important to writers who often feel isolated. Whether in the areas I am responsible for, Trembling with Fear and the Indie Bookshelf Releases, or other aspects of the site which Stuart and many others oversee, I think we provide a friendly and approachable point of contact. We all know exactly what it’s like to write with life’s pressures swirling around us. We know how difficult it can be – and importantly, we never forget that. I like to think that we are not gatekeepers – we are the people who hold the gates open in welcome.
And as to joy? Publishing a piece of flash from someone who has never been published before and seeing them flourish. And even better? Placing the book covers of such folk on the Indie Bookshelf Releases post.
Thank you, Stuart and Stephanie. Great chatting with you, and also thank you for all the things you do for the writing community.
Louise Zedda-Sampson is a Melbourne-based writer, researcher and award-nominated editor. She writes nonfiction books, articles and features, and speculative and literary short fiction. Her writing has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, online and in magazines, anthologies and under her own imprint LZS Press. Find Louise at www.louisezeddasampson.com.au and on Twitter at @I_say_meow
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