How to Self-Publish a Horror Book: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you’re passionate about horror fiction, there’s never been a better time to write and publish your own book. Thanks to the rise of self-publishing platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark, you can bring your book to readers worldwide without going through traditional publishing channels.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of self-publishing your horror book, step by step. From understanding the genre to designing an eye-catching cover, we’ll cover everything you need to know to give your book the best chance of success.

Understanding the Horror Genre

Before you start writing your horror book, it’s crucial to understand what makes the genre distinct and compelling. Horror is all about eliciting fear, disgust, and unease in the reader, often through supernatural or paranormal elements.

Horror is a genre that has been around for centuries, and it has evolved over time to include different subgenres and themes. The primary goal of horror is to scare the reader, and it achieves this by tapping into our deepest fears and anxieties. Whether it’s a fear of the unknown, death, or the supernatural, horror has the power to make us feel uncomfortable and afraid.

Key Elements of Horror Fiction

Horror fiction generally includes elements like:

  • Dark and eerie settings
  • Supernatural or paranormal creatures or events
  • Death, violence, and terror
  • Psychological horror, including suspense and dread

These elements work together to create a sense of fear and unease in the reader. The dark and eerie setting sets the tone for the story and creates a sense of foreboding. The supernatural or paranormal creatures or events add an element of the unknown and the unexplainable. Death, violence, and terror create a sense of danger and urgency, while psychological horror, including suspense and dread, taps into our deepest fears and anxieties.

While horror often involves supernatural or paranormal elements, the genre can also be focused on realistic or psychological scares. Realistic horror often deals with real-world fears and anxieties, such as serial killers or natural disasters. Psychological horror, on the other hand, focuses on the inner workings of the human mind and can be just as terrifying as supernatural horror.

Popular Horror Subgenres

Horror is a vast genre with many subgenres. Some of the most popular horror subgenres include:

  • Supernatural horror
  • Zombie fiction
  • Slasher and serial killer fiction
  • Lovecraftian horror

Each subgenre has its own unique elements and themes. Supernatural horror often deals with ghosts, demons, and other supernatural entities. Zombie fiction focuses on the undead and the end of the world. Slasher and serial killer fiction often involves a deranged killer stalking their victims. Lovecraftian horror is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and often features cosmic horror and ancient, malevolent entities.

Consider which subgenre your horror book will fit into to help guide your writing and marketing efforts. Understanding the key elements of the horror genre and the different subgenres can help you create a compelling and terrifying story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Planning and Writing Your Horror Book

If you are a fan of horror, then you know that the genre is all about scaring the reader. But how do you go about writing a horror book that will keep your readers up at night? Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

Developing a Unique and Compelling Story Idea

The horror genre is known for its familiar tropes and plotlines, such as haunted houses, demonic possessions, and serial killers. However, in order to stand out in this crowded field, it’s essential to come up with a unique and compelling story idea. Consider how you can use setting, characters, and atmosphere to create a memorable and immersive reading experience. Perhaps you can set your story in a remote, abandoned hospital or a small, isolated town where strange occurrences are happening. Or maybe you can create a terrifying monster that has never been seen before. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that will grab the reader’s attention and keep them engaged from beginning to end.

Creating Memorable Characters

Great horror relies on memorable, fully-realized characters that readers can connect with. Spend time developing your main characters and their motivations, while also considering how you can use secondary characters to build suspense and tension. Think about what makes your characters unique and interesting. Are they flawed, vulnerable, or struggling with personal demons? Do they have a connection to the supernatural elements in your story? By creating characters that readers care about, you can make your horror book all the more terrifying when bad things start happening to them.

Building Suspense and Tension

Horror relies heavily on building suspense and tension, so it’s crucial to get this aspect right. Consider how you can use descriptive language, pacing, and plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats. One effective technique is to start your story with a slow burn, gradually building up the tension until it reaches a boiling point. You can also use foreshadowing to hint at the horrors to come, or create false scares to keep readers guessing. Whatever approach you choose, make sure that your readers are constantly on edge, waiting for the next scare to jump out at them.

Writing Effective Horror Scenes

Effective horror scenes are vivid, impactful, and memorable. Whether you’re writing a grisly death scene or a tense encounter with a supernatural being, pay close attention to sensory details and pacing to make your scenes truly come to life. Use visceral language to describe the sights, sounds, and smells of your horror scenes, and don’t be afraid to get graphic. However, be careful not to overdo it, as too much gore can become gratuitous and lose its impact. Remember, the goal is to scare your readers, not gross them out.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can create a horror book that will keep readers up at night, afraid to turn off the lights.

Editing and Polishing Your Manuscript

Once you’ve finished writing your horror book, it’s time to edit and refine your manuscript. This is a crucial step in the writing process that will help ensure your book is polished and ready for publication. Here are some key steps to follow:

Self-Editing Techniques

One of the most important steps in editing your manuscript is self-editing. This involves going back through your manuscript and making revisions to improve clarity, pacing, and overall writing quality. Some self-editing techniques you can use include:

  • Reading your manuscript out loud to catch awkward phrasing or errors
  • Using tools like Grammarly to identify spelling and grammatical errors
  • Checking for consistency in character traits, plot points, and settings
  • Trimming unnecessary sections or paragraphs to improve pacing

By taking the time to self-edit your manuscript, you can improve the overall quality of your writing and make it more engaging for readers.

Working with Beta Readers

Beta readers are readers who can provide feedback on your manuscript before publication. This can be an incredibly valuable resource, as beta readers can offer fresh perspectives and identify issues that you may have missed. Consider reaching out to other horror writers, members of writing communities, or friends and family to get constructive feedback on your work.

When working with beta readers, it’s important to be open to feedback and willing to make changes to improve your manuscript. Remember that feedback is meant to be helpful, not hurtful, and that the ultimate goal is to make your book the best it can be.

Hiring a Professional Editor

If you have the budget, hiring a professional editor can be a valuable investment. An editor can help catch spelling and grammatical errors, identify inconsistencies in your story, and highlight areas where your writing could be strengthened.

When choosing an editor, be sure to research their credentials and experience. Look for someone who specializes in horror or your specific genre, and who has a track record of successful projects. Keep in mind that working with a professional editor can be expensive, but it can also be a worthwhile investment in the success of your book.

Overall, the editing process is an essential part of creating a successful horror book. By using self-editing techniques, working with beta readers, and potentially hiring a professional editor, you can ensure that your manuscript is polished and ready for publication.

Designing an Eye-Catching Book Cover

Writing a book is no small feat, and once you’ve completed it, you want to make sure it gets into the hands of as many readers as possible. However, with so many books available on the market, it can be challenging to capture the attention of potential readers. That’s where designing an eye-catching book cover comes in.

Importance of a Professional Cover Design

Your book cover is the first impression that a potential reader will have of your book. It needs to be eye-catching, professional, and convey the mood and genre of your book. A poorly designed cover can turn off potential readers and prevent them from giving your book a chance. On the other hand, a professionally designed cover can entice readers to pick up your book and give it a chance.

Investing in a professional, high-quality cover design is a must if you want your book to stand out and be taken seriously. A good designer will work with you to understand your book’s themes, mood, and genre and create a cover that accurately represents your book.

Finding a Cover Designer

There are many talented freelance cover designers available online. However, finding the right designer for your horror book can be challenging. You want to find a designer whose style matches the mood and tone of your book. Consider searching social media or designer marketplaces to find a designer who specializes in horror book covers.

When looking for a designer, make sure to review their portfolio and read reviews from previous clients. This will give you an idea of their design style and their ability to work with authors to create a cover that accurately represents their book.

Tips for Creating a Horror-Themed Cover

When designing your horror book cover, there are a few elements that you should consider:

  • Dark and moody color schemes: Horror books often have a dark and foreboding mood. Consider using dark colors like black, deep reds, and purples to convey this mood.
  • Striking and unsettling imagery: A horror book cover should grab the reader’s attention and make them feel uneasy. Consider using imagery that is unsettling or disturbing to achieve this effect.
  • Fonts that convey the mood and tone of your book: The font you choose for your book title and author name should match the mood and tone of your book. Consider using bold, dramatic fonts for horror books.

Investing in a high-quality cover design can help your book stand out in a crowded market and entice readers to give it a chance. Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-designed cover in the success of your book.


Self-publishing a horror book can be a challenging but rewarding process. By understanding the key elements of the horror genre, planning and writing a compelling story, editing and refining your manuscript, and designing an eye-catching cover, you can give your book the best chance of success. With the right approach and a bit of determination, your horror book could be the next big hit among horror fans worldwide.