It’s hard to believe we’re only three weeks away from the release date of Birthday Girl, available October 31st. The early enthusiasm throughout the horror community has been great, and I’m very excited to share this first entry in the series with fellow gorehounds. I’m working hard on tidying up a few last-minute things and putting together promotional images for social media (such as the one below). The images have been a fun side project, and they only vaguely hint at the themes of Birthday Girl and don’t include any specifics whatsoever. Initially, I was going to hire someone to do a book trailer, but I decided this method would suit both the story and my budget better. Strange tactics for a strange book.
100 Page “Likes”!
Within my first week of promoting Birthday Girl I’ve already reached 100 likes! A small benchmark, granted, but it’s still a nice surprise. Every “Like,” “Follow,” or “Share” helps to spread the word, so I’m grateful for everyone who’s taken the time to look at my author page.
Ash Crowlin’s author page: https://www.facebook.com/AshCrowlin/
Birthday Girl Plot Summary
Plot: Peer pressured into losing her virginity on the eve of her 18th birthday, Anna views her first time the same way she’s viewed most things in her 12 years at Miss Codie’s Orphanage: an unfortunate inconvenience. When her best friend insists they stay up to celebrate, they discover a hidden board game and accidentally free Magriol—a sadistic blend of Willy Wonka and Freddy Krueger, exiled from Hell for practices which disgust even the devil. He offers to spare them if they can decipher a series of clues hidden throughout the city, thrusting them into a gore-splattered game of perversity in which their deepest insecurities are fodder for his amusement.
Anna may survive the carnage…but who will she be once the ocean of blood clears?
I wrote Birthday Girl back in 2015 to entertain a friend of mine, and it evolved into a couple books over time, all of them loosely connected. My friend loved the story, and she sent back positive feedback pertaining to style and character development, which helped me with other stories I was having trouble with. For the first year, that’s all Birthday Girl was–just a super fucked up story between two friends. I ended up showing it to a few more friends though, and they showed it to their friends, and I kept receiving generally positive critiques (I say “generally” positive because I apparently made one person throw up and they refused to finish reading, which to me is seriously flattering). So I decided to take a shot at submitting it to niche publishers. There were a few small presses I knew specialized in bizarro fiction, splatterpunk, and semi-pornographic horror, and I took my time preparing the manuscript to submit during their various reading periods.
During this time I worked on other projects, freelanced for a few newspapers, wrote for some online horror sites, and continued mapping out the universe this novella opened up to my imagination. I ended up writing a rough draft of part two without even caring if part one ever saw the light of day; I was invested in seeing where else I could take things without relying too much on the first story. I began receiving emails back from publishers, most of which containing some variation of “thanks but no thanks.” One response, however, at least made me smile: “Dear Mr. Crowlin, Thank you for submitting your novella Birthday Girl. While we enjoyed your writing style, this just doesn’t fit our current lineup. We encourage you to submit again during our next open submission period.” For anyone who’s ever submitted anything to a publisher, you know that any encouragement is better than none, since most of these letters are copy-pasted with your name filled in on a line.
Long story short, all the publishers passed on Birthday Girl except for one. It would be accurate to call them “Fishy Fucks,” but I’ll call them “F.F.” for short. FF was very enthusiastic about Birthday Girl, and they seemed to really get it. We agreed my book would be part of their company’s first lineup. However, not only did they tell me I’d have to pay for my own editor and cover artist, they also included a non-compete clause in the contract stating I couldn’t publish any other stories under my name with other publishers for an indefinite period of time, and although digital copies of any book are pretty much FREE to produce (especially if the author is paying for his own cover art), these people wanted 80% on all digital sales and 90% on all print-on-demand paperbacks. When I asked what I’d get out of this, they said they “know people” who would promote the book really well. Hmmm…. This gave me a bad gut feeling, and before signing, I sent the contract to a few authors I know who’ve been in the business for a long time. They all told me “HELL FUCKING NO! DO NOT SIGN THIS!! THIS IS FISHY AS FUUUUUCK!!!” and upon further questioning around the horror community, I found out this publisher had a bad reputation with the owner of a website I wrote for. Part of me was reluctant to say no to FF; I wanted to be a published author, even if I knew I was being ripped off, and it felt somehow amateurish to pass on publication because of money. After all, wouldn’t a “real” writer be grateful that anyone at all wants his work? Wouldn’t a “real” writer consider being ripped off part of paying his dues?
The decision was made easier when the publisher kept emailing me the next day asking why I hadn’t signed the contract yet, insisting there was a reason for the rush. This was EXTRA FISHY, so I politely said “no thanks.”
I decided to try self-publishing, since my main concern at the end of the day was making the book available for people outside my friends group who like weird shit. There have been a few hurdles, such as finding a reliable artist (so, soooo many flaky “commission” artists out there!) This has been an educational experience, and I’m happy I found a cover artist who understood what I was after.
So here we are now, three weeks away from the light at the end of a tunnel. Hopefully the journey was worth the outcome and hardcore horror fans enjoy Birthday Girl. Even if it’s not for everyone, I’m very grateful for anyone who gives it a chance.
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