Considering the provenance of film novelizations, one of the main reasons that this genre of publishing exists at all is so that the audience could have easy affordable access to movies at a time when the home video market was just starting to blossom. So it’s a little ironic that 20 to 30 years after these book were there are a bunch that are now almost impossible to find, specifically novelizations for movies in the horror genre. Ask any collector of vintage novelizations about what some of the rarest and most expensive books are and it’s likely that the answer will include a list of titles such as Alan Dean Foster or Dennis Etchison’s adaptations of John Carpenter’s The Thing or the Halloween films respectively (Etchison wrote multiple under the pseudonym Jack Martin), or Simon Hawke’s run adapting the Friday the 13th series. These modest novels that were once $2 to $3 paperbacks meant for disposable fun are now highly sought after antiquarian volumes that demand anywhere from $30 to $300 on the secondary market (depending on the volume and condition.) Where once these books probably littered the floors of dorm rooms and filled discount bins out in front of used bookstores, they’re now lining the shelves of prestigious genre collections and tucked into acid-free Mylar bags and kept behind glass in antique stores.
The question becomes, why, why are horror novelizations so much rarer and sought after than other genres?
This is just speculation on our part, but when it comes to the rarity, it would stand to reason that there were smaller print runs for these titles. Even though books in the horror genre regularly top the best-sellers lists thanks to genre icons like Stephen King, Anne Rice, V.C. Andrews, and Dean Koontz, there is still a stigma when it writing and publishing horror. For every Stephen King there are 50 to a 100 hopeful contenders to his throne that never really seem to find the readership. And when you consider the genre in cinema, though horror tends to draw in fans by the tens of thousands, it’s relatively rare for films to compete with other genres when it comes to box office. That isn’t to say that horror films aren’t popular or successful, John Carpenter’s Halloween for instance held the record for the highest ROI in independent film history for decades until movies like the Blair Witch and My Big Fat Greek Wedding smashed box office records in the late 90s and early 00s. But even for there relative success, horror just can not typically compete with genres like action, science fiction or drama at the box office. The box office of the first 10 Friday the 13th films combined (roughly $233M) is still only about half of what most Marvel movies pull in individually. So when it comes to merchandising and advertising, where novelizations tend to pull their budgets from, there just isn’t as much room for horror films. Even some of the most best selling horror novelizations, like Curtis Richards’ (Richard Curtis in reality) adaptation of the first Halloween which had at least three print runs, never topped the New York Times Best Seller lists.
That said, horror, because of its rabid fan base, tends to attract a large community of collectors. Fans hungry for any representation of their favorite movies have snatched up copies of horror novelizations from used book stores and second hand shops for decades. Whether it’s to pick up copies of the books as a curiosity, or to sift through the adaptations in search of alternate plots or deleted scenes, fans tend to seek out copies of these books at any opportunity possible. These days, when novelizations of films such as The Terminator, the Nightmare on Elm Street series (published in two volumes), The Blob, Re-Animator, or the Various Universal Horror Monsters pop up on eBay, Amazon, or out in the wild at horror conventions or used book stores they tend to be fairy expensive. As rare as it is to find some of these books, it’s even rarer to stumble across someone selling them that doesn’t realize their general worth on the secondary market.
That isn’t to say that all horror novelizations are worth a lot of money or are rare. For every Fright Night out there on used book store shelves, there are probably 500 copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For every copy of The Lost Boys, there are probably a thousand copies of Alien. Generally though, horror tends to equal rare and valuable. So, the next time you’re browsing the horror section of the used bookstore and you see a novelization of any of the popular horror slasher icons for a fair price, you might want to consider buying it. You never know when a $2 pick-up can turned into a $198 profit.