First-year student Psychology student pens, self-publishes, horror fiction

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Zachary Ayers, with his three self-published books, in Reed Library.

Zachary Ayers, with his three self-published books, in Reed Library.

While Zachary Ayers focuses on earning a degree in Psychology and ultimately becoming a clinical mental health counselor, he’s already developed a successful side hustle/hobby as a published author.

The first-year student from Orchard Park, NY, has self-published three books – “Feral Woods,” “Open Containment” and “The Killer’s Collection”– and is about halfway through a fourth, “The One Who Watches.”

Mr. Ayers focuses exclusively on the horror/thriller genre and views his writing as a side hustle or hobby.

Ayers didn’t care much about reading until his high school English teacher issued a book-reading goal for the entire class. He latched on to books by best-selling authors Stephen King and Jonathan Maberry and easily exceeded the reading goal. Ayers enjoyed the authors’ books so much that he wanted to start writing his own stories. He was also inspired by television shows “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Stories.”

Ayers develops plot lines for each book on his own, and enlists a few of his high school English teachers for editing duty. “If the stories that I’m writing don’t scare me, then I don’t end up writing them,” he said. His first two books – “Feral Woods” and “Operation Containment” are about 70 pages each and were written simultaneously during his junior and senior years in high school. “The Killer’s Collection,” at a hefty 260 pages, was written over six months during Ayers’ senior year and published in May.

Ayers typically does his writing only after his school work is done, “because that’s where my priority is.”

So far, Ayers has achieved total book sales of about $300, utilizing social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to draw the interest of potential readers, along with some direct in-person sales. The first two books were published in paperback form, the third in hardcover, and all three are listed on Amazon and available on Kindle.

Reviews have been very encouraging, Ayers said. One reader came across Ayers’ author page and decided to check out of Ayers’ books, he said. “This book has me HOOKED,” the reader remarked of “The Killer’s Collection,” and “I cannot put it down.”

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