Leveraging the Backlist
Back in the days of traditional publishing, the backlist was a cherished asset. What is a “backlist” you ask? It’s everything except the author’s current release: namely, all the books an author has previously written.
The power of the backlist was this: any new readers, drawn by the prominent merchandising of the newest release, would then be potential customers of all the author’s previous titles. Think about it: you find a book you really enjoy and you generally start looking for the other books by the same author. That’s the backlist. And that stuff’s valuable. While it might not sell as well as the new release (so you hope), it will often be steady. It was in the backlist that authors would end up recouping their advances and starting to earn royalties, and it was this part of the author’s catalogue that a publisher would generally be investing, in signing them on in the first place.
See, in traditional publishing, the backlist is already typeset and sitting out there. In general, it has lower costs associated with it–though authors with strong, steadily selling backlists might also see their entire list with a publisher getting “refreshed” every few years to establish a uniform, distinctive look that will appeal to the ever-shifting aesthetic tastes of readers.
Readers also Bought
If there’s one thing that reading the publishing stories of John Locke and Amanda Hocking told me, it’s that the backlist is as powerful as ever it was–or so I suspected.