At RWA 2018 I attended a workshop about making the most of your backlist, and by making the most the presenter meant sales. So, this is good question for a writer to be asking him or herself.
So, what is a backlist? Well, it’s a publisher’s list of older books still in print. The definitive word in that sentence is older. But what constitutes older? How many years or even decades is considered enough for a book to be truly defined as backlisted?
I’m asking this because I had my very first book published in 2015. That’s only 3 years ago. (Sometimes, it seems like 300, but that’s just me!) Now, in no one’s mind would 3 years past be considered old. But, believe it or not, in the publishing industry, it is. The reasons vary, but if you’ve ever heard this phrase: You’re only as good as your last book – you’ll know it’s true, because each time a writer releases a new book, that becomes the yardstick readers measure you by because it’s the most current, and available in the here and now.
I realize what I just wrote may be a little convoluted, so let me ‘esplain.
Most well-known writers put out a book a year, maybe 2, or if you’re Jill Shalvis or Nora Roberts, 4 or more! I’m not either, but since 2015 I’ve averaged 3 a year. This year it’ll be four, which is giving me agita even as I write this.
But I digress…
Since most authors have a lag period of about 6-12 months between releases, they don’t have much to promote while they are writing/editing/editing some more/ their coming soon book. Here’s where the back list comes in. I’m going use myself here s an example because it’s easier. My first book, Skater’s Waltz, released in March 2015.
It was promoted heavily for a few months until my second book came out. Same scenario until my third book released. By the time the 4th and 5th books went out into the world, no one was hearing about Book 1 which started the entire 5 book series.
So. With each new addition to the series, I tweeted/facebooked/instagrammed – you get the picture: I used my social media sites – to REMIND people about the first book, the one that started the series ( and my new life!) and put all the buy links up with each promo. I was lucky enough that each time I had a new book come out, I also had people buying the previous books because of that promo. I’ve written my series as stand alone books, which means you don’t need to read the one before the newest one to know what’s going on, but readers still went ahead and purchased those previous books.
In essence, this was me promoting my backlist.
Another way to get readers to read the books that came before your soon to be released one and utilize your back list effectively is to have a sale. Each time my newest book was a month or so from release date, I asked my publisher(s) to put the previous book I released on sale and then promoted the sale to try and garner new readers. It worked.
This holiday season I have a new San Valentino Christmas story coming out called CHRISTMAS and CANOLLIS. I don’t have the exact release date yet, but when I do I’ll be having a sale of my previous San Valentino Christmas Story A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS to try and get people interested in the new book.
The theory if you like this one, you’re sure to like that one, is the prompt for this. BTW – just a little side note: I’m having a cover reveal of Christmas and Canollis soon, so stay tuned!!!
Get the idea now of why a backlist is important to promote if you’re an author? And it doesn’t matter if your backlist is from 1 year ago and has 2 books on it, or 10 years ago with 30. ALL your books should be promoted as frequently as you’re comfortable doing.
Backlists. They’re a good thing for a writer.