The Benefits of Backlist

Just in case anyone is wondering, backlist is books a writer has written that are not current releases. They may, or may not, still be in print. When a reader, such as myself, finds a new-to-her writer and likes what she read, that reader may well go in search of the writer’s back list. As, for example, what I did when I discovered Mary Balogh. I went off and read as many of her titles as I could get my hands on. I did the opposite when I read J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover. The book store had the first three titles, but I didn’t want to buy all three when I didn’t know if I’d like the first one.

So off I went to read Dark Lover. I went back to the bookstore the next day and bought the other two, profoundly relieved that 1) my not-so-romance friendly store even had the titles and 2) that no one had bought them after I was foolish enough not to buy them right away.

Backlist is important to a writer’s career because it gives new readers a feeling of depth about a writer. When they find a writer they like, they go looking for backlist. Despite all the hoopla we hear about frontlist (books that are selling for the first time now), publishers make money off of backlist titles. They’ve already paid for the publication process. Reprinting, as I understand it, is certainly cheaper than starting new. And with some backlist titles, they may have warehoused copies, if the book has remained in print. And for original sales of backlist, the author eventually gets some money flowing her way, too.

Authors, as most people probably know, are not paid for used book sales. Which completely makes sense, in our system. Most authors, being avid readers themselves, understand about buying used — it’s much cheaper and who doesn’t want to be cautious about shelling out $7 or more per book on authors who are unknown quantities?

My very first two books (Passion’s Song and Stolen Love) are years and years out of print and will never be reprinted. They are only available used and that’s if they can be found in a UBS.

My other titles, however, are more recent history. Lord Ruin and The Spare (2002 and 2004 respectively) went out of print for quite a while. But in the last year and a half, they’ve been reprinted and are available for sale new. I’m guessing that’s mostly online sales, since I’ve not seen either title in a bookstore as new. I only found out about new copies being sold when I was on Amazon one day and saw that those titles said there were new copies available to be shipped right away.

What this means is that I have a backlist. And now I’ve seen mentions of people looking for and reading my backlist after reading a more frontlist title.

Huzzah!

Obviously, I hope people buy new, but even if they buy used, I end up in their thoughts about writers whose new books they’ll want to buy. Which is pretty cool, if you ask me.

Here’s looking at me having even more backlist one day. Along with more frontlist, of course.

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3 Responses to “The Benefits of Backlist”

  1. Anonymous says:

    On finding backlist books: yes, I admit it, I do look for backlist books. I sometimes like to read how an author has grown in her craft over time. I note that sometimes the times are Short (as in, a year or two) between her first few, good-but-not-great books and her third, spectacular book! At other times, I am lucky to find a new author at the first book and get to follow a series.
    J.R. Ward's Dark Lover was on special display at the bookstore the first month it came out, so I took a chance on an author I'd never heard about and bought it for full price. Was I ever glad I did that! Other times, I've had to search for a backlist book I overlooked when it first came out, to my frustration and eventual triumph. It's always nicer when the frustration pays off with a super book.
    — Susan in AZ

  2. ranearia says:

    I love going through an Author's backlist, although many books are hard to find sometimes (*pats her Lord Ruin copy*) and alot of money (Mary Balogh's An Unacceptable Offer goes for $100+) If I love an Author's work I'll usually find a way to buy them. Although I wish some author's work would be in reprint!

  3. Carolyn says:

    Yay for backlist all around. I love finding a new-to-me author and discovering he or she has a deep backlist.

    And yes, some of those out of print books are shockingly expensive.

    I hear you on the Ward story, too. Lucky you!